Another IMTS has come and gone, and with it a new generation of the Smartforce Student Summit has been launched.

More than 17,000 students, scouts, teachers, administrators, scout troop leaders and parents attended the Student Summit, and in a word, you could say that they were engaged. We produced a video to welcome attendees to our industry, IMTS and the challenges that they could engage in at the summit. (If you have 10 minutes, go to, search “welcome” and scroll down to the link to “The Smartforce Student Summit at IMTS 2016: Welcome/Orientation.”) 

Students came ready to learn from the interactive challenges that our exhibitor partners developed. Those challenges were from across a broad range of the entire manufacturing process so that students could better understand what a career in manufacturing actually entails.

The energy was evident from the first day of the show when I had the privilege of joining Peter Eelman, AMT Vice President - Exhibitions & Business Development, for an early ribbon-cutting ceremony in the East Building. Peter introduced Jim Allemann, an engineer who has visited IMTS 25 times and who holds three patents, while I introduced middle school student Oliver Leopold and his Robotronix FIRST Lego League team who were attending their second IMTS. When the doors of the show opened for the 10th edition of the Student Summit there were already hundreds of students waiting to get in.

More students from the Chicago Public School system visited the Student Summit than ever before, including students from CPS middle school STEM programs. The program’s curriculum emphasizes the skills and knowledge needed for careers in manufacturing in addition to other STEM fields. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel toured the Student Summit to get a first-hand look at the work we’ve been doing with CPS.

There were awards that will carry far beyond the Student Summit. The Gene Haas Foundation announced a $100,000 scholarship grant available only to graduating high school seniors from schools that attended the summit. Additionally, as part of the Build It! challenge, WARDJet donated CNC waterjet cutting machines to winning teams from Missouri University of Science and Technology and Laureate Machine & Automation. The challenge saw 60 student teams and more than 100 industry professional teams participate in building the major assemblies and controls of a CNC waterjet cutting machine. 

Other challenges included those from Fanuc, Kuka Robotics and Yaskawa Motoman that engaged students with robotics technology and also encouraged them to visit their main exhibits at IMTS. Festo Didactic provided students with both an opportunity to control a robot in the Automate It! challenge, as well as an Industry 4.0 challenge.

Zeiss presented its Measure It! challenge, allowing students to learn about Coordinate Measuring Machines. Mitutoyo, a mainstay in the Student Summit, allowed students to get a microscopic view of President Lincoln on a penny and the L. S. Starrett company joined us with a wide range of measuring tools and equipment. Like Zeiss, Starrett allowed students to measure their 3D printed rocket parts that were being produced in the Make It! and Machine It! challenges, and Starrett also got into the spirit of the summit by bringing their own versions of 3D printed rockets. 

FIRST Lego League and FIRST Robotics Competition teams were on hand in the FIRST Theater at the Smartforce Student Summit to give robotics demonstrations and encourage participation in FIRST.

Many Chicago-area community colleges and a few engineering schools like Northwestern, Purdue and Missouri University of Science and Technology were on hand for recruiting high school students. Northwestern students also displayed a forming machine that they hope to commercialize.

We want to thank our Student Summit exhibit partners and look forward to the Smartforce Student Summit at IMTS 2018, where we know we’ll be able to develop even more engaging challenges for students so we can ensure that we are constantly manufacturing brighter futures for today’s young people.

For updates on Smartforce Development, follow me on Twitter @GregoryAJones (you’ll see hundreds of the faces of the students who attended the summit).