Young entrepreneurs are putting their stamp on the inaugural Northern Pines Sled Dog Race in Iron River.
Tiger Manufacturing, the business arm of Northwestern High School's technical education department, was tapped to create medals, mugs, presentational items and keychains for the event Saturday, Feb. 16.
"They're fantastic," said Eileen Bentzen, office manager for the Iron River Area Chamber of Commerce. "They're very young, very enthusiastic, very particular."
Maple School District Superintendent Sara Croney, who also serves on the Chamber's board of directors, helped connect the organization and students. The young manufacturers took it from there, creating designs to present to the Chamber.
Board members were more than happy with what they saw.
"Ecstatic is the word. They did a great job," said Geri Dresen, director of the Iron River Area Chamber of Commerce. "I was extremely proud that our young people are as inventive, creative, entrepreneurial as they are, and I think that it says a lot to the Northwestern program."
The last pieces of the order were under production Wednesday, Feb. 13. The work involved a field trip to Northwood School in Minong. Collaboration between the two technical education departments was crucial to filling the Iron River order.
"They have capabilities we don't have," said Laurence Charlier, technical education instructor at Northwestern High School. "We've been going down there and working with them."
Northwood's laser engraver was used to etch the Northwestern designs into glasses, keychains and presentational plaques. One hundred leather keychains began churning out Wednesday, Feb. 13, after about a half-hour setup and software work.
"It's great that they want to help us out," said Jessica Shaver, a junior at Northwestern High School. She said it's also a good opportunity to test out machines they might want to purchase for the Tiger Manufacturing shop.
The collaboration works both ways. Northwood technical education and engineering instructor Ben Sorensen and his students have tested their designs on Northwestern's plasma cutter as they prepare to bring Northwood's new plasma cutter online.
Weather delays, late metal shipments and learning new processes were some of the hurdles the Tiger Manufacturing students faced to complete the project.
"This program for me is about earning and learning and sometimes you do more earning than learning," Charlier said. "Right now, we're doing more learning than earning, for sure."
The biggest challenge, said senior Alex Smith, was learning how to process aluminum medals on the school's CNC mill.
"It's a new process for all of us," said Smith, president of Tiger Manufacturing.
Preparations for the sled dog race were at about 98 percent Wednesday, Dresen said. Groomers were busy packing down the most recent snow and most of the items ordered at cost from Tiger Manufacturing were in hand. Races begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at Northern Pines Golf Course and Event Center, 69420 Airport Road, and conclude with a medal ceremony at 5 p.m. The best time to watch racing is between 9-11 a.m., Dresen said.
Organizers hoped to attract about 20 sled dog teams for the event. They got 32.
"We never in our wildest dream imagined we would have 32 teams," Dresden said.
She attributed it to the fact that spectators will be able to watch the race from different vantage points along the trail, not just the start and finish. They can even watch from indoors. There's also free face painting, snowshoeing and more.
For the Tiger Manufacturing students, this has been a chance to get their name out in the community.
"It's cool because it's something so local, so we can go and see what everyone thinks of the stuff we made," said senior Alex Smith, president of Tiger Manufacturing. "We love the support from all the community. I feel like a lot more people are starting to realize where we are and what we do."
This won't be their last Iron River job. Dresen already has ideas for Iron River's annual 10K, 5K and 2-mile race this spring.
"We need medals for that," she said. "They will be doing that for us as well."
Learn more about Tiger Manufacturing on Facebook.
Visit visitironriver.com, the Northern Pines Sled Dog Race on Facebook, call 715-372-8558 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information on the race.