2/24/2017 11:01:00 AM Training begins in high school for the future
by LEILANI FREEMAN
The Chisago Lakes Schools and local manufacturers have been teaming up to inspire and engage students in the world of high tech manufacturing for a few years. Only now, they’re doing it with a lot of encouragement and a little financial help from Chisago Lakes America’s Best Communities initiative.
Manufacturing provides employment to nearly half a million Minnesotans and contributes $48 billion to the state’s economy, but manufacturers—including those in Chisago County—face a shortage of trained workers.
Responding to that trend, the Chisago Lakes Schools began to offer engineering technology at the middle school, and added technology-based courses at the high school. The school’s Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) course is drawing rave reviews from high school students who took the course during the first semester.
Enthusiasm ran so high that two weeks after the semester ended a half dozen CIM students willingly stayed after school to demonstrate what they had learned. The demonstration utilized computer-controlled robotic arms, and a laser engraver purchased with the help of $10,000 provided by the ABC initiative.
The CIM course requires that students learn computer programming skills as well as mechanical and robotic expertise to solve an automated manufacturing challenge. Each student was asked to design and build a three inch by two inch container for a useful purpose. The class then chose the three best designs, and students had the chance to produce the containers utilizing automation, control systems, sensing devices, computer programming and robotics. One student explained that the project required learning six different computer programs and utilizing different types of software to complete each step of the process. Students also kept track of production costs, time and materials.
Students and Instructor Ryan Dewey described the container manufacturing project, while not far away in the room, a robotic arm gently placed a wooden popsicle stick on the laser engraver where it was inscribed with a logo and the words “Chisago Lakes High School Industrial Technology.”
Across the work table, a cup was filled with water from an elevated thermos jug, and a robotic arm turned, rotated and lowered the engraved stir stick into the cup. To accomplish this deceptively simple series of actions, students had to calculate, program and execute a score of computer-controlled, automated mechanical tasks.
Chisago Lakes High School has a manufacturing course that, next year will enable students to manufacture items for sale under the name “Wildcat Industries.” Manufacturing students will work with business and marketing classes to research, design, fabricate, promote and market an original product in an effort to help make the course self-sustaining. So many students have already registered for the new class that a second session is being added, acording to Principal Dave Ertl.
The Chisago Lakes America’s Best Communities Project goals states, “In partnership with the Chisago Lakes Schools and local businesses, we will improve career options for the workforce of the future.” In pursuing that goal, ABC brought school and business leaders together to better understand each other’s needs. Those contacts are paying off. Last October, six local businesses opened their doors to 89 students in the school’s work-based learning program. That was more than twice as many students as in the previous year. Recently, when the high school’s industrial technology instructors needed a metal plate made, they contacted Kendall Howard in Chisago City. Kendall Howard came to the rescue and built the plate for the school.
ABC team member Marlys Dunne of Multisource Manufacturing reports that her company recently did a career day presentation on what it was like to be a machinist and was gratified when the room was filled with young people. “I think my employees had more fun than the students,” says Dunne.
Learn more about the new manufacturing class and other technology programs during the Chisago Lakes Home and Business Expo March 4 and 5 at Chisago Lakes High School in Lindstrom.