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FLEXO Magazine : January 2009
FTA TODAY SQUARE PEG The 2008-2009 school year marked the seventh year of the Flexo in Education program at Fort Mill. The high school envi- ronment offers up a unique set of challenges for Howell. “This high school is new to teaching careers,” he said. “This is not a desk-and-textbook en- vironment. Some schools don’t know how to handle a career class when it comes to mainte- nance, etc. You have to fix your own stuff sometimes. In addition, when you teach high school, you have students all the time, unlike at a college, where there is a schedule.” Howell showed FLEXOthe setup for his print lab, which was essentially two elementary classrooms with one wall knocked out. In addition, the computers are all set up in a different room across the hall. “I didn’t design this room. I basically just had to make it work. Once they get squared away on doing the art, they can go into the lab. So I end up with some kids in one room and some in the other.” To make matters worse, he added, “We are a bedroom to Charlotte and have been labeled the single fastest growing dis- trict in the state. We are growing about 500 students per year. That’s the equivalent of an entire elementary school. When I first started seven years ago, we had 1,700 students. This year, we have 1,400 students, and we added another high school that holds 1,400. We have got to have classes for these students to take.” At present, the print classes average 22 students per class, with three classes per day, all taught byHowell. Getting all of these A plate used to print parking permits at Fort Mill High School. student on the press is yet an- other obstacle. “They only have 90 minutes each day. You have to start, roll, and wrap-up, so you really don’t have 90 full minutes. And then you try to do that with an amateur operator. The ink can’t sit in the press or it will get rock hard. And there are waste issues— you can’t just dump ink down the drain, you have to be more environmentally aware. Plates cost about $50 a piece and the kids have to treat them that way.” One of his greatest struggles is that of perception—the percep- tion by parents that the kids are being prepped for a blue collar job. Howell insisted that there is nothing blue collar about it. He noted that flexo and printing in general involves principles of color science, chemistry, spectrum analysis, physics, and measure- ment. “You have to be very sharp to do this right.” A HISTORY OF PASSION Howell is a hardened education professional, with 27 years under his belt. He got his Bachelor’s in Flexography at Clemson University, Clemson, SC back in the 1980s. “Flexo was just get- ting into colleges then,” he recalled. But his love of printing goes much further back. “I’ve always liked art. I started in this area because of T-shirts. I was able to cut stencils from foam before I knew what I was doing. That was back in the 1970s. I like color and graphics and seeing projects evolve. The software changes, flexo continues growing.” Straight out of college he began teaching high school in Lauren Knafla installs the plates on the press at Fort Mill High School. Tacoma, GA, while going to night school to get his Master’s at Clemson. After, some time, he took an administrative job at Central Piedmont Community College, Charlotte, NC. While he was there, he helped build CPCC’s own flexo program. “But I got burned out doing administrative work. It took me away from my passion. When the job here came open, I took the opportunity.” One thing that particularly appealed to him was the chance to develop the program from scratch. “I wasn’t following someone else’s work, so I feel a sense of ownership.” THE BIG PUSH One thing thatHowell is grateful for is the flexo industry’s support of such educational programs. “There’s not much that we have to buy. Some schools are lucky enough to get the press donated. We do have maintenance needs, like ink metering rolls that have to be replaced. Suppliers will typically discount the price for us, though.” He also sees the benefit of maintaining industry connections. “You’ve got to know people. It’s a two-fold situation: You meet employers for your students, and you are able to get supplies. We are lucky in that we are in the middle of a big flexo region. I can go to a flexo printer five miles away and get something. Other schools are more rural, though, and the industry has to help them more.” ? 64 FLEXO JANUARY 2009 www. f le xography. org
End of Year 2008