BABBITT – This semester, the film and television class at Northeast Range School in Babbitt has been learning about film and television history while focusing on documentaries and what goes into putting together this type of film. On December 12, 2023, Jennifer Kaufenberg (NER ELA teacher) took nine students on a mini-manufacturing tour—a field trip to learn about local manufacturing companies and career opportunities in the area.
Students have been researching and planning for a film they will enter in the Minnesota Manufactured Video Contest. During the research process, students learned that NER alums across generations are employed at smaller, family-owned businesses that impact the manufacturing industry.
The first stop on the tour was Kuuma,
Lamppa Manufacturing in Tower, which started over 45 years ago in an old creamery that was transformed into a shop. Today, Lamppa has a new building and manufactures and sells wood furnaces and sauna stoves directly from the factory across the United States and several countries worldwide.
The class interviewed Ethan Zaitz, a 2021 graduate who is a welder at Lamppa. Zaitz graduated and studied computer science and technology; he quickly realized he could not sit at a desk all day. “I needed to work with my hands,” Zaitz said.
He was hired by Lamppa and trained on the job to weld. “I like the schedule—four ten-hour shifts and a three-day weekend,” Zaitz explained. He explained that he liked working for a family-owned business that focused on quality products and cared about their employees and the work environment.
The tour ended at Razor Edge Systems in Ely, another family-owned, local manufacturing company that has been in business for over 45 years. Razor Edge Systems makes knife-sharpening equipment sold to meat packing plants across the United States and in other countries.
1993 NER graduate and lead foreman Eric Sherman showed the students how the company has evolved over the years—from their manual sharpening stations to the new robotic sharpening technology. During the tour, students met other Babbitt graduates and learned about their different jobs. Sherman explained that everything works together, from shipping and receiving to welding and CNC to coding and assembly—every piece is needed.
“The students were engaged during the tours, and they continue to talk about the opportunities right in their backyard,” said Kaufenberg. One of the most valuable lessons during this field trip was learning about the great things happening in our local communities that are having an impact on a greater scale. Lamppa Manufacturing, for example, is the world’s number one forced-air wood-burning gasification furnace that the EPA is using to establish industry standards.
“Razor Edge is also leading the industry by using robotic technology designed and built in-house. These new machines are shipped out to plants where they will save companies time and money and help increase worker safety and production. “
Hailey Lindquist, NER senior, noticed that both companies have systems in place that allow for efficient operations while maintaining an employee-centered work environment. “Yes, there are trade jobs, like welders and machine operators, but it is more than that. There are office workers, shipping and receiving, sales, and marketing people; all are needed to make everything successful,” said Lindquist.
“Now that we have completed the research and planning phase, we are ready to get into the studio and start working on our video,” said Chelsey Nelmark, NER junior.
Written by Northeast Range School film and TV class students. Submitted by Jennifer Kaufenberg, secondary language arts teacher at NER.