Wilkes-Barre, PA – The Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center (NEPIRC) is proud to announce that it has received a $25,000 grant from the PPL Foundation. These funds will be used to support the 2nd year of a regional “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?” video contest for middle school students.

The “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?” initiative gives 8th graders from schools within Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike and Wayne counties the opportunity to connect directly with local manufacturers, document their experiences and present them in an educational and “cool” way through video and social media.

The program also capitalizes on the latest trend in talent-based TV shows – online viewer voting – to get thousands of other youngsters in on the excitement.

The contest was created to modernize the image of manufacturing and encourage students to consider manufacturing career paths. This year, NEPIRC’s contest will field 11 middle school teams, each partnered with a host manufacturer. Outfitted with a GoPro camera, faculty coach, curiosity and creativity, each team will tour its host manufacturer’s facility, interview employees and explore the company’s products and processes.

Teams later edit their footage and translate what they find to be “cool” about that company into a short video. Other students, faculty, parents and citizens all throughout the region then place online “votes” for their favorite videos using methods akin to many of today’s “idol” and “voice” television shows.

“Last year’s “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?” program and the associated competition was our initial foray into bringing this informative and interactive program to northeast Pennsylvania”, said Eric Joseph Esoda, NEPIRC’s President/CEO.

“The event is well-timed because it promotes STEM education, updates the image of manufacturing and creates a new understanding of opportunities within Pennsylvania’s largest industry.

All these are topics are of great importance in the cultivation of one of the greatest resources we have--science and tech savvy focused students.”

The program growing rapidly across the state and country because of the contemporary need for STEM education. Because this program is done in such an engaging way, the image of manufacturing gets a much-needed update.

Student video submissions will be posted on the “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?” website – www.WhatsSoCool.org. Videos will become open to the public for Viewer’s Choice Award voting in mid-March, with judges determining the winning videos in a variety of other categories.

The awards ceremony, slated for April (Date, location TBA) will gather students, parents, educators, manufacturing leaders, sponsors, legislators and partners to acknowledge winning teams.

The PPL Foundation awards annual grants through a competitive application and review process.

This year the PPL Foundation received more than 70 applications requesting nearly $4 million during this highly competitive grant cycle. NEPIRC was one of 13 organizations to be selected for a grant.

“The PPL Foundation is proud to team up with nonprofit organizations throughout Pennsylvania that are tackling tough issues in our communities with innovative solutions,” said Ryan Hill president of the PPL Foundation.

“They are working every day to make our communities safe, strong and sustainable by expanding access to high- quality, pre-k education, sparking students’ interest in new and exciting career paths and providing the resources people need to move out of poverty.”