Trade Up & Go Green: How our RealCare® Baby Trade-In Program Impacts the Environment

By Emily Kuhn, Realityworks Marketing Communication Specialist

Here at Realityworks, we are constantly looking at the impact of and waste produced by our products and reevaluating as needed to determine where improvements can be made. Why? We believe that it’s our responsibility as a company to help make the world a better place, and we work to accomplish this through our programs and our everyday actions.

Those actions include redesigning products in the middle of a life cycle when needed, and rewarding customers who return old products to us for recycling.

For example, the latest generation RealCare® Baby 3 relies on rechargeable batteries for operation rather than alkaline ones. This redesign has not only saved customers money but also reduced the use and disposal of more than 192,000 C batteries per year.

Additionally, the design of new RealCare Babies allows programming to be done on a computer rather than a hand-held unit, reducing unnecessary plastic and electronic materials. This eliminated over 2,000 standalone boxes per year – a dramatic reduction of approximately 2,000 pounds of plastic and electronics waste annually.

Furthermore, our current RealCare Baby Trade-Up Program offers customers the chance to earn up to $50 in credit towards the latest generation RealCare Baby 3 for every old model they trade in. We even offer an additional reward for those who physically mail their infant simulators to us for recycling!

Through this program, we have recycled more than 250,000 pounds of materials to date – some of which has been used to make recycled lawn chairs! It’s definitely proven to be a successful way of collecting and properly disposing of unused materials that may have ended up in a landfill.

RecycleBaby-500wide

Our mission clearly states that “our community, country, and planet can look to us as responsible corporate citizens,” and our RealCare Baby Trade-Up Program is just one of the ways in which we strive to achieve that mission. Click here for details about our trade-up program and learn how your old Babies can earn credit and help you go green.

What do you do to help ensure your programs and actions are environmentally sustainable? Share your stories and ideas in the comments below.

At Realityworks, ESOPs and Learning Go Hand-in-Hand

U.S. Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) stopped by Realityworks‘ Eau Claire, WI headquarters today to learn more about our Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) and take a tour of the facility. While here, he was able to learn about our many interactive training simulators and models and how they impact today’s students.

Engineering Manager Jeremiah Bauer helps U.S. Rep Ron Kind with a hands-on demonstration of Realityworks’ Bovine Breeder artificial insemination simulator.

He recently introduced the bipartisan Promotion and Expansion of Private Employee Ownership Act, which will encourage the formation of employee-owned businesses and promote retirement savings through S Corporation Employee Stock Ownership Plans (S-ESOPs). The bill was introduced with Representative Jason Smith (R-MO).

“I am proud to introduce this bill, which will empower companies to become employee-owned and give our workers more stake in the game. The evidence is clear that S-ESOPs help companies and workers alike grow faster and achieve a more secure financial future,” said Rep. Ron Kind.

S-ESOP companies employ over 29,000 Wisconsinites at 122 companies across the state. According to several recent studies, S-ESOPs provide a number of benefits to companies and workers alike, including an outperforming company growth rate, increased retirement security and decreased income inequality within the company.

Rep. Kind’s visit to our company allowed him to talk more with the company’s leadership and learn how ESOPs can benefit both the company and the employees who work for them. Realityworks converted to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan S-ESOP in 2012, which has allowed us to attract and retain talent while continuing to grow the company.

“Employees who own the businesses where they work have a share in the wealth they help create, and that connection makes companies stronger, more stable, and more rooted in their communities. The legislation proposed by Rep. Kind will expand ownership opportunities like we have in place at Realityworks to even more of the U.S. workforce,” said Mary Boettcher, CFO – Realityworks and Board Chair for the National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO).

“This bill is important legislation to support the creation of more ESOPs. ESOPs create additional retirement security for those working as employee owners at ESOP companies. At Realityworks, being employee-owned means you are engaged in the company success. You benefit from Company growth and value your work at a different level. About 50% of our employee body has been with the company over 5 years, well over national average. Retention is a key to our success and our ESOP is a big contributor to that,” said Timm Boettcher, President and CEO – Realityworks.

