Kids On Campus

15 Aug

The question “what did you do one your summer vacation?” isn’t usually answered with “took a class in High Tech Manufacturing”, especially if you’re talking with a 5th grader. This summer, AlphaUSA sent 12 students in grades 5 through 12 to Schoolcraft College’s Kids on Campus program, their initiative to introduce both middle and high-schoolers to college-level, higher education. The camp offers a wide variety of week-long classes in everything from the arts to traditional academic skills. The Alpha students spent their summer taking classes in structure and  design, robotics, manufacturing, and entrepreneurship.

Each day, Alpha shuttled the kids to Schoolcraft’s campus, where they would then gain exposure to non-traditional subjects in a college setting. The Schoolcraft classes are taught by professionals within their fields and content experts in a dynamic and diverse social environment. The program is built to be fun with hands-on learning in an interactive environment, but it also acts as an introduction to college that will build excitement and encourage motivation.  The students were given both a unique summer adventure (that they can boast about when they return to school in the fall) and a learning experience that will stick with them throughout their education.

Austin Madgwick, Bailey Hootman, Kahil Williams, Kennedy Hootman and
Kharari Williams holding up graduation certificates from the KOC program.

Justin Rupp and Brendan Arquette hold up games they made in their Machine Manufacturing class.

Kids on Campus participant Tyler Spring reviews a project with AlphaUSA President/COO Chuck Dardas.


AlphaUSA leads effort to Save The SS United States

3 Jul

Photo courtesy of Nick Landiak and the SS United States Conservancy

60 years ago today, the SS United States, the greatest ocean liner ever built, departed on a record-breaking maiden voyage. A week later she returned home to a hero’s welcome and ticker tape parade. Once air travel became the preferred means of transportation, the SS United States was eventually taken out of service. She has passed from owner to owner and now sits in Philadelphia, slowly deteriorating. Once the pride of a nation, the vessel is close to being lost forever.

In February of last year, the president of Philadelphia-based TurnaSure introduced AlphaUSA’s president, Chuck Dardas, to the SS United States Conservancy‘s  “Save Our Ship” movement to preserve our nation’s flagship.  As a company we were immediately drawn to the superliner and her story.

The famed naval architect William Francis Gibbs designed the superliner. Constructed entirely in the United States she served a dual-purpose.  In peaceful times she would be the world’s finest passenger liner, but if called upon,  she could be converted to a troop carrier in two-days time, transporting 10,000 troops anywhere in the world.  The ship that bears the name of this great land became an inspiration to this veteran-owned company.

The ship was built to be a “super” liner, at the cutting edge of technology — the largest ocean liner constructed almost completely of aluminum and she broke speed records on her maiden voyage. To this day, the SS United States still holds the record for fastest transatlantic passenger travel, and to this day she is a manufacturing and engineering marvel.

Feeling a strong affinity for the industrial-know-how and American Pride that went into creating the SS United States,  AlphaUSA took on the Conservancy’s effort as its own.  Charged by our attendance at TEDx, and moved by local Detroit crowdfunding efforts, we suggested a unique online fundraiser. The Conservancy liked the idea, and looked to AlphaUSA to turn it into a reality.

For over a year now, AlphaUSA has been leading the design and outreach efforts for Save the United States, a national campaign to restore America’s Flagship, a groundbreaking fundraising experience that will teach new generations about the ship and allow supporters to take part in her restoration in a very personal way.  After all the hard work, we can’t believe it will finally launch to the public this month.  AlphaUSA is proud to be a part of this historic effort and looks forward to inviting our local community to get involved in her restoration.

Alpha’s Got a Greener Point of View

22 Apr

Turn off the lights when you’re not in a room. Take a quick shower, not a bath. Recycle your junk mail. We all know we can make a difference and save resources by making little changes day to day.

There aren’t really quick tips to running 125,000 sq. feet of facilities greener. But, Alpha is not about quick fixes, we have a serious commitment to our environment and planet.

One thing we’ve done is change the lighting systems in our manufacturing facility, switching from 400W High-Intensity Discharge bulbs to T5 High-Output bulbs. If you’re wondering what that means, it translates into an energy savings of 50% while giving off twice the light. But that’s just the beginning of our story.

