12/10/15 ASSEMBLY LINE TO HELP THE HOMELESS
Sam Roberts / Times-News
Cummings civics and economics students Kya Ross, right, and Coleman Eagle, left, participate in an assembly line to make bags of items for homeless people Tuesday in Elizabeth Teague‘s class.
ASSEMBLY LINE TO HELP THE HOMELESS
Students learn about mass production in an unusual way
By Isaac Groves The Times-News 12/10/15
Reprinted with permission.
As a warm-up before a video about World War I and the impact of mass production on warfare, Elizabeth Teague’s civics and economics class at Cummings High School made survival packs for the homeless.
The bags were simple enough: A gallon-size resealable storage bag with a bottle of water, hand warmer, pack of peanut butter crackers, tissues, anti-bacterial wipes, sanitary napkins in half the bags, and handwritten cards sending good wishes.
“Because a kind word goes a long way,” Teague said.
The lesson was in filling the bags.
Teague divides her 20 students into groups with different jobs, like adding the crackers or water bottles. At the end of the line are two students sealing the bags, and two quality control inspectors making sure nothing has been left out.
Teague has them fill one bag as a run=through. It takes 36 seconds, and there is a lot of standing up and sitting down to get the bag to the next work station. No one added the tissues, either.
“If you were making chairs and you were missing parts, would your product be good?” Teague asks.
The class says no, and she adds tissues to the sealers’ tasks.
The second run-through takes 29 seconds. The third gets it down to 20 seconds.
“If you trim some time, you can make more money,” Teague says.
The line starts working in earnest then, seeing how quickly it can fill 30 bags. Sophomore Russell Parker, at the peanut butter cracker table, the first station, decides sitting is pointless, and starts letting the water bottle station know how many bags are coming.
It takes three minutes, 10 seconds and 56 milliseconds, Teague tells them. That gets them down to less than seven seconds per bag.
There is a cost to that kind of efficiency, though. Quality control finds a few things are missing, and there are not enough water bottles for all 30 bags.
“If one person sat down and made 30 bags, it would probably have taken an hour,” Teague said, “but that’s how an assembly line works.”