Community Outreach

The Advanced Manufacturing and Transportation, Logistics and Distribution Talent Networks use Engineering Skills to Help Students Stay Afloat in The LEDR Program Annual Cardboard Canoe Race

There are many companies who understand the importance of supporting the next generation and building our future workforce. They invest in programs that foster youth leadership, provide opportunities for mentoring, or offer youth summer internships.

And when thousands of manufacturers throughout New Jersey report difficulty in finding employees with the right skills, we need these efforts more than ever.

The Advanced Manufacturing and Transportation, Logistics and Distribution Talent Networks hosted by New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program (NJMEP) understand the need of creating a highly skilled workforce and worked alongside students who attended The LEDR Program.

Program Managers Frank Preta, Michael Marchetti, Constantina Meis, and Ray Martinelli spent a day volunteering with students at Camp Winnebago in Rockaway, New Jersey.  They engaged 40 students in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) disciplines to help these young students develop skills necessary to thrive in a 21st century workforce.

They did that by breaking down the work among small groups, with activities focused on building cardboard canoes, and the product development and innovation that goes along with the activity.  The idea is simple: build a canoe using only duct tape, a box cutter and cardboard. And then see if it floats, with a person rowing using their hands as their peers cheer them on.

The challenge was divided into three distinct phases which were design, construction, and launch. The canoe building project was created to teach students the basics of the design process before they start a major research project.  This way, they have experience in setting up a project, and they get to have a little fun with it.  Students apply their physics knowledge in areas such as buoyancy, force, and pressure, in addition to learning to work as a team.

“The goal of the day was straightforward but by no means easy: show the students a few things about STEM and Manufacturing, in a way they could not only understand, but that might excite them and pique their imaginations,” said John W. Kennedy, CEO of NJMEP and Founding Director of The LEDR Program.  “Frank, Michael and Ray did an outstanding job leading their teams in the activity,” added Kennedy.

These collaborations provide the students with valuable professional interactions and career skills, along with a real-life glimpse into a future career in STEM.  The Program Managers of the Talent Networks had a chance to look at their work in a fun way – through the eyes of the next generation.

The Advanced Manufacturing and Transportation, Logistics and Distribution Talent Networks are extremely important to the manufacturing industry and those involved in the Supply Chain.   They work closely with students and adults on educating them on the career opportunities available, and work directly with employers to develop partnerships.  The Talent Networks leverage opportunities to cultivate a pipeline of talent aligned with the needs of their targeted industries; and as a result, talent networks promote the state’s highly-skilled workforce with education and training through the creation of apprenticeships and other career pathways.

NJMEP is preparing for National ‘Made in New Jersey’ Manufacturing Day held on October 5th at The Marigold in Somerset.  Students and parents are highly encouraged to attend and will have the opportunity to meet with manufacturers and those involved in the supply chain; as well as attend educational breakout sessions.


About The LEDR Program

The LEDR Program ( is a real-world Young Adult Mentoring Effort that offers a weeklong retreat, designed to give students a chance to explore career/educational opportunities, their leadership skills; all while connecting with peers on various levels. The one-week camp effort was hosted at Camp Winnebago for 15-20-year-old boys and girls. This program was available to both current scouts and non-scouts, and the mission of LEDR is to help young adults develop themselves through different career options and public service while building new friendships and experiencing adventures of a lifetime.

The program accepts statewide nominations for those NJ Residents between 15 to 20 years of age, male and female that attends at no-cost – and – now has over 218 Alumni from 20 out of 21 NJ Counties.  All Alumni, Staff, Boy & Girl Scouts that have supported the program can apply annually for Scholarships that honor Bob Beaman – a long-time Boy Scout Volunteer and a LEDR Founding Board Member who passed away in 2015.  NJMEP supports this endeavor through its Manufacturing Cares initiative.

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