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Crushing Bowling Balls, Building Stronger Homes: MHS Students Explore Engineering and Manufacturing at Simpson Strong-Tie

Press Release|
Shane Mauldin|
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

McKinney, Texas – Everybody jumped when the bowling ball blew apart.

The dramatic crack! was so loud and sudden that some among the crowd of McKinney High School students who were leaning forward to capture the moment on their phones nearly dropped them when the smooth surface of the bowling ball suddenly burst asunder.

The force exerted to accomplish the feat was awe-inspiring: more than 40,000 lbs. of pressure according to a computer monitor attached to the massive, industrial press. Once the dust settled and the clear retaining shield was removed, curious students moved in to examine what remained of the ball and to scoop up a few chunks as souvenirs.

female student writing on paper

MHS construction students make notes as they observe housing frame joist testing at Simpson Strong-Tie.

Simpson Strong-Tie in McKinney was celebrating National Manufacturing Day by hosting a group of McKinney High School construction students in the company’s test lab.

“This is our second year to host this,” said Melissa Litzkow, Simpson Strong-Tie human resources business partner. “We wanted to start participating in National Manufacturing Day, so we could expose the next generation workforce to jobs in modern manufacturing…to let them see that there are really good careers to be had in tool and die, in maintenance, sales and engineering.”

Earlier in the morning, the students toured the manufacturing area and the tool and die shop and attended a presentation about the various facets of the engineering and testing process.

MHS construction students examine the results of their joist connector pressure tests in the lab at Simpson Strong-Tie.

They moved to the lab where they spent 45 minutes or so under the guidance of Simpson Strong-Tie employees, gathered around work tables and the industrial press. Before the drama of the bowling ball, they built wooden frames to test the strength of Simpson Strong-Tie joist connectors, checking the monitor readout and making notes as each of the frames eventually began to groan and crack under the unrelenting pressure.

The bowling ball was mainly just for fun.

Ball under press

MHS construction students observe as a bowling ball goes under the industrial press at Simpson Strong-Tie.

“We test [the joists] to failure,” explained Litzkow. “Obviously, the goal is to make sure that they hold up if there is a natural disaster. That’s the intention—that we build safer, stronger structures, and [that] they’ll hold up in a natural disaster.”

MHS construction teacher Stephen Matkoff was pleased with the opportunity for his students to visit Simpson Strong-Tie. “I think it’s great for our students to see how engineering is tied in to their housing construction, and we have actually helped install some of these connectors through the construction of Habitat for Humanity homes,” he said.

students picking up pieces

MHS construction students sift through what’s left of the bowling ball.

Junior Kyle Clark plans to pursue a career in mechanical engineering, so the trip was squarely in his wheelhouse. “I really liked the joist testing that we did,” he said. “It really showed the difference between how things were connected back maybe 100 years ago versus how they are today—and the improvements in technology.”

An interest in architecture led sophomore Madison Chin to join the construction class this year. “This is a very interesting experience because I wasn’t sure for a while what I wanted to do,” Madison said. “This really helped with my wanting to continue in architecture.”

Having a career plan already taking shape as a sophomore in high school is a good start—and a great foundation to build upon. It’s the reason that McKinney ISD partners with local companies such as Simpson Strong-Tie.

And, it’s definitely worth sacrificing a bowling ball now and then.

About Simpson Strong-Tie
For more than 55 years, Simpson Strong-Tie has focused on creating structural products that help people build safer and stronger homes and buildings. Considered a leader in structural systems research, testing and innovation, Simpson Strong-Tie works closely with industry professionals to provide code-listed, field-tested products and value-engineered solutions. Its structural products are recognized for helping structures resist high winds, hurricanes and seismic forces. The company’s extensive product offering includes engineered structural connectors, fasteners, fastening systems, lateral-force resisting systems, anchors and products that repair, protect and strengthen concrete. From product development and testing to training and engineering and field support, Simpson Strong-Tie is committed to helping customers succeed.

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