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Training & Education
Monday | 19 December, 2011 | 10:28 am

Preparing for the future

By Julie Sammarco

Awards for excellence in manufacturing education expand possibilities for winning schools

December 2011 - Six schools across the country were recognized for excellence in manufacturing education, giving them the opportunity to expand their programs and presence in the industry. The Society of Manufacturing Engineers Education Foundation (SME EF) awarded schools in California, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and Oklahoma with the Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education (PRIME) award. The six schools are:

• Hawthorne High School, Hawthorne, Calif.

• Wheeling High School, Wheeling, Ill.

• Walker Career Center, Indianapolis, Ind.

• Summit Technology Academy, Lee’s Summit, Mo.

• Fairmont High School, Kettering, Ohio

• Francis Tuttle Technology Center Pre-Engineering Academy, Oklahoma City, Okla.

Each of these six schools receives a $10,000 grant that can be used to update the programs’ manufacturing equipment or software or for instructor training. In addition, PRIME schools receive $5,000 to launch a summer camp program to ensure the pipeline of students interested in manufacturing continues to be filled. They also receive scholarships and $1,000 to be used in competitions in 2012. The money, however, is not the most valuable part of the award.

Getting into the business
Aligned closely with Project Lead The Way (PLTW), the SME EF, a non-profit organization committed to changing the future of manufacturing education, aims to address the shortage of manufacturing and technical talent in the United States. Through the PRIME program, the SME EF works with schools’ manufacturing programs to create strong partnerships with organizations and businesses to provide a comprehensive, community-based approach to manufacturing education. The PRIME program brings industry and organization partners into the classroom, strengthening the PLTW manufacturing education already in place and ensuring a relevant connection between the curriculum and the real world.

This is where schools like Wheeling High School benefit. “Our goal is to help make connections in the local manufacturing industry through programs like internships to get a sense of real-world manufacturing,” says Dr. Lazaro Lopez, principal of Wheeling High School.

Roughly one year ago, Wheeling High School became a science, technology, engineering and mathematics-focused school, “which means it has a focus and is designed like a community college,” says Lopez.

Since then, the school designed courses that extend beyond the high-school level, giving students the opportunity to earn college credit. It offers out-of-school experiences at local manufacturing plants; certifications, including NIMS; and job opportunities.

“We had 15 to 20 students placed in the industry last year. Other students went on to engineering or manufacturing programs in Bradley or the University of Illinois,” says Lopez. “Our No. 1 area of career interest is engineering. To accommodate that interest, we have a $1 million, full prototyping manufacturing lab, which we plan on expanding in the future.”

Part of the expansion will include computing company Intel Corp., to give students experience with high-performance computing in manufacturing. “In January [2012], we’re going to offer a competition at Wheeling High School to try to solve some problems in our local area using high-performance design and modeling. It’ll be a pilot at our school,” says Lopez. If it works well, high-performance computing might be incorporated into the school’s area supporters. Wheeling has a large concentration of manufacturers in the area who support the school’s programs, which created an impetus for the school to develop courses that will prepare students for work in its local manufacturing and engineering companies.

PLTW commended the six schools for their dedication to science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and their leadership in preparing students for the competitive, high-tech and high-skilled global economy. Their exemplary manufacturing curriculums, skilled and dedicated instructors, engaged and active students and connectivity to the local manufacturing base also were big factors in their success, according to Laurie Maxson, youth programs director at SME EF. MM

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