Spring Webinar Schedule Announced

We’re excited to announce our spring webinar schedule!

Each fall and spring we offer a series of free webinars that revolve around the Career and Technical Education world. These sessions are presented by our product managers, product support team, and even some of our account managers get in on the fun.

If you see a webinar that you’re interested in, but can’t make the time or date, make sure to register for it anyways! We will send you a link to the recording along with any presentation materials once the webinar is complete.

Take a look at what we have planned for the spring so far:

Explore Welding Career Pathways with Hands-On Training Methods
Monday, January 21st @ Noon CST

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Meet the Realityworks Barnyard Animals
Thursday, February 7th @ 11 am CST

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Create an Interactive Health Science Program with Wearable Simulators
Tuesday, February 12th @ 11 am CST

Learn More 

The Ins and Outs: Using Simulation to Teach Bovine Artificial Insemination
Thursday, February 21st @ 2 pm CST

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Cool Tools for Teaching Transferable Child Care Career Skills
Thursday, February 28th @ 3 pm CST

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Enhance Agriculture Student Learning through Bovine Simulators
Tuesday, March 12th @ 11 am CST

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The Art of Scenarios: Using Real-World Scenarios to Teach Employability Skills
Wednesday, April 10th @ Noon CST

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Packing up RealCare Baby for Summer Vacation
Tuesday, April 23rd @ 3 pm CST

Learn More 

Learn more today by checking out our webinar page, and while you’re there make sure to check out the archived sessions we have available to you as well!

Christmas giving has come to Realityworks

Realityworks has supported the iHeartMedia’sChristmas is for Children campaign every holiday season for the past four years. This October, the Charitable Giving Committee announced a new company challenge: A Penny War-funded charitable giving drive to support the program. The twist: First prize would be an executive-served pizza party; second prize would be an executive-served donut party and third prize would be two pies in the face of a third company executive.

Realityworks has supported the Christmas is for Children campaign every holiday season for the past four years. In 2017, enough funds were raised through a non-competitive giving drive to support the purchase of holiday gifts for 16 children. This year, the group hoped to raise a few hundred dollars by giving this annual drive a competitive spin; instead, it was announced that the employees had raised $2,615.98.

“Finding out how many kids we could sponsor was my favorite part of this event,” added Terri Lokken.

The Penny Wars competition drove so much more giving this year, that the 70-person Realityworks team will be able to support 74 local children.

“It was really impressive to be able to support so many kids this year, and I think everyone took a lot of pride in it,” said Tiffany Olek. “We didn’t expect it, but we ended up creating a huge impact and it was a great success!”

Realityworks Recognizes Arizona Welding Instructor with CTE Champion Award

We’re so excited to announce the recipient of our CTE Champion Award, Marana High School Welding Instructor Kenton Webb. Product manager Jamey McIntosh presented the award to Webb at the Association for Career & Technical Education’s CareerTech VISION 2018 Conference in San Antonio, Texas on November 30. The award recognizes the remarkable methods Webb has implemented to engage his welding students in viable career opportunities and help them develop in-demand job skills. Those methods include using the guideWELD® VR welding simulator and guideWELD® LIVE real welding guidance system.

“My ultimate goal is to help these kids get a successful career so they’re not walking away from high school with just a diploma – they’re walking away with a skill they can use,” said Webb. “I’m humbled by this award. It’s nice to get recognized for the work you put in.

About 250 students participate in Marana High School’s welding program annually, an increase of almost 200 students from when Webb began the program 10 years ago. In the last nine years, the program has come to be one of the premier high school welding shops in the state. First-year students use the guideWELD VR welding simulator to hone basic welding skills in a safe, virtual environment, then use the guideWELD LIVE real welding guidance system in the welding booth to understand proper welding techniques and master bad habits. Webb also challenges his students to identify and assess their own welds using the RealCareer™ Weld Defects Kit.

