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NMU hosts Women in Construction event

Shaylee Gransinger, left, a junior at Republic-Michigamme School, makes a tray with the help of Morgan Pelach, a construction management student at Northern Michigan University’s Jacobetti Complex on Friday. The Women in Construction event gave local high schoolers the chance to learn about a few trades. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — Operating a power drill is pretty much gender neutral.

To prove this point, a Women in Construction career exploration event took place for area high schoolers on Friday at Northern Michigan University’s Jacobetti Complex, hosted by the NMU construction management program.

“The mission of the event is to introduce young females to a career field that they might not think is a viable option just based on gender,” said Heidi Blanck, NMU associate professor of construction management.

Blanck said volunteers, including NMU students and industry leaders from as far away as Minneapolis, lent their time to Friday’s event.

She said about 100 high school students from around the Upper Peninsula took part in various stations that focused on a particular trade.

Douglas O’Hagan, a Northern Michigan University industrial technology student who holds a welding certificate, teaches the trade to Grace Ritari, a sophomore at Superior Central School, at NMU’s Jacobetti Complex on Friday. The Women in Construction event gave local high schoolers the chance to learn about a few trades. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

“In wood shop, they’re doing either a jewelry box or a coffee table tray,” Blanck said. “In welding, they’re building the cutest little flowers, welding flowers out of some different parts and pieces.”

A virtual reality session, she noted, gave the students the opportunity to take part in different construction-design experiences in the modern ways used in the industry.

Some activities, though, relied on traditional toys.

“Leadership is a Lego-building activity that simulates a project management experience,” Blanck said.

Shaylee Gransinger, an 11th-grader at Republic-Michigamme Schools, worked on making a coffee table tray, which she could take home and stain and paint if she so desired.

She did require a little extra help with part of the activity, such as getting a thick piece of rope through small, pre-drilled holes to create handles.

Gransinger picked up a few new skills, such as using one of the hand saws.

She acknowledged being a little intimidated at first, but eventually caught on.

In fact, Gransinger indicated she would try woodworking again.

“It’s just a fun experience,” she said.

Her mentor in wood shop was Morgan Pelach, a construction management student at NMU, who said all the students could take home their handmade items.

Apparently, the mentor-student set-up worked pretty well at the event.

“They pick things up fairly easily,” Pelach said of the high schoolers, although she said the jewelry boxes were a bit more complicated than the trays. “I think a lot of them have already had some construction classes in high school, so a lot of them were completely comfortable doing the cutting and using the air guns.”

The high schoolers also appeared to be comfortable in the welding session when sparks flew, but they wore thick gloves in addition to the safety glasses the wood shop workers also wore.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.