Unique vending machine makes debut on Northeast Tech Campus

Unique vending machine makes debut on Northeast Tech Campus
Posted on 09/29/2017
This is the image for the news article titled Unique vending machine makes debut on Northeast Tech CampusBottled water, candy bars and crackers are some of the items typically found in vending machines on the Northeast Tech Campuses, yet none of those items are found in the district's newest vending machine. Focused solely on providing safety equipment and classroom materials to students, this unique vending machine is a creative solution to a problem faced by many educators.

"I was having a conversation with Mr. Peper - our diesel instructor - about the safety equipment we give out at the beginning of each year," said Welding Instructor Craig Cooper. "It never fails that some of the students lose their supplies by the second day of class, and we constantly have to give them more safety glasses or whatever it is they've lost or forgotten to bring to class."

Just outside the welding and diesel classrooms sit the typical soft drink and snack vending machines, and it was walking past these machines day-in and day-out that led to a moment of inspiration.

"We thought, why not put some of these basic supplies in a vending machine so students can purchase the things they need when they need them," Cooper said.

That thought then led to a conversation with the professionals at Fastenal which, as it turns out, already provides this type of equipment for industry.

"These types of vending machines are being more widely used in industry, but to my knowledge they’re not yet in tech schools," Cooper said. "On a job site, the buyer enters their employee ID number and the company tracks how much equipment each employee gets from the machine."

In the case of the machine being piloted at Northeast Tech, students can use a credit card to purchase anything from pencils and highlighters to welding jackets and safety glasses.

"The machine includes equipment they'll use in the classroom as well as things they'll need in the shop," said Cooper. "The prices are competitive with what I would pay to order supplies for the school."

Part of the pilot test of this safety vending machine is determining what items sell well and what items aren't needed. Cooper said the students are excited to use the new technology, but it will take several months to gather reliable sales data.

"The first day we had the machine, we had five students lined up to buy things," Cooper said with a laugh. "I don't think they needed anything, they just wanted to be able to say they bought something from the machine."

Aside from the students attending daytime classes, Cooper is also hopeful the machine will benefit those students taking night classes at the campus.

"Our adult students are likely already seeing these machines out in the industry, so while this machine will be helpful if they forget something, it may not be new to them," Cooper said. "For our full-time students, this vending machine solves a practical problem, but I hope it’s also one more way we can prepare them for the responsibility of the real world."
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