EAST PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — October is Manufacturing Month, and Caterpillar is highlighting their Pathways Lab at Central Junior High School.

The lab exposes students to the technical aspects of STEM careers and lets them interact and explore woodworking, programming and more.

Henry Vicary, Director of Community Relations for Caterpillar, believes the lab is a great way for students to find out what they want to do for their careers.

“Students really need to find that purpose for the next steps in their career, and it’s really another way to learn outside of the traditional classroom,” he said.

The students also operated robots with the use of iPads. Students teamed up with each other and learned how robots function.

Principal Matt Fraas said it’s wonderful to see the students learning and creating.

“They’re creating something. They’re walking out in the first 3 weeks of school with things they’ve already 3D printed, etched on the wood machine, and they’re getting some tangible artifacts,” Fraas said.

For students, the lab offers a way to explore and learn new things.

6th grade student Phoenix Jones said the lab gives her a look into the future, where she sees herself being a woodworker.

“I thought everything was going to be really hard and I was going to be asking question after question but once I did it twice, I got the hang of the machines,” Jones said.

Vicary also said the partnership with District 86 has been fruitful, and that being able to give students an opportunity to see if they want to pursue manufacturing or STEM as career paths is great for community relations.