IMTS Blog

MTConnect Challenge 2: Big Competition, Bigger Prizes

If you thought that the competition for MTConnect Challenge 1 was intense, just wait. AMT, working with the Department of Defense, has begun the second part of the MTConnect Challenge. MTConnect Challenge 2, which started accepting submissions on July 1, 2013, is shaping up to be bigger than MTConnect Challenge 1 in both difficulty and reward. Unlike the first half, which asked for ambitious yet achievable ideas for utilizing data acquired via the MTConnect standard, MTConnect Challenge 2 is seeking the development of software applications that enable these manufacturing intelligence breakthroughs. 

And because the challenge has moved from ideas to useable software applications, the prizes are now substantially larger. The first competition rewarded $5,000 to each of the five winners. The MTConnect Challenge 2, however, will only have three winners: First prize receives $100,000; second prize receives $75,000; and third prize receives $50,000. Compare that to the winnings of the first challenge and it's easy to see why anticipation and excitement are gripping MTConnect Challenge 2. 

Submissions have already begun to emerge from many different companies. One of the earliest and most notable submissions comes from Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies (ITAMCO), located in Plymouth, Indiana. They have implemented and released one of the ideas that they submitted for MTConnect Challenge 1: MTConnect + Google Glass. This application merges the MTConnect standard with Google's new Glass technology. Workers and managers can then quickly access manufacturing data without a computer or hand-held device.

Participation in MTConnect Challenge 1 is not a prerequisite for Challenge 2, so anyone can submit. Each submission will be judged in five distinct categories: 

  • Benefits to Manufacturing Intelligence
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Practicality of Concept
  • Impact on Industry
  • Overall Quality
  • Test

The submission period ends January 31, 2014, and the winners will be announced in April 2014. So if you're looking to test your software development skills or if you just want to take a shot at winning $100,000, start creating your vision of the most innovative manufacturing intelligence application.

The Kids Are Alright!

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. 

 

At Your Library: Books, DVDs ... Demolition Hammers?

In some communities, the library is more than a repository of books, or a place where you get shushed for talking too loud. These days, libraries are offering courses on things like butchering and home brewing, and in some cases offering the equipment needed to do it.

As we grow into a more DIY culture, and libraries look for ways to appeal to a new audience, these types of offerings are popping up in many places. The Wall Street Journal recently printed an article on the trend. Perhaps growing frustrated with not having some of the hands-on skills of previous generations, many people are learning to do things like sewing, carpentry, car repair, and acquiring other skills for things that are often left to a paid professional.

With a trend growing toward individualized and one-off manufacturing, one can only imagine that it's just a matter of time before 3-D printing enters that same realm. Or maybe even courses in things like welding and CNC machining, or robotics programming.

What type of manufacturing-related courses would you like to see at your local library?

 

Happy Manufacturing Day!

This calls for a celebration – Manufacturing Day is here, a day devoted to expanding knowledge and improving public perception about careers in manufacturing and the industry in general.

To honor the day, a number of manufacturers are offering facility tours and other events. Here at AMT headquarters (home of IMTS show management), IMTS TV has created a video featuring Doug Woods, President of AMT, talking about why manufacturing matters. We also have a feature on the NIMS Student Skills Summit, which attracted thousands of students to IMTS 2012, and videos covering other great topics around manufacturing.

With a skills gap growing only more pervasive throughout manufacturing, now it's more important than ever to reach out to students and educators to give them a real understanding of the good paying, highly technical careers available in the industry. We need these bright minds and the enthusiastic energy behind them to ensure that U.S. manufacturing has a strong future. While exhibitors at IMTS were encouraged to welcome students into their booths, this is an effort that happens every day - not just on the show floor. 

What are you doing to mark this day? What do you think needs to happen to improve public perception of the industry?

Good News for Automotive, and Good News for Manufacturing

Just 3 years ago, the Big Three automakers saw their factories running around 50 percent capacity. Now, it's predicted they will be at greater than 100 percent capacity by year's end. It's uplifting news for the automotive industry, and manufacturing as a whole.

This article from The Detroit News gives more details of the report, done by Ron Harbour of Oliver Wyman. He notes that automakers continue to move with caution, with an eye toward efficiency throughout the supply chain.

Still, it's good to hear some good news for the industry, and let's hope it continues throughout the rest of the year.

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