With every edition of the Smartforce Student Summit at IMTS, we look to find new ways to engage students and show them all the exciting possibilities for careers in manufacturing. The 2016 summit is no exception, and for the first time, schools will have a chance to create challenge teams to take on building the major assemblies of a CNC waterjet cutting machine. AMT member WardJet is our partner in this initiative and I couldn’t be more pleased that the company approached us with this idea.

Students have participated in challenges for 3D printing, robotics and the like in the past, and they’ll certainly be doing it again this year. But giving students the ability to work with tools, with safety as a high priority, enables us to take a challenge at the Student Summit to a whole new level.

We’re working with schools in the Chicago area that have top-notch mechatronics students, already familiar with machine construction, controls and drive systems. Reaching these students on a deeper level in a build challenge helps us reinforce our strategy to close the skills gap in the next generation of machine builders and field service technicians who will install, maintain and repair machines.

For the schools that participate, thanks to WardJet, the challenge means that the students might actually take a CNC waterjet cutting machine back to their school for their machining lab at the completion of their experience.

We’ll be recruiting schools for this challenge at the SkillsUSA National Championships in Louisville, Ky., this June, and if you’re aware of a school in your local community that could field a team for this challenge, please direct them to register at www.WardJet.com/build-it-challenge.

Right across the aisle from the build challenge will be our new 3D printing challenge that has been developed through a partnership with SME and Rippl3D, a developer of “STEM-ulating” 3D printing challenges for students.

The new 3D printing challenge will allow students to redesign and 3D print mini-rocket components, the nose cone, the rocket body and the tail section with fins and then assemble those sections together and with air power, test their down-range trajectory in an enclosed test range.

Students will also be able to engage in design and robotics challenges and participate in a virtual welding challenge in the Welding Annex of the Student Summit before they have the opportunity to see all of the latest innovations in manufacturing technology at IMTS 2016.

We’re building industry momentum to stem the tide of the skills gap that we face. The Smartforce Student Summit at IMTS is our largest community outreach initiative and we’re working to make this event as compelling for students as it can be.

For more information on AMT’s Smartforce Development efforts, follow this column in the AMTNews archive at AMTonline.org, contact me at gjones@AMTonline.org or at 703-827-5203. For more frequent updates from specific community outreach events or general Smartforce initiatives, follow me on Twitter - @GregoryAJones.