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Teacher, business find common ground in classroom

| Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 8:31 p.m.
Valley News Dispatch
St Joseph High School seniors Matt Bovard strikes a rusty ball bearing with a ball bearing covered in aluminum foil as Gwen Buffton holds a piece of paper to try and catch any sparks that may result of the striking during an experiment at the high school in Harrison Twp. on Tuesday, January 8, 2013. The bearings were donated by Bearing Service Co. of Pennsylvania in an example of business-education partnerships designed to engage students for possible careers in math, science or manufacturing. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Valley News Dispatch
St Joseph High School seniors Becca Polinsky, left, and Megan Rosenberger work to remove rust on a ball bearing by striking it with another ball bearing covered in aluminum foil during an experiment at the high school in Harrison Twp. on Tuesday, January 8, 2013. he bearings were donated by Bearing Service Co. of Pennsylvania in an example of business-education partnerships designed to engage students for possible careers in math, science or manufacturing. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Valley News Dispatch
St Joseph High School teacher Bob Wesolowski holds a rusty ball bearing that has been struck several times with another ball bearing covered in aluminum foil and has flaked off portions of rust on his ball bearing during an experiment his class performed at the high school in Harrison Twp. on Tuesday, January 8, 2013. he bearings were donated by Bearing Service Co. of Pennsylvania in an example of business-education partnerships designed to engage students for possible careers in math, science or manufacturing. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch

Teacher Bob Wesolowski got the attention of his seniors in St. Joseph Catholic High School in Natrona Heights through an experiment.

The classroom demonstration further forged a partnership with business that might lead to future scientists and innovation.

Students used ball bearings donated by Blawnox-based Bearing Service Co. of Pennsylvania for an experiment on corrosion.

The arrangement is one example of employers and schools working together to help students learn.

The Governor's Manufacturing Advisory Council is recommending manufacturers develop an adopt-a-school programs to help encourage youngsters to consider careers in manufacturing, where there is a shortage of skilled workers.

Schools and businesses are natural partners and should work together more, Wesolowski said.

“It shows education should not be confined to the four walls of a school,” he said.

Rust causes more than $400 billion in damage annually to military equipment, bridges, power plants and other facilities, according to the University of Akron, a pioneer in the field of corrosion research.

“Its a neat and simple (experiment), and it was very successful,” Wesolowski said. “It got the kids interested, and they realized you can have fun with science and you can build on that.”

In the experiment, students put ball bearings in salt water to make rust. They then wrapped one ball bearing in aluminum foil and grazed that ball bearing against another one until they sparked and removed rust.

“The spark was the visible sign the electron was transferred from the aluminum to the other ball bearing,” Wesolowski said.

After witnessing a demonstration with ball bearings last summer at University of Akron, Wesolowski went to fellow high school staff member Megan Julius and asked her about the possibility of getting ball bearings for the school.

“She thought I was totally nuts,” Wesolowski joked.

Julius contacted Bearing Service through a customer, and the ball bearing manufacturer donated about 50 ball bearings to the school.

“They wanted them as rusty as possible,” Carolyn Matta of Bearing Service said.

“I think it's a great idea, if we can help a school in any way,” Matta added.

Her company often helps students, especially those in college in the summer, to design ball bearings for such projects as robots, Matta said.

Wesolowski has been involved with PPG Industries this school year in an experiment that centers on making glass with sugar, the type of glass used in the entertainment industry as a prop or for special effects.

The experiments and business partnerships might inspire a future scientist from his classes, Wesolowski conceded.

“You never know,” he said.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

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