The couple of times that I’ve been asked to speak to a group of teenagers, the first ques- tion that pops into my head as I look at the
audience in the eyes is, Are they breathing?
Such is the case with teenagers. They may be
present, but they are not entirely there in most instances. They are thinking about what’s for dinner,
the night’s homework, arranging a ride to work, getting together with friends, or anything else besides
the boring guy talking about what it’s like covering
fabricating technology and why manufacturing is
important to the U.S. They know it all already—at
least until the test comes back and says otherwise.
Such is the battle that members of the manufacturing community face as they try to entice the next
generation to consider a career as a manufacturing
technician, welder, or engineer. They are trying to
sell a message to a group that, frankly, has their
minds already made up about what they are doing after high school. Often manufacturing doesn’t
make the cut.
Manufacturers and educators interested in promoting science, technology, engineering, and math
(STEM) curriculum now understand that they need
to target an even younger audience. For many, the
focus is on middle schoolers, who are joining robotics teams or have the opportunity to tour nearby
metal fabricating facilities. But even middle schoolers are beginning to formulate their own views of
the world before they step foot on campus for the
first time. Does the manufacturing community need
to target an even younger audience?
Steve Meyer, a technology and engineering teacher in Brillion, Wis., thinks so. He now spends half of
his day, in addition to his teaching duties, training
elementary teachers on how to become more effective STEM educators. The school district has committed to having every student from kindergarten to
fifth grade take at least four units of engineering and
technology curriculum, which can cover areas such
as materials science, chemical engineering, manufacturing technology, and electronics.
“It’s taken off like wildfire. I bet 98 percent of the
kids will say that STEM is their favorite class,” Meyer
said. “They are up. They are active. They are really
doing some neat things.”
Meyer knows what a successful STEM learning en-
vironment looks like. He’s been around long enough
to see the Ariens Technology and Engineering Edu-
cation Center built at Brillion High School (follow-
ing the $1.5 million donation from the nearby Ariens
Co.). The center doubled the school’s STEM educa-
tion area to 10,000 square feet, providing space for
a 58-seat lecture hall, a room with 28 CAD stations,
and five design rooms for students to work on proj-
ects. Meyer said the STEM program now draws inter-
est from about 230 students each year in a school
that has about 350 students. Girls make up about
35 percent of the students taking the STEM-related
“We want everybody,” he said. “We think of STEM
Read more from Dan Davis at www.thefabricator.com/author/dan-davis
as a part of general education.”
Meyer wants to replicate that success at the ele-
mentary school level now because “STEM on a cart,”
Start young, stay committed
If manufacturers want to improve their image,
they need to go back to elementary school
FROM THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF as he describes the current educational setup in the
elementary school, just doesn’t cut it. For the past
18 months the school district has been finalizing a
plan for a STEM center for the elementary school,
and it has raised $1.2 million of the $1.7 million
needed to pay for the project. (If you are interested
in contributing or learning more about the effort,
When complete, the STEM center will look more
like a children’s museum than a 1950s-era classroom. Not only will computers and rooms dedicated
to large projects be a part of the final design, but a
30-foot-tall rocket also will be present to inspire students and act as storage for their STEM-related work.
“Oftentimes as educators we have to be very careful. At times we can beat the creativity out of them.
We put them in rows. We tell them exactly what the
right answer is. Really, it should be the opposite,”
“We found out in about 10 minutes that young
kids can do these things. They are extremely smart.
They are very, very creative, and we have to allow
them opportunities through STEM education to ex-
plore these things.”
To say that manufacturing heavily influences
Brillion would be an understatement. Three ma-
jor manufacturing-related companies, Ariens Co.,
Endries International Inc./Professional Plating
Inc., and Brillion Iron Works, actually have more
manufacturing employees than people who live in
Brillion, which is a town of about 3,000. The town
and its citizens—both corporate and private—have
made it clear how important manufacturing is to
If manufacturers truly want to solve the problem
of improving manufacturing’s image and building a
pipeline of technical and engineering talent, they
only need to look to Brillion to see how it’s going to
Start young and stay committed. It’s not easy, but
accomplishing something that’s difficult rarely is.
EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD
Inalfa Roof Systems
Metal Locking Service
Aperam Stainless Solutions USA
Iowa State University
FMA OFFICERS AND DIRECTORS
Chairman of the Board
Al Zelt, ASKO Inc.
First Vice Chairman
Texas ProFab Corp.
Second Vice Chairman
William “Jeff” Jeffery
Chairman of the Board
Edwin Stanley, GH Metal Solutions
Superior Joining Technologies Inc.
Affiliations Unlimited Inc.
Rick J. Hargrove
Steel & Pipe Supply Co. Inc.,
Storage & Processors
Kawasaki Motors Mfg. Corp. USA
Amada America Inc.
MC Machinery Systems/Mitsubishi Laser
Mary Ellen Mika
Rafter Equipment Corp.
Ohio Laser LLC
Super Steel LLC
President & CEO
Fabricators & Manufacturers Assoc. Intl.
FMA’S CERTIFIED EDUCATION CENTERS
FMA Certified Education Centers (CEC) are community
and technical colleges, trade schools, and universities
that specialize in training adults for careers in the metal
forming, fabricating, processing, and machining sectors.
They offer coursework for local students year-round and
serve as host locations for many types of FMA professional
development programs as requested. A council of members convene six times a year to plan and execute special
programs on worker training for educators and human
resource managers from companies of all sizes.
To learn more about FMA’s CEC program and view a list
of the current member schools, visit www.fmanet.org/
To discover how your local community or technical college
can become a member, call 888-394-4362 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.