“What I saw and heard when I visited Kenton’s classroom made his passion for educating clear,” said McIntosh. “He knows that being able to help his students truly understand where an in-demand skill like welding could take them is key to engaging them in welding training.”

Realityworks’ CTE Champion award is awarded to educators in programs related to Welding & Trade Skills, Family & Consumer Sciences, Agriculture and Health Science. Learn more about Realityworks by visiting www.realityworks.com.

Penny Wars Benefits Local Charity

Realityworks is an employee-owned company and celebrates Employee Ownership Month (ESOP) every October with various activities. On October 1, the Charitable Giving Committee announced a new company challenge: A Penny War-funded charitable giving drive to support iHeartMedia’s Christmas is for Children program. The twist: First prize would be an executive-served pizza party; second prize would be an executive-served donut party and third prize would be two pies in the face of a third company executive.

Realityworks has supported the Christmas is for Children campaign every holiday season for the past four years; in 2017, enough funds were raised through a non-competitive giving drive to support the purchase of holiday gifts for 16 children. This year, the group hoped to raise a few hundred dollars by giving this annual drive a competitive spin; instead, it was announced on Halloween that the employees had raised $2,615.98.

“What we did made a lot of cents,” said JJ Smieja. “It was really impressive to see each team get so involved,” added Tiffany Olek.

The Penny Wars competition drove so much more giving this year, that the 70-person Realityworks team will be able to support 74 local children.

“Finding out how many kids we could sponsor was my favorite part of this event,” added Terri Lokken. “A close second was seeing Timm and Scott get a pie in the face.”

Timm Boettcher, President & CEO,  and Scott Jameson, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, tied for third place, meaning they both received a pie in the face from Mary Boettcher, CFO & Vice President of Finance.

“The ESOP ownership model fits our all-for-one, one-for-all culture perfectly, as Realityworks employees have always been encouraged to adopt an ownership mentality,” said Boettcher. “This competition is a great example of the success that can come from collaboration – and a little competition!”

Two Teachers Appointed to RealCare Advisory Council

Realityworks, Inc., is excited to welcome two new educators to our RealCare Customer Advisory Council. Northridge Middle School Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) Teacher Cynthia Leonard and Catonsville High School FACS Teacher Christina DeSimone will bring over 22 years of experience using Realityworks’ RealCare Baby infant simulator to a council charged with guiding the popular teaching tool’s development, plus that of related learning aids and resources.

“RealCare Customer Advisory Council members play an integral role in our marketing and product development strategies. They truly help us shape the way our programs impact young people’s lives,” said RealCare Product Manager Denise Bodart. “The insight gained by educators like Cynthia Leonard and Christina DeSimone help ensure that our programs remain relevant. They help us continue providing the targeted learning opportunities today’s students need to develop job skills.”

Widely known as the “Robot Baby,” RealCare Baby is a programmable infant simulator that cries for care day and night, then tracks its caregiver’s responses. It is most often used in conjunction with curriculum and activities to teach middle and high school students about child care, infant safety, child development and teen pregnancy prevention.

An active member of AAFCS and former board member of MAFCS, DeSimone is a tireless advocate for FACS education who has grown her program from 55 students to 168 in the last 3 years. She currently teaches Child Development and related courses at Catonsville High School in Catonsville, MD.

Leonard began using RealCare Baby at Northridge Middle School in Crawfordsville, IN in 2004. Three years later Leonard, who holds a master’s degree in education and is a member of AAFCS and AAFCS Indiana, successfully petitioned the local healthcare community to award her 5 additional simulators, which she credits with helping lower the local high school’s teen pregnancy rate.

“I look forward to collaborating with other teachers around the US and hearing how their programs work,” said Leonard. “It will also be fun and an honor to work with others in the planning of products for the future.”

