MFG Advocate …

Making a student connection with MTConnect

By  Penny Brown, Public Affairs Director

Wanted: College students with a fondness for making – with machines, with code, or with both.

The MTConnect Student Challenge is a great way for students to develop professional relationships, makes a perfect thesis project, and offers cash prizes for winning submissions. The competition is open to all U.S. college students and seeks ideas and applications utilizing MTConnect.

For the idea competition, students are required to interview manufacturers to discover their challenges. Once a challenge has been identified, students are then tasked with creating an MTConnect-based application that would address the issue. Submissions are due Dec. 15, 2015.

For the apps competition, students need to create a video showing their application in action and will be required to give a live demo of the application to the judges panel if they are selected to advance. The deadline for this competition is Jan. 31, 2016.

If you know a student, pass on the information! Full details are available at and

What’s your priority?

I recently had a conversation with a manufacturing professional that went something like this: “We did a big Manufacturing Day event last year and had a bunch of kids through. We’ve got a lot of people signed up for this year, but I’m tempted to cancel it.”

Reason? “We’re just too busy.”

Then it was the story we could all tell about too many deadlines looming, too many people traveling, too many projects in the works. It’s true that sometimes the gap between what you’d like to do and what has to be done is just too big, meaning that something has to give. 

Around the same time, I heard from Stacee at M.A. Ford, telling me about the company’s MFG Day plans, but also about their practice of hiring teachers as externs to give them first-hand experience in an advanced manufacturing setting. In a news story about the program, Davenport West teacher Greg Smith said it was about “support for getting industry back into the classroom and helping out with our curriculum.”

So where does your company stand on building its future workforce? While it’s tempting to let those day-to-day production pressures keep our undivided attention, addressing our shortage of skilled workers is going to rely heavily on the efforts of industry. It’s up to us to get the word out about the reality of today’s advanced manufacturing industry – and to build relationships with the students we want to be our future employees and customers. 

While day-to-day plant operations are top job for every other day of the year, it seems every now and then we can bring something else into the spotlight that’s going to be crucial to our industry’s competitiveness in the coming years. One day a year is a small price to ask in exchange.

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