Posts by: Penny Brown

Announcing - the #IMTSsummit Social Media Contest!

Students - we can't wait to see you at the Smartforce Student Summit! We want to hear about your experiences at the show. We've got great prizes too! Here's how to play:

  • Follow @IMTS_summit on Twitter to earn 5 points
  • Original tweets and Instagram posts using the #IMTSsummit hashtag are worth 5 points
  • Retweets and reposts are worth 2 points

Every tweet and post must include the #IMTSsummit hashtag to be eligible, and we're keeping this limited to students only. (Sorry, grown-ups!)

The daily cutoff time is 2 pm, so get going early! We will have a winner each day during IMTS (one each for Twitter and Instagram), and an overall winner announced at the show's conclusion. Plus, watch for our daily bonuses - they're always changing! Details will be announced at the morning orientation when students arrive.

Daily prizes include great stuff like a saltwater cell fuel car, a build-your-own V-twin steam engine kit, and even brainwave controlled cat ears. Our grand prizes are a Crazyflie Nano Quad Copter and a Rovera 2WD Arduino Robot Kit!

Get ready to connect with us ... and don't forget to include #IMTSsummit!

An Errant Slapshot, and an Act of Kindness

Irv Kaage, President of IMTS exhibitor Transor Filter, has been a Chicago Blackhawks season ticketholder for 5 years. While he recognized the woman who had the seats behind him, often attending games with her family, they'd never really gotten to know each other. That was about to change, and quickly.

During the second period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals, an errant shot sent the puck careening over the glass and into the stands, where it hit Dr. Patricia Higgins, an urgent care physician from Burr Ridge, IL. She suffered a gash from the bridge of her nose to above her right eye and required surgery and a number of stitches. Thankfully, she is expected to make a full recovery, although she still has no sense of smell or taste and suffers from vision issues.

Kaage said he had just briefly glanced away from the ice when the incident happened, and didn't know anyone had gotten hurt. However, the puck happened to land right at his feet - where he picked it up, thinking he'd just grabbed a really great game souvenir. Kaage's son, though, mentioned that he thought the woman sitting behind them might have gotten hurt. Kaage found out from United Center staff that she'd been taken to a local hospital for surgery. "I love to collect sports memorabilia, and I have all kinds of great things - even old stadium seats. But, I knew she had earned this puck." That's when he set out to find out who she was, and how he could get it back to her.

While the United Center staff couldn't give him any information about Higgins' identity, Kaage managed to find her through a Chicago Sun-Times reporter, Mitch Dudek, who wrote an article about her injury. After lots of back and forth, and some coverage from the local media, they finally found a time to meet - at the CBS Chicago studios, where the two were guests for the evening newscasts on July 10.

Kaage's wife, Laurel, made a nice box for presenting the puck to Higgins, which included a ticket stub from the game - pinned into place with Laurel's own lucky Blackhawks earrings.


Lego and STEM careers - an interlocking future?

What do you get when you mix imagination, open-source collaboration, and millions of interlocking plastic bricks? It's the world of Lego - encouraging an entire future generation of engineers.

An article in the May issue of Smithsonian shows the evolution of the toy brand from free-form building blocks to the medium behind student robotics competitions around the world. By learning about design thinking through playing with Legos, "(Kids) see that there is no right or wrong answer, just an infinite number of ways to address a problem," said Chris Rogers, a professor of mechanial engineering at Tufts University. "Learning that is as critical to engineering as it is to life."

Accompanying the article was a fascinating infographic on the possibilities offered by a STEM-focused education, including the tremendous salary advantages that a science and engineering-related career holds vs. the average for all other career fields.

The educational organization FIRST - For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology - sponsors Lego leagues and helps kids learn about the collaboration and teamwork that go into design and production. If you know of an interested student, check their website for information about leagues and events.

So parents, next time you experience the agony of stepping barefoot onto a Lego brick, just remember that those little plastic blocks could be key to an innovative future - and maybe even a great STEM career!

You Might Not Know It, But You Need an Intern


As spring makes its early bloom (well, right after we get through this snow storm), it won’t be terribly long before students will be out of school for summer. Have you considered bringing on one (or more) of those students as a technical intern? If you haven’t thought about developing an internship program at your company, you absolutely should. Here are some reasons why:

  •  It will help you later: A common concern throughout all of manufacturing is the lack of skilled workers. Bringing on an intern is one step toward building your own “homegrown” talent. They will get trained to your specifications, for the skills that you need.
  • It’s “try before you buy”: When you hire someone off the street, you always take a risk that the person who seemed so great in your interview won’t really cut it on your shop floor. With an intern, you get a number of weeks to see how well they perform and fit into your company culture. They’ll know you, and you’ll know them. Come time for the intern to find a full-time job, they’re going to know and remember you, and you may just have the perfect hire.
  • It’s low cost: Sure, if you can afford to pay your interns something, you absolutely should. Rules vary in terms of how much you have to pay, but the bottom line is that it won’t cost you as much as a full-time hire. (If you only offer bare-bones pay, however, or no pay at all, your schedule should accommodate the intern’s possible need to work another paying job. It’s true that you are paying them with real-world experience, but many of them still have tuition bills and living expenses.)
  • Schools can help you find them: Some educational institutions require a certain number of experience hours for a student to earn a degree. Contact your local community or technical college to find out if they have such a program, or how you might get in touch with eligible students.
  • They aren’t just limited to summer: If you can be flexible around class schedules, interns are often available year-round. Again, contact your local educational institutions to find out if they have a formal internship program.

MTCareers is the place to find the pipeline of newest talent coming into the manufacturing industry. Post your internships and entry-level job openings at


So, why do attendees come to trade shows anyway?

The Center for Exhibition Industry Research recently published a study titled “What Attendees Want From Exhibitions.” It gives some interesting insight into why attendees plunk down their registration money – and what they expect to get in return.

The researchers asked its survey responders to give their top reasons for attending a show. While “shopping” was cited by 69% of surveyed attendees, “learning” followed a close second at 66%. Among shopping needs, “seeing new technology” was the most important reason given, while “industry trend insight” was given as the top learning need.

Other top reasons given among the shopper crowd: The ability to talk to experts; interaction with new products; having questions answered immediately; and brand comparison. On the learning side, they also wanted to develop their professional network and improve their job performance.

While IMTS 2014 might still seem like a long way off, this is a good time for exhibitors to begin asking themselves if their booth offerings are meeting these needs. Are you offering any kind of learning opportunity? What kind of ideas are your booth visitors going to take away with them? Are your booth presentations offering dynamic content that’s more than a product pitch?

One area of focus within the report is the people they label “scouts,” or someone that an organization sends out to gather information to bring back to others. Since this one person could ultimately be your “brand reputation” at their respective organization, it’s important to identify these people … and leave a good impression.

Remember, trade shows aren’t just a supermarket anymore … they’re growing into a mix of shopping mall, classroom, town square, and coffee shop. Evaluate your booth plans to see how well they fit into that mix.

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