If you’ve ever been to a plant nursery, or the gardening section of a hardware store, chances are you’ve come across the square, plastic containers that most seedlings come in. Many of these pots and trays are manufactured right here in Clearwater, Minnesota.    

Since 1948, T.O. Plastics has provided custom thermoformed parts and packaging, sending their tailored products to customers across the Midwest, the United States and around the world.

The process of thermoforming is a lot like how it sounds. Once a custom part is designed and tested (often done in house by T.O. Plastic’s engineers), large rolls of plastic polymer are run through industrial machines that heat and shape the plastic according to the desired mold.

Seeing these machines in action is quite the spectacle. During our site visit there last summer, we were eager to speak with the four SciTech interns who worked on and around this process during their T. O. internships.

Help it grow
“Three years ago, we were in a phase of really big growth and recruitment in this area is a little tough when hiring full time” said Sr. Process Engineer Jeremy Greeley. With St. Cloud State so close by, however, bringing engineering students on for summer internships was an easy solution. That’s how Ahmed Abdulrahman, Michael Fischer, Alvaro Robles Ramirez and Benjamin Zipoy came to join the team.

“These guys are very talented,” Greeley said, “Even some of the smaller project management tasks, they’re fully capable of doing.” 

From gathering and analyzing machine data, to redesigning carts for the manufacturing floor, T. O.’s summer interns ran the gamut, taking on responsibilities and helping T. O. fill their talent shortage.       

A welcoming place to learn
Gaining experience in your field is one thing, but finding a place where you feel included and supported in your work, that’s what makes an internship memorable.

“Everyone was very welcoming,” said Robles Ramirez. “Here, you’re encouraged to ask about bigger projects and see if you can help.”  

“People say good morning to you when you come in,” Fischer added.

Best of all, Zipoy said, “there’s freedom to make mistakes. It’s up to you to be as innovative, creative and efficient as you want to be on a project. And I really like that about T.O.’s internship program. You get a lot of freedom to do what you want and learn what you need.”

Get involved
Looking to build your small business workforce? At least 200 internship wage matches are available to small employers on a first come, first hire basis. Get started today at SciTechMN.org.

Are you a returning SciTech student? Send your current transcript to SciTechMN@mhta.org to reactivate your account. Winter and spring internships are available now.