SparkTank display

Superintendent Nicole Kooiker, SparkTank instructor Brett Graham, and Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shea Greiner pose with Bulldog Manufacturing students in front of their display for Holiday Nights ‘N Lights. The display was commissioned by the Ottumwa Chamber of Commerce and involved two separate SparkTank sections: Engineering and Design, and Bulldog Manufacturing.

OTTUMWA — There will be a student-designed and built display at this year’s Holiday Nights ’N Lights.

The display is a white metal box featuring the Ottumwa school district’s logo. Lights running through the box’s interior will make the logo glow red, but it has the ability to display other colors as well.

The installation was developed by the Ottumwa school district’s SparkTank program and was commissioned by the Ottumwa Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s been a great partnership between SparkTank and the Chamber,” said Shea Greiner, executive director of the Chamber. “I recommend them to anyone in the community.”

Greiner said the project was several months in the making. The Chamber originally approached SparkTank with the idea in the spring. It went through a number of phases from there, but every step in the process was handled by the students.

Apart from the initial idea, Bulldog Manufacturing instructor Brett Graham said everything about the installation’s design was up to the students.

“When they know it’s something for the community, they definitely get more motivated,” Graham said.

Alex Lingren, a Bulldog Manufacturing student, said building the display took about three weeks. That included assembly, painting and installation of the lights, which Lingren said was the biggest challenge the group had to overcome.

The project involved two separate SparkTank sections: Bulldog Manufacturing and SparkTank Engineering and Design. The manufacturing section is new for the 2019-2020 school year, and the program has more than doubled since it began last year.

“I’m extremely proud of the students and instructors in the program,” said Superintendent Nicole Kooiker.

Kooiker said the district plans to add something new to SparkTank every year. The program is currently open to all students but enrollment is on a first-come, first-serve basis, and the 60 available spaces fill up fast.

Students in SparkTank interact and network with business leaders in the community, and Kooiker hopes the program keeps students in the community after they graduate so they can contribute to the local workforce.

The installation will be near the entrance to Holiday Nights ’N Lights, which opens Nov. 15.

Jack Langland can be reached at


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