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“30 Under 30” Project Honors Young Manufacturing Leaders

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By Bonnie Gurney, Director – Industry Partnerships, AMT-The Association For Manufacturing Technology 

Now entering its sixth year, Manufacturing Engineering’s “30 Under 30” project not only recognizes young people likely to become future manufacturing leaders, but also recognizes their desire to connect with others in the program and support SME’s efforts to develop and improve the manufacturing workforce. In terms of their contributions, 2017 honorees come highly decorated — academically, creatively and professionally — and all of them have made a mark on the manufacturing world. From large corporations to small job shops, from academia to developing STEM education, the range and skills of this year’s class is inspiring and impressive.


SME founded the program as a way to grow a diminishing manufacturing workforce, as well as change the paradigm of only recognizing success at the end of an individual’s career.

“We have a problem attracting young people to manufacturing,“ says Alan Rooks, editor in chief of Manufacturing Engineering. “We need to recognize the outstanding young talent already in the industry, as we need these young people to form the leadership of the next generation of the manufacturing workforce.”

Sponsoring the 30 Under 30 project also helps bridge the gap between what manufacturing is today and what average people think it is. Manufacturing jobs today are often high-level jobs requiring extensive computer and math skills. In addition, more and more manufacturing jobs are “clean” jobs in modern manufacturing facilities. As this year’s winners demonstrate, a variety of skills can be applied to manufacturing, from communication to engineering to software development.

Outstanding talent comes in the form of 25-year old Kathryn Merrill, from working at a soda fountain and overseeing an ice cream “assembly line,” went on to earn degrees in industrial engineering and finance. Multiple internships led to permanent employment. She recently moved to Washington, D.C., to begin her career with the Boeing’s Network and Space Systems FP&A group.

Austin Schmidt, co-founder and president of Additive Engineering Solutions LLC, began learning about 3D manufacturing at Caterpillar. He quickly excelled at developing solutions for applying additive manufacturing at Caterpillar. Recognizing the need to reach a wider audience, Schmidt developed partnerships with large-scale additive manufacturers, not only taking the company from concept to reality, but also creating a global contract service.   

At only 22 years old, Erin Winnick is the owner of an innovative new tech company, Sci Chic. Also an additive manufacturing enthusiast, Winnick created Sci Chic to develop STEM understanding by 3D printing fashion products that include educational resources to explain STEM concepts. She collaborates with women around the world on their designs.

Kevin Simon, 27, a doctoral candidate at MIT, sets himself apart with his knowledge of physics and manufacturing processes. Simon developed a low-cost centrifugal pump that is twice as efficient as anything at its price point. Now, he’s moved on to developing an even more efficient pump designed to meet the needs of marginal farmers in developing countries.

And if you think taking over a family business is easy, ask 30-year-old Caroline Kulczuga, director of business development at Ultimate Machining & Engineering, Inc. Following six years at Google, Kulczuga moved back to the Chicago area to overhaul several areas of her father’s company. Not only has she increased sales volume by 25 percent, she has also been heavily involved in promoting U.S. manufacturing through social media.

Read all 30 of these inspiring stories in the July 2017 issue of Manufacturing Engineering or view online.

Why Nominate?


“Recognizing these honorees is so important, but we know that there are so many more deserving young people out there,” says Rooks. “We want this program to encourage everyone to think of someone they know — someone in your company, your school, your family business, the machine shop down the street — and tell us who they are. These stories need to be told. They are not only inspiring, but they represent the future of manufacturing.”

We will alert IMTS Insider readers when the nomination process for the next year’s 30 Under 30 candidates opens. In the meantime, if you know a young person in industry or academia who deserves recognition for their efforts, ask them how they feel about inspiring others.

P.S. Eleven of the 30 Under 30 leaders attended IMTS 2016. We plan to catch up with a few of them and find out how IMTS contributes to their success. You’ll see the article in an upcoming issue of IMTS Insider.

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