Realityworks established its RealCare Customer Advisory Council in 2012 to help make its programs even more beneficial to Career and Technical Education pathways. The council gives passionate customers and leading educators a voice in product development initiatives and the opportunity to provide valuable insight into best practices and marketing strategies for Baby and related learning aids. Members’ experience educating youth on these subjects is used to further guide and direct Realityworks’ product offerings.

For more information on Realityworks’ products and programs, visit http://realityworks.com/

Back to School Supply Drive

As a part of our yearly charitable giving and volunteer efforts, the employees at Realityworks recently took part in our annual Stuff the Bus competition. This yearly school supply drive pits the seven departments against one another in an effort to gather the most supplies for each team’s designated school. The teams get to choose which school their supplies are donated to, and are often able to choose a school that one or more of the team members’ children attend.

This year, the teams chose to support the following local elementary schools: Halmstad, Meadowview, Stillson, Altoona, Oaklawn, Lakeshore, and Ridgelawn.

The sales department took 1st place in this friendly competition. We’re all excited to take trips to the schools to drop of the supplies before the start of the year.

Charitable Giving as a Company Philosophy

Each year Realityworks employees get the opportunity to nominate organizations to receive contributions of volunteer hours or outright donations for program assistance.  Our community can look to us for support and assistance.  Additionally, employees are encouraged to participate in local organizations’ committees and directional boards as a way to better our community through service. We can’t wait to share more of these great opportunities with you!

 

Ready for the Workforce: Realityworks’ Youth Apprentices Share Projects with State Governor

“See those wires there? We’re trying to get rid of them. We want to make the whole thing smaller, so you can hold it in your hand instead of display it on the tabletop.”

If this statement was overheard outside the office of a mechanical engineer, you wouldn’t think twice. After all, it’s their job to develop, build and test the mechanics of tools, engines and machines, adapting and modifying as needed. In fact, this statement was made by 18-year-old Seth Kooiker, a senior at North High School in Eau Claire, WI and one of two youth apprentices at Realityworks, Inc.

Run by the State of Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Wisconsin’s Youth Apprenticeship program is part of a statewide School-to-Work initiative. It gives high school students the opportunity to spend 1-2 years getting hands-on learning experience in an occupational area. Seth and Gabe LeGore, also a North High School senior, have been working at Realityworks since June 2016.

On Friday, January 5, Seth and Gabe had the opportunity to present some of their recent projects to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who made a brief stop at the high school to see examples of premier youth apprentice programs in the area. As they explained to Governor Walker, the two had been tasked with modifying Realityworks’ Electrical Wiring Kit, a portable, battery-operated kit that allows students to practice basic electrical wiring skills. Seth and Gabe’s efforts thus far have included rewiring, prototyping and simple machine operation.

“We’ve had dozens of students come to Realityworks through Wisconsin’s Youth Apprenticeship program, and we’ve always gotten a lot of value from it,” said Realityworks Engineering Manager Jeremiah Bauer, who mentors the company’s apprentices. “These students spend the first few months getting up to speed, and by their second year, you can send them a project and they can take it and run. Seth and Gabe are a great example of that. You can trust them to contribute, and they’re getting a jumpstart on the working world.”

The Electrical Wiring Kit is one of many projects that Seth and Gabe have been tasked with modifying, improving or creating since their 2-year apprenticeships began in June 2016. Other projects include developing an aquaponics kit, a blood pressure simulator and several other electronic and software prototypes. They’ve used imaging programs, learned machining programs and mathematical statistic programs.

“The level of knowledge gained by our youth apprentices is easy to see and forthcoming. The level of benefit to the company is unforeseen,” said Realityworks Mechanical Engineer Mike Zaborowski, who works closely with Gabe and Seth. “When you realize that you have helped guide a young mind to a future role, its only then you can clearly see the future of industry and business. The youth apprentice program makes the future very bright.”

