At IMTS 2014, the Smartforce Student Summit welcomed more than 17,000 students, teachers, administrators, and parent chaperones and was a great success. Now that we’re a year out from IMTS 2016, we’ve been busy making plans – but where to start? 

Well, if you’re a data geek like me, you naturally start by taking another look at the numbers. Fortunately, we have the Strategic Analytics department and MTInsight Big Data tools at AMT, so I have access to a top-notch staff of data professionals to help.

As recently as IMTS 2010, there were 6,000 attendees at the student summit and 9,300 at the student summit at IMTS 2012. With a leap to more than 17,000 attendees at the student summit at IMTS 2014, what should we aim for with IMTS 2016? Up is the only way to go when you consider that we’re in the business of “Manufacturing Brighter Futures,” and that our industry still needs to change perceptions about manufacturing in order to end the skills/knowledge gap that we are facing.

OK, that’s settled – up it is. After all, this is the tenth student summit in more than twenty years at IMTS, so we have some experience and we’ve developed a reputation with schools that this “field trip” is well worth the time away from the classroom for teachers and students. I mean, where else can you see 1.3 million sq. ft. of manufacturing technology under one roof and be so eagerly welcomed by an industry?

The 2014 data also tells us that about 30 percent of our student summit attendees came from community colleges and engineering schools from 34 different states around the country. In fact, these students have told us in follow-up surveys that they attended the student summit at IMTS for free access to the show and to find an internship or a job in the industry.

This data is what determined that the Smartforce Student Summit at IMTS 2016 will include a career fair for community college and engineering school students.

Helping with workforce readiness is great for the older students, but what about our core middle school and high school students? What can they expect at IMTS 2016?

First, we want to increase the numbers of assignments and challenges that ask students to participate in advance of the student summit. From 3D Printing and Robotics – and everything in between – we’ll ask student summit exhibitors to develop challenges so that their experience at IMTS is even more interactive and engaging for them.

I’ve also been asked by a number of AMT members to begin attracting younger students. In 2014, a group of 350 elementary school students from Azuela Elementary School in Chicago, and their teachers and parents, attended the Smartforce Student Summit. They were in uniform, very well behaved and excited to participate in the Rippl3D wind mill turbine blade design and 3D Printing challenge.

We’ll extend invitations to the Illinois school districts that normally attend the student summit so they can extend participation to their elementary school students. We also saw a big jump in parents and students who are home-schooled – many of whom were elementary school age.

We’ve also been on the lookout for new and exciting STEM challenges for students. Specifically, we’re looking for presentations similar to those we had from Project Lead The Way, the National Math & Science Initiative, Sally Ride Science and FIRST™ in 2014. So far, we’ve found some terrific prospects at the National STEM Leadership Conference.

Last but certainly not least, we’ve re-tooled AMT’s Smartforce Development Committee to assure that we have the most passionate minds in education among AMT members planning the student summit. In fact, we’d like to engage with all AMT members on ideas. Let us know if you have any thoughts on how to make the Smartforce Student Summit at IMTS 2016 the best event possible to meet our mandate of building a smarter workforce for manufacturing.

The next Smartforce Development Committee meeting is September 23 in Columbus, Ohio, the day before D15. 

If you have any suggestions that you would like me and the Smartforce Development Committee to consider, please call me at 703-827-5203 or contact me via email at

For more frequent updates about Smartforce Development, follow me on Twitter @GregoryAJones.