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Creative ideas emerged quickly this spring as University of Wisconsin Oshkosh art students in a digital fabrication class connected with Oshkosh Defense to develop a series of employee recognition awards for the company.

During a recent Thursday morning class led by UWO art professor Andrew Redington, the students—ranging from sophomores to seniors—presented their initial designs.

Oshkosh Defense commodity manager Dennis McClellan was present to review the students’ ideas for the company’s recently implemented People First Recognition Awards Program.

The designs incorporated a set of height and weight parameters McClellan had provided earlier in the semester.

“We are looking for awards that will be durable, free-standing, free from hazardous material and be able to be manufactured. This required the students to consider the materials their designs would be made from, the structural integrity of their designs and how their designs might be produced,” he said.

Inspired by a variety of materials from glass to brass and other metals; forms like torches, pistons and pyramids; and concepts like leadership, team-building and achievement, the students built their designs in a variety of software programs—Tinkercad, Meshmixer and Fusion 360.

McCellan said he and his Oshkosh Defense colleagues were “impressed and encouraged” by the initial designs.

“We feel we have a great deal of possibilities to work with and are excited at what the end results have the potential to look like,” he said. “There were a number of designs that we were very happy to see incorporate many of the aspects of our organization. We know in the design process, first ideas are not necessarily the last ideas. With that in mind, we are looking forward to working with the students to successfully complete this project.”

Through the process, Redington said his students are working collaboratively, gaining insight into how process and tools are used, developing critical-thinking and problem-solving skills and making real-world connections.

“The students are learning new technology and how to visually represent the intangible,” he explained.

Based on feedback from Oshkosh Defense, the students are now working in groups to finalize select designs by semester’s end. The company then plans to manufacture the awards in time for the employee recognition ceremony in the fall.

“Partnering with the University is a great opportunity for Oshkosh Defense to give back to our local community by providing the students with a professional development opportunity and funding that will be used for the purchase of equipment that will benefit students in the fine arts for many years,” McClellan said.

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