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The Advanced Manufacturing Technology Classroom of the Future

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Greg Jones is the Vice President of Smartforce Development at the Association for Manufacturing Technology, which owns IMTS – The International Manufacturing Technology Show.

Have you seen the advanced manufacturing technology classroom of the future? It’s likely that you can find one in your local community at a high school that specializes in Career & Technical Education (CTE), at an engineering school or a community college in their mechatronics or machining labs and even in a STEM elementary school or middle school.

You may have invited some of these schools to your place of business for a Manufacturing Day event, but when was the last time that you reciprocated and visited the schools yourself to see the kinds of programs that are being taught there?

Beginning in elementary schools, educators in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs are using tools and programs like Start Engineering for very young students, like Project Lead the Way, robotics programs like FIRST, Vex, National Robotics League (NRL) and others to inspire young people. If you haven’t visited or even considered providing funding or mentorship to a robotics team, it’s a terrific way to get involved and restart the dialogue between business, industry and schools again.

I attended the launch of President Trump’s Apprenticeship Task Force during National Apprenticeship Week in November, and among the many thoughts and ideas that were discussed by Task Force members was the need to reconnect business leaders with the educational institutions in their local area.

In my line of work, I’m likely to see advanced manufacturing technology classrooms of the future quite often and this past summer, I had the privilege to tour Festo-Didactic in New Jersey to see and explore their latest turnkey STEM classroom.

This classroom is not just well-designed and well-equipped, it also comes complete with applications and curriculum in Festo’s core competency of mechatronics. The classroom goes further though in allowing teachers and students to incorporate team-building skills to imagine, experiment, and to become inspired in their own education through “Green” project-based learning (PBL) modules like water filtration, bio-medical modules and others that give students the opportunity to use real world math, science and design.

If you don’t have a chance to visit a school near you soon, you can visit the Smartforce Student Summit at IMTS 2018. Many of our industry and STEM exhibit partners will be including their concept of the advanced manufacturing technology classroom of the future with turnkey solutions like the Festo classroom, Learning Labs modeled like the upcoming Smart Manufacturing Experience in Boston next Spring, as well as modular work station to work station experiences.

Over the past couple of IMTS show cycles, we’ve been going younger than our typical high school audience and inviting STEM elementary and middle school students. The goal is to capture the students’ attention and create a desire for them to seek a career in manufacturing at a much younger age. The advanced manufacturing technology classroom of the future, combined with an emphasis on MTConnect, smart manufacturing and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will allow us to inspire young students and to put our best technology forward to engage them.

For more frequent updates on Smartforce Development, on the Smartforce Student Summit at IMTS 2018 and on the President’s Apprenticeship Task Force, follow @GregoryAJones on Twitter.

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