That’s why we’ve rolled out our new environmental page, so you can learn about how we innovate and update our business to do our part in saving the planet. From recycling materials to changing our processes and work habits, Alpha has been working hard for the little blue ball in our solar system we call home.

Happy Earth Day.

Alpha: Made in Michigan

18 Apr

At the IDEA: Detroit conference, near the doors, was a table stacked with literature boasting “MAKE it HERE,” filled with reasons for setting up shop in the mitten. They are the same reasons our city can’t stop discussing Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit” Commercial. The welcoming address of the conference referenced the commercial, spoken hand-in-hand with the expressions of awe over “inspiring, electrifying, nourishing” ideas from the region.

Dale Dougherty, of Make Magazine fame, noted that he was not a Michigan native, but he chooses to host a Maker Faire here because of the area’s compelling nature, naming Henry Ford the original tinkerer. “You have manufacturing in your blood,” he explained. It was tough to argue with him, especially after an elaborate technological explanation of the 2011 North American Car of the Year, the Chevy Volt. Throughout the different presentations, it was clear southeastern Michigan offers opportunities and a mindset like no place else. Regional residents carry strong local pride, including a couple of innovators featured at the conference. Travis Wright and Philip Lauri are planning a college tour to tell students about the value of this great city, explaining why they should “Do it in Detroit .”

At Alpha, we love hearing echoes of the reasons to be here in Metro Detroit, but we don’t need to be convinced by pamphlets or fancy presentations. These reasons are what have kept Alpha here for over 50 years. Innovations come from Michigan, and we are proud to offer products that do too.

:Detroit Gets the IDEA

13 Apr

Advocates of innovation, Alpha excitedly attended IDEA: Detroit a few weeks ago. The day was a mashing together of striking thinkers and ideas from southeastern Michigan, as well as from around the country.

“Tinkerers” at heart, we were intrigued by the inventions of Dale Dougherty and Make Magazine, and excited that Maker Faire will be coming to our own backyard (The Henry Ford) this summer. Wello grabbed our attention with more than just its name, offering the WaterWheel as an inspiring solution to water transportation challenges throughout the world. Chevrolet wowed us with the inner workings of the new Chevy Volt, while Ford impressed us with its simple yet inspired “ask the audience” customer involvement. IDEA left us with no shortage of inspiration.

Check the links to these ingenious presenters for now, and shortly we’ll let you in on a few of Alpha’s own ideas that arose from the conference.

Return to Service

14 Mar

In December, you read about Jack Barghusen, the injured Marine from Wisconsin.

On January 7th, Jack received the Heart of the Hero Award at his home. The package included three pages full of signatures, included were those of Rotarians, Alpha employees and other Livonia residents all signing to show their appreciation.

Other efforts were made to show appreciation for Jack and our troops. Friends and family put together the “We Got Your Back Jack” Fundraiser to raise money to help with his recovery and rehabilitation.

Jack has since returned to his unit for limited service.



7 Mar

If you are an engineer, you likely know what stereolithography (SLA), rapid prototyping and 3D printing are. If you are a recently graduated psychology major working in the PR department, chances are you do not.

A few days ago, I saw a part sitting on the desk of Alpha Engineering Director and Resident Genius (RG) Stew, and it caught my eye. Plastic rapid prototypes of parts are often created before making the real deal out of steel. Like a printer, SLA works layer by layer, but instead of using ink, it’s done using liquid UV-curable photopolymer, which is basically liquid plastic. Using a computer program you give the machine a blueprint (the “math data” in Stew speak) of what to make. A laser plots the dimensions layer by layer, heating up the plastic (aka curing the photopolymer) and creating a solid version of the 3D form designed in the computer.

Interestingly, on a side note, there is a whole community of DIY-ers who make 3D printers at home. These self-proclaimed makers are creating everything from door knobs to baby shoes. Currently this involves a little more know-how than Microsoft Word, but in theory someday, anyone may be able to print physical objects from their own computer. It seems like the stuff of the Jetsons, in the future you may be downloading everyday items, like dishes or even washing machine parts, the way you download iTunes. Need a toaster? There’s an app for that.



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