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Exposure to Local Manufacturing Can Change Lives of Youth

My oldest grandson, Michael, is entering his senior year at Prairie Ridge High School in Crystal Lake.  He was on the 2011 State Football championship team, will be a starter this fall and is now trying to decide on a college path of study.

His first 3 years at PR got him interested in mechanical design and making projects in school. His math and science grades improved, his football training has made him into a rock solid athlete and now he is facing “what do I want to be when I grow up?

This spring, his teacher assigned his class a project to learn about drawings, you know, the drawings we would use to manufacture a product.  He came to my company and gave him a good introduction into the design and manufacturing of hydraulic cylinders.  A few weeks ago wanted to know if I could take him to a few other manufacturers. Sure thing, I said.

I arranged visits to Ingersoll Machine Tools, the EIGERlab and it’s Additive Manufacturing Process (formerly known as Rapid Prototyping) and finally to Sundstrand (now UTC Aerospace) to see the Boeing 787 Test facility.

Starting at Ingersoll, James, a young, 2011 U. of Illinois  aerospace engineering graduate, took us around the shop and showed us the huge machines that they design build and use for their contract machining business.  Then, we got an introduction to the computer simulation program that James used to develop a machining program and debugging it before the part was actually machined.  Computer simulations are always fascinating to see.

On to the Additive Manufacturing Process where a customer supplied 3-D computer design was converted into an actual part.  One of the EIGERlab‘s machines make a part that is used directly on an aircraft as the material is quite strong.  Again the use of computers in manufacturing was quite impressive.

At Sundstrand/UTC the tour included discussions about careers that young engineers would find here. Both Ingersoll and UTC made the point that today’s engineers are best equipped with study of systems rather than a single engineering curriculum.  Coupling mechanical with electrical engineering is the way to go.

This exposure in the brief few hours really got Michael thinking and he is now considering  modifying his senior course electives. He learned by seeing and talking with industry people. What better way to introduce a young student to the possibilities of a career and to hear directly from employers.

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