Reflecting on Tradeshow Season 2017

Our account managers had a great time attending over 100 conferences, conventions and symposiums across the country throughout 2017. We asked them which shows stood out to them the most, and here’s what they had to say. Were you at one of these shows? Keep reading to find out!

Sarah Philen, Account Manager for ID, MI, MT, NM, WA and WY

“My favorite show this past year was in Austin, TX. Eric, Kelly and I gave a presentation on the Geriatric Simulator and the group was fantastic. We even had a volunteer who wore the suit and was such a good sport! I could feel how passionate the group was about Gerontology and they gave excellent feedback. Being involved with passionate educators is one of the best parts of my job.”

Kelly Greig, Account Manager for AL, LA, MS, TX and WI

“The one that really stands out to me was ACTA in Alabama. I met some amazing teachers and administrators and everyone was extremely welcoming to me. Most of the other vendors and participants knew each other well, but instead of feeling like an outsider, they introduced themselves to me, invited me to do things with them and just really went out of their way to make me feel at home. The event itself was well-organized and FUN. All in all, it was fantastic!”

Anne Bogstad, Account Manager for AK, CA, HI, NV, OR and UT

“I can’t pick just one! Each has its own uniqueness from the people and their goals to the venue itself.  I’ve been set up inside a barn with plywood dividers, beautiful banquet halls, event spaces so large you get lost and quaint spaces – like the one with a grizzly bear 10 feet from me (stuffed of course). In CA, my agriculture educators were challenged with the drought, many had to sell their livestock because they couldn’t feed them due to lack of water/crops. In remote Alaska, students get opportunities like riding with the Fish and Game to tag caribou as they migrate south, learning snow machine safety in schools and welding for the pipeline. I have the privilege of meeting teachers face to face and hearing how their students’ lives are changed, the new technology in the classrooms and new approaches they are taking as educators.”

Amy Underwood, Account Manager for CT, DE, KY, MA, MD, ME, NH, NJ, RI,  PA, TN and VT

“We were invited to present on our family of products with focus on guideWELD RealCareer Welding Solutionsat the2017 Institute for CTE Educators. The conference participants were so excited to see the new products. We even had a kindergarten student stop by with her father who is an Agriculture Teacher at a Tennessee high school. They were both impressed with the Chicken Model and the kindergartner took apart the chicken and put it back together all by herself. She even shared that they have Easter Egg laying chickens on their farm—some lay blue eggs and others lay yellow eggs. Her father then explained the process of bleaching eggs that go to market and how long eggs can last if they are not washed immediately. It was a great lesson for me as I continue increasing my knowledge of agriculture.”

“Deana Ramsey, Principal at the Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Center School in Philadelphia, invited me to co-present on the guideWELD RealCareer Welding Solutions and Employability Skills Program at the N&D Symposium at Seven Springs, Pennsylvania. The educators had a chance to try out the virtual welding unit while they discussed how virtual welding could be implemented within their “career exploration and career ready” programming. The educators had a wonderful time exploring how the assessment of each weld was done and the safety aspects of this virtual welding unit.”

Seth Short, Account Manager for FL, GA, IN and OH

“My favorite show of 2017 was the National FFA Convention. It was a great place to see the interaction of teacher and student, to get to know and understand agriculture and what their needs are. We had a student (Junior in High School) explaining one of our future products to his teacher and class. He was using our Bovine Breeder Prototype and explaining the AI process. It was amazing to see someone so young explain something so complex. Seeing students and teachers coming together from across the nation was an incredible experience. They were teaching us more than we could ever dream of sharing with them.”

While these are only a few examples of the many from the past year, we appreciate every opportunity we have to talk to and learn from the many students, educators and administrators we meet every year. From all of us at Realityworks, thank you for sharing these moments with us. We look forward to continuing these discussions and experiences in 2018 and beyond.