If you're having trouble talking to machine tools, visit MTConnect.org for the lowdown on this breakthrough communication standard that promises to revolutionize the manufacturing technology industry.
Stay tuned for the IMTSTV Investigates report on Additive Manufacturing coming June 13.
I’ve heard a lot about how the current crop of young people are entitled, lazy, and unprepared for a rapidly changing employment landscape - where competition from millions of technically skilled foreign workers will bring about the end of the American middle class. Pretty scary stuff! On a recent trip to Penn High School in Mishawaka, IN, however, I met a group of super smart, highly engaged high school students learning technical skills and applying them directly to projects with a proficiency I could have only dreamed about at their age. Due to the school’s difficult curriculum, these kids will be able to land a job immediately after leaving high school, with or without a college education, and make some serious coin. In the immortal words of The Who, “The Kids Are Alright!”
I traveled out to Mishawaka for Making College Work Night, an event co-sponsored by AMT, local manufacturing companies, and various educational institutions. We brought the IMTS Rally Fighter to drum up excitement about the event and draw attention to the diverse careers available in the manufacturing technology industry. As a group of students from the STEM (Science, Technology, Education, and Math) Academy were helping me roll the car down the hall, I got word that they were building a ladder climbing, Frisbee throwing robot. Being an avid disc tosser since high school, I was intrigued and grabbed my video camera to get a closer look.
As I entered the STEM wing of the high school I was immediately impressed by all of the resources these students had at their disposal. Everywhere I looked there were fully loaded Macs and PCs running CAD software. Adjacent to the classrooms was a fully equipped fabrication shop loaded with machine tools, welding gear, and soldering stations. It was a different level than the physics classrooms I remember in high school, containing a few oscilloscopes and some scales.
After a day of interviews, trust me when I say the future is in very good hands. The students I met were a cut above the rest and destined to kick some serious butt in life. Everybody I spoke with was extremely knowledgeable, and I found myself struggling to just keep up, much less ask an intelligent follow-up question that didn’t let on I had no idea what they were talking about. I can’t imagine where I would be if my high school had those kind of resources and pushed me to experiment with different skill sets before deciding what I wanted to do in college and with the rest of my life.
Penn High School is stepping up and providing its students with the technical skills and knowledge they need to get good paying jobs straight out of high school and succeed in an increasingly competitive and global workplace. The future success of the manufacturing industry in the U.S. depends on providing upcoming generations with the skills and knowledge they need to compete and build solutions. Penn High School is a shining example of how to accomplish just that.
Watch the video below for interviews with Penn High School students and teachers as well as a demonstration of their ultimate ascent robot.
Spoiler alert … I finished the Disney marathon without the help of Goofy, performance enhancing drugs, or an ambulance. Jakestrong! However, my physical and mental limits were stretched further than I could have imagined. The saying “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” is factually true, but what is never mentioned is that, “it’s not a half marathon either - it’s two half marathons.” Which is to say it’s a really, really long way to run!
Sitting in a restaurant at Disney’s Wild Kingdom Lodge two nights before the race, two zebras eat their dinner outside the window, and I contemplate whether I need a drink or not. “Need” is the wrong word, as it had been a long day of work and travel with the added bonus of seeing Mickey’s face everywhere, and hearing his voice constantly since landing in Orlando. I opt for the mango margarita. Rationalizing that the benefit of the fruit puree would outweigh the deleterious effects of sugar and alcohol on my body 2 days before a marathon, I place the order.
Flash forward to mile 20 of the marathon and I realize I made the wrong choice. This is no Jimmy Buffett concert. My left hamstring is now so cramped I can barely walk and I am sure the Vitamin C from the mango is all used up. The first half of the race had gone by so smooth, but the last 6 miles were tougher than I could have imagined.
Around mile 13 I felt poised for success and kicked it in to high gear. Seven miles later the hot Florida sun began taking its toll, and all the cheery Disney characters along the course were replaced by their snarling, villainous counterparts, weird right?. With only 6 miles to go I was crestfallen, and wondered how I was going to finish. My leg muscles were shutting down after 20 miles of running in 70+ degree weather and 100% humidity. Every ounce of fluid I poured in to my body was being pulled out just as fast. My mind wanted me to go faster, but my body kept telling me that wasn't gonna happen. Cramps are no joke, and running the last 6 miles of the marathon was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. My goal was to finish the race in 4:20, and my total time in crossing the finish line was 4:51, but I did it.
As exhilarating as it was to finish my first marathon, I was humbled by the difficulty of the physical challenge and the huge mental effort it took to finish. A nice self-realization occurred slapping Goofy a high five at the finish though … I had run head long into my limitations and found I could keep going. It wasn’t pretty, but I didn’t stop. I know deep down that I will never stop, and that is some pretty powerful stuff.
The choices we make have consequences. Choosing to run a marathon led to months of training, which had a huge positive effect on my life. Regardless of how I felt on any given training day, I couldn’t quit or slack off too much because the race loomed over my head, driving me forward. Choosing a margarita two days before the race contributed to cramping up at mile 20. For better or for worse, the amount of control we have over our lives is astounding. Signing up for a marathon, actually led me to run a marathon, so from now on, I chose to be awesome. I’ll let you know how it works out.