The next best thing to being there

By C.A. Lawton | November 9, 2018
Lawton Best Thing

Ever since little red school houses dotted the country, field trips have been an awesome way to make learning memorable. But today’s rich multimedia technology has given the old-fashioned field trip a major upgrade: It’s now possible to virtually tour a facility to learn about it.

A case in point: Students from the Ashwaubenon School District are now able to virtually tour the pattern shop, foundry and machine shop of The C.A. Lawton Co. in De Pere, thanks to the efforts of technology integration coach Jen Layden.

Layden recently toured our facilities with a video camera and a digital still camera equipped with a special 360-degree lens to shoot immersive images that can be viewed with VR googles. This gives students the ability to “look around” the foundry and makes them feel like they’re actually there.

After her in-person tour, Layden tweeted: “I was lucky enough to spend the day touring @calawton1879. I am excited to be able to make a virtual field trip for our students that will show them the enticing world of metalwork, metal chemistry, real-world math, engineering, production and manufacturing.

Layden’s images and video clips have been used in the district’s middle and high school classrooms to teach a number of subjects.

Tech ed students got to view a real-life application of casting and manufacturing processes. They learned the correct terminology for each step of the casting process, and got to see what that process looks like in a real foundry. They learned the math equations we use to look up alloy percentages that must be added and removed from molten metal before it can be poured to create castings. They also learned how a spectrometer works; this instrument is used to measure the chemical composition of metals.

In addition, green energy classes learned how Lawton repurposes and re-uses materials such as sand and metal, and how this helps to reduce its operating costs. Finally, students learned that careers in manufacturing exist and are in high demand today.

To help students better understand the processes and practices used to manufacture castings, Layden created a set of web pages that explain Lawton’s operations in greater detail. It includes pages that are focused on the pattern design process, the foundry and machine shop. A jobs page gives students a better idea of the types of workers we need in our operations.

“When Jen approached us with her idea for a virtual tour, we jumped at the opportunity,” Goemans explains. “It’s a great way to educate local young people about the interesting work we do at Lawton and the many types of skilled positions we need to run our operations. From a creative recruiting standpoint, that’s an awesome opportunity for us!”