Tyler Legacy High School senior Christopher Whitmore didn’t just help out at a plastic fabrication plant over the summer — he created a design for a project that protects the environment by limiting the number of plastic pellets going off the facility’s property.
Whitmore spent 16 days at Hood Packaging Corp. in Tyler during his summer internship through Tyler ISD’s Career and Technical Education work-based learning program.
During his time there, he assisted with multiple company projects and two projects were approved by the corporate office, including a $69,000 capital project that prevents plastic resin pellets from entering the facility’s stormwater drainage system.
On Monday morning, he got to see the filtration device in action as he joined Hood Packaging General Manager Wesley Hamm and Tyler ISD’s CTE Work-Based Learning Coordinator Jessica Brown and engineers for a tour.
Hamm said the company creates soft plastics, such as film and bags, for its customers to use.
Whitmore teamed up with Engineering Manager Joe Williams and Controls Engineer Hayden McMullen to design a filter to reduce the pellets from the production process from flowing off the facility land when rain comes in.
He said the internship began with an email and he signed up to learn more about the engineering world.
He plans to study civil engineering at Texas A&M University in the fall and later earn a master’s degree in construction management. As an intern, Whitmore spent time working on the engineering design process, in which he gained teamwork and collaboration skills.
“We’ll just keep redesigning to make sure it’s up to standards,” Whitmore said. “It’s not just one engineer looking at a design and then making it final. It’s talking to multiple people, finding OSHA regulations and finding hazard problems.” He established the basic concept and a 3-D model of the filter before leaving in the summer. McMullen, Williams and others then brought the project to life over about six months.
Whitmore said seeing the project come to fruition and adding experience to his resume felt satisfying. He added that because of his time at Hood Packaging he’s seeing the relationship between math and science and real-world jobs more clearly.
“I’m blessed to be in Tyler ISD to be able to find this opportunity to connect with internships and companies here locally,” he said. “Of course, in college when I get to engineering, I’m going to get to do several internship co-ops, but it’s good to start early when I’m in high school to see if I really want to go into engineering and what type of engineering.”
Hamm said the company partnered with Tyler ISD’s work-based learning program about three to four years ago to get involved with the education community.
“It’s allowing kids that are in high school to sort of try things. Christopher came here and he wants to be an engineer. He’s going to college to be an engineer, but engineering has a lot of fields. So coming here allowed him to try and see one part of engineering, which is industrial engineering,” Hamm said. “It’s better to find that out now than to find out in college or further into college to kind of give him a trial run.”
Hamm said Whitmore worked alongside engineers, who advised him on designs and necessary safety features.
“For Christopher, it’s a great opportunity to get some early experience of what it’s like to work in an engineering environment, but also maybe even more importantly it’s a collaborative environment,” Hamm said. “There’s a lot of new ideas and a different person to think things through.”
Brown said the work-based learning program helps students gain hands-on knowledge with a project and improve their resumes. Tyler ISD students can participate in workplace tours, job shadowing, school-based enterprises, internships, and apprenticeships.
Partnering with the Tyler ISD CTC program allows companies to help keep the local talent in the area, Hamm added.
“Ultimately what I think we’re doing is we’re contributing to the community in the sense that Christopher might go on to college and get his engineering degree and move off to Seattle, Washington,” he said. “But there’s also a chance that Christopher comes back to Tyler, Texas, and what we hope is that we’ve contributed in some small way to the local pool of talent.”