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Students Prove They are Dreamers and Doers in the World of Manufacturing

Category: IMTS May 9, 2018

The world of manufacturing embraces a range of business models, but one provides a unique opportunity to not only encourage and mentor students interested in manufacturing, but to also employ them in all areas. Located in Strum, Wis., Cardinal Manufacturing is one such business, consisting of high school student machinists, welders, office and production managers, engineers and marketers who run and operate a real business as part of their high school education.

“The Cardinal Manufacturing business model works very well for us, and many schools who visit make plans to reproduce similar models in their own schools,” says Craig Cegeilski, technical education teacher at Eleva-Strum High School and instructor of the Cardinal Manufacturing Program. “A student-run business not only teaches technical skills, but it also teaches ‘soft skills’ that lead to greater employability. Students raise funds to support the whole program, gathering community support.”

In addition, students participate in profit sharing and earn scholarships to further their education. “There are no negatives that we’ve seen; it’s all positive,” says Cegeilski. Customers range from local community and industry members to state and even nationwide customers. Support for the program extends beyond the town.

A shop overview of the 2018 Cardinal Manufacturing open house, held April 30, 2018. The program has great community support and students get to showcase their success each year as they plan and host the event with more than 1,000 attendees.

“We have yearly open houses where we invite the community in to see what the students are doing and what’s new at Cardinal Manufacturing,” says Cegeilski. “We live in a town of 1,600 people, and we have 1,000 people show up at our events. Our school and our community are very supportive of the Cardinal Manufacturing Program.”

The IMTS Difference

Part of Cardinal’s business model of developing soft skills, as well as technical skills is taking students to IMTS every two years. The show opens their eyes to a much larger real world of manufacturing that’s not just about technical skills; it’s about developing quality, well-rounded manufacturing students and professionals.

Others are encouraged to partake in the event. “Parents come with us. We’ve had school board members come down with us. We even had our principal come down with us,” says Cegeilski.

Prior to traveling to the show, Cegeilski and his students craft a plan. They talk through everything, including appropriate dress and carrying business cards. They practice shaking hands and discuss how to conduct themselves professionally and respectfully, a requirement when you’re taking an exhibitor’s time. “We’re going there with a purpose, to gain knowledge and experience the world of manufacturing,” says Cegeilski.

Students have even earned rewards for their professional participation at IMTS. In one case, a student noted that a vendor from Wisconsin was talking fondly about Wisconsin sharp cheddar cheese. When the students returned from the show, they sent him some cheese and were rewarded with their choice of $1,000 in tools.

In another case, a vendor allowed them to come back and occupy an entire booth.

Aside from the show, students love going to the big city of Chicago and networking with people around the country. “It’s a learning experience on more than just the technical aspect of manufacturing,” says Cegeilski.

A current Cardinal student and a tumbler from Burr King Mfg. Company booth 237502, North Building). Students researched and purchased this piece of equipment after IMTS 2016.

Grant Austin, a current student and production manager at Cardinal Manufacturing didn’t realize the enormity of IMTS. “I got there, and it was a lot bigger than what you could get through in the two days we were there,” says Austin.

As a production manager, Austin became interested in a tumbler – a machine used to finish parts – he saw at IMTS. Austin spoke with a salesperson, went online to the company site, put a purchase order in with the school and ordered the tumbler. “That was part of my job as a production manager,” says Austin.

Seeing the tumbler in action at IMTS made all the difference for Austin and another production manager from Cardinal Manufacturing. “The exhibitor even had before and after parts where we were able to see results and all the different capabilities of the tumbler,” says Austin. “We’re there, so we could talk with the right people and get all the information we needed.”

Tom Brazeau, a recent graduate of Eleva-Strum went on to work for several companies and is now trying to start his own machine shop. According to Brazeau, attending IMTS is beneficial to a new shop owner: “A young shop owner should attend IMTS, so they can meet people and build a network and develop products that will revolutionize their business.”

Brazeau was awe-inspired by IMTS, enough to make a large investment in a Milltronics 3-axis milling machine, a result of stopping at the Hurco® exhibit (Milltronics is a Hurco brand). “Every year I go down to IMTS, I swing down to the Milltronics booth,” says Brazeau. “They always have a new innovation, some way to improve things, make things better, more user friendly and easier to work with.”

The Path to the Future

Students must continue to fulfill the objective of developing a skilled manufacturing workforce. “The youth are our future,” says Cegeilski. “They absolutely embrace manufacturing and will go into it if properly shown and have a positive experience, but we need to catch them in seventh, eighth and ninth grades.”

Part of this experience is going to IMTS. “I need to start them down that path and tell them about IMTS so they’re excited from seventh grade and know that, at some point, they’re going to get a chance to come down. They’ve heard about IMTS but then they get to experience such a huge showcase of the latest and greatest technologies.”

As the future of manufacturing, Cegeilski believes IMTS 2018 is a must see for students and young people: “The dreamers and doers absolutely connect there.”

To register for IMTS 2018, visit
To learn about the Smartforce Student Summit at IMTS 2018, visit

Cardinal Manufacturing Photo Gallery

Photos provided courtesy of Cardinal Manufacturing and Creative Technology Corp.

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