By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
On Sept. 10, a group of students from Kirkwood’s Jones Regional Education Center here in Monticello took part in a great educational opportunity by attending the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago.
According to its website (imts.com), this show is the number one manufacturing technology show in North America. “More than 1,800 exhibiting companies will occupy 1.2 million square feet of exhibit space.” This show is held every other year in Chicago and attracts more than 80,000 buyers and sellers from over 116 countries.
Craig Stadtmueller, Career Development coordinator at JREC, and Kevin Boyens, CNC instructor at JREC, organized the one-day trip with 15 students attending.
IMTS’ website states, “Manufacturing industry professionals from all over the world attend IMTS to see more than 15,000 new machine tools, controls, computers, software, components, systems and processes that can improve their efficiency. They gain valuable ideas and insights from over 1,800 of the worlds leading equipment producers. They come to look and they come to buy.”
For the JREC students, they came to gain valuable information on the future of manufacturing.
“It really opened their eyes,” said Stadtmueller. “Everything was really high-tech.”
Stadtmueller said as manufacturing picks up in the U.S., students need to gain an understanding for how things are changing. As technology changes, so do job functions. For instance, there were machines on display that can throw basketballs into a net and a robot that deals Blackjack cards as human beings play the game via an iPad.
“They (the students) were excited about it all,” said Stadtmueller. He said the sellers at the show were just as excited to see the students as they were potential buyers. Stadtmeuller explained it would be these students that will soon run the high-tech machines.
“The sellers know there is a need for these types of jobs,” he said.
The JREC classes represented at the show were metal fabrication and welding fundamentals.
“The machines on display were all tailored towards metal,” explained Stadtmueller.
Boyens, a machinist who also owns his own business, has been to IMTS in the past and told Stadtmueller it would be a worthwhile opportunity for the students.
“He said this trip would blow their minds,” Stadtmueller said of opening the students’ minds to a unique opportunity.
What the students learned while at the show was invaluable. With just an associate’s degree in metal fabrication they can work an entry-level job and work their way up the ladder with on-the-job training.
“This was too good of an opportunity to pass up,” Stadtmueller said of the trip to Chicago. “It was an eye-opener for everyone. It was a mind-expanding trip.”
Stadtmueller said he saw just how excited the students were to see multi-million dollar machines they could one day operate themselves. Some had no clue of the technology it takes. Stadtmueller said it is more than just pushing buttons. You have to have knowledge of other subjects such as geometry, trigonometry, engineering and problem solving. However, Stadtmueller said you don’t have to be Einstein “to do cool stuff with technology and manufacturing.”
Seeing such massive machines in operation, the students were motivated to continue on with their higher education and get the training they need to get a decent job within the manufacturing industry.
“The field needs skilled workers who can retain the knowledge,” Stadtmueller said. “It’s all about motivation and hard work.”
Above all, taking the students to IMTS was a way to expand their minds and give them a vision for their futures.
PHOTOS: Students in the metal fabrication and welding fundamentals classes at Jones Regional Education Center attended the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago on Sept. 10, along with teacher Kevin Boyens and Craig Stadtmueller, Career Development coordinator. Those who attended, front row from left, Jayson Hebdon, Dakota Haugen, Bradon Martin, Amber Wood, Kennedy Fowler, Mitch Manternach and Colton Halder. Back row, Cody Barnes, Kyle Fortman, Aaron Conrad, Dylan Krumviede, Devin Arduser, Dalton Breckenridge, Colton Rickels, Danny Bonert and Boyles. (Photo submitted)