Kondex recently concluded its seventh year as a Project GRILL (Growing Readiness in Learning and Leading) partner, this year acting as a mentor to Laconia High School. This program is administered by Fond du Lac Works, a division of the Fond du Lac Area Association of Commerce, and pairs businesses with one of nine area high schools to design and build a working charcoal grill from scratch. Partner companies can support the students by offering guidance or design concept support, but the students themselves must complete all the work. The program kicks off in fall, and takes the full school year to complete.
An annual unveiling event in Fond du Lac showcases each school’s grill, with students and company representatives celebrating their achievements. Kondex also invites the students back to its facility where its associates can see the grill, talk to the team about the project, and have a Company-provided lunch.
“Project GRILL is an excellent program, and teaches students many aspects of manufacturing,” said Kondex President Jim Wessing. “By inviting students back to Kondex, they have a chance to display their workmanship, talk shop, and compare building a grill to production manufacturing with our associates. This is a talented group of students, and they really took pride in their work.”
With many Company-themed items incorporated into Laconia’s grill, the Kondex reveal was especially meaningful to employees. The shape of the grill is the K from the Kondex logo, which was also included as cutouts on the grill legs and cooking grate. Additional themed elements include a sickle assembly vent in the grill cover, as well as Company products and photos under an epoxy countertop.
“Laconia really went above and beyond to tie this grill to Kondex. Past grills have been geared towards our business, but nothing like this,” said Manufacturing Design Engineer Gary Kniess, who has served as the Company’s Project GRILL mentor for the last three years.
Aside from paint, the students performed all the work in-house, using school equipment or making their own.
“We challenged the students to adjust their design so the edges of the K would be more rounded like our logo,” Kniess continued. “The school didn’t have the machinery needed to make that design, but the students took it upon themselves to build a press brake and achieve the desired look.” Other equipment used included a plasma cutter, welders, grinders, and various hand tools.