As a former English teacher and current Health and Lifestyle professional, my covering the latest Greening Detroit media sponsored event, Manufactured in America was a curious assignment but I as a lead correspondent who loves venturing into new territory, I was delighted and grateful to see the variety of workshops and information.
I assumed the event would be of interest only to industry insiders looking to network with or sell to other engineers, or professionals directly related to this very technical business, but I was wrong. While I understood little of the industrial applications, attendees at every booth went out of their way to explain to me exactly what their company built and its applications. I got to experience three of the most sophisticated virtual reality simulations of my life, even scoring the as-yet highest score on a wielding simulation. As additional bonuses, I ran into three friends I knew did something technical but, not until that day did I begin to understand exactly what it was they did, and the lunch Siemens generously provided all attendees exceeded my expectations.
As an educator for almost two decades, I will admit to my bias when I explain that the most exciting, engaging, and entertaining booth at the entire expo was hosted by teenagers. But these weren’t just any teenagers, they were members of the Thunder Chickens robotics team. They explained the entire process of learning about the parameters outlined for them six weeks before the robotics competition, how younger teams built their robots out of Lego, while the high school teams actually fabricated custom-made parts to construct their incredible creations, and the cunning strategies they employed. The more interest I expressed in their work, they more diligently they explained every facet of their journey to victory. After watching the video of their robot beating the competition, they pointed out specific examples of ingenuity on the robot resting on the table.
While I often still feel like a kid myself, I couldn’t help but consider the fact that one of them could have been my own child (perhaps if I am fortunate enough to marry a brilliant engineer someday), how proud their parents must be of them and, if I was a parent, how invaluable an experience it would have been to bring my own future children to such an event to inspire and remind them that, despite what they might hear politicians say on TV, American children are building machines that can perform incredible tasks and its adults are still inventing and construction the machinery that will run the world for years to come. Attendees are reminded that American ingenuity (as well as international technical cooperation) is flourishing, and that could be its greatest achievement of all.
The previous four paragraphs were the opinion of a single reporter and proud American, but Greening Detroit was blessed with the ability to sit down with Alisa Coffey, MarCom manager of Aerospace, Automotive, and OEMs and key organizer for the epic Detroit event. She shared with us insider opinions and expert analysis. Her team chose Detroit as the annual conference location because “while both Detroit and Grand Rapids are recognized in the list of “Top 5″cities for advanced manufacturing and new engineering jobs, the Motor City was the obvious choice as the manufacturing sector is booming and Detroit has been seeing a quiet renaissance.”
The conference was held at Ford Field for the last few years but Coffey’s team found the “Marriott Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit to be the perfect choice. We have not made a final decision about the venue for MiA18, but we are committed to staying in the Detroit area.” She considered the highlights of this years event to be the record numbers in attendance at the Summit, which included an impressive speaker lineup including: Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Raj Batra of Siemens USA, Alastair Orchard of Siemens PLM, Paul Meloche of Fori Automation and Josh Linkner of Detroit Venture Partners. The Siemens Digital Zone included innovative demonstrations on mechatronics concept design, virtual commissioning, Mindsphere – Siemens Cloud for Industry, and VR for manufacturing which allows companies to test scenarios and designs, and experience products even before they’re made.
Manufacturing in America brings the manufacturing community together to facilitate collaboration and spur innovation. “This is an event that is helping to shape manufacturing in America and across the globe,” said Jamie Fryer, sales manager at Windsor, Ontario-based Brave Control Solutions. “You have all the key players in one place, and the discussions are focused on the issues that are driving the industry. If you want to be on the leading edge of manufacturing development, why wouldn’t you be there?”
Ofori Agboka, Director of HR for GM, was the keynote for The Student Zone. He told the group of 160 students: “Know what’s important to you. Believe in yourself. Enjoy seeing others succeed and choose a career you love.” Afterward, students participated in a CNC (Computer Numerical Control), and PLC (Programmable Logic Controller), workshops, toured the MiA exhibits where they had the opportunity to engage with industry members and “A Day in the Life” where students heard about the typical day from an engineer.
Raj Batra, President, Siemens Digital Factory Division, U.S. was quoted as saying, “Manufacturers are looking for skilled employees who can master advanced automation tools as they transition to digital factories. Training our future workforce is imperative through internships and hands-on programs like these available at MiA.”
Our Gov. Rick Snyder stated that, “Manufacturing isn’t just about producing a product, it’s about innovation that can make something better and improve people’s lives.”
As I wrote earlier about my experience with the impressively victorious Thunder Chickens high school robotics team, Siemens has many new programs designed specifically for students. Alisa Coffey went on to explain that “the Student Zone is an annual program at MiA for students. This year we announced a 1-day internship program to students in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties with our partners: Electro-matic, Fori Automation, Inc., Patti Engineering, Intec Automated Controls,Inc., Hirotec, Esys Automation, SME, Automated Control Systems, and Harry Major Machine. The MiA trade fair exhibitors also featured several FIRST Robotics teams from local STEM magnet programs. The Siemens Cooperates with Education program is one of several ways Siemens supports schools. We offer deep product discounts on the very same technologies used in factories. Students can earn certificates, teachers can take advantage of free technical training and free curriculum along with a number of other benefits of becoming a partner school.
Another Siemens sponsored program is the Greenpower Electric Car Challenge is a comprehensive project-based activity with an emphasis on applied learning, sustainability and technological literacy. Teams of students learn to design and build a single-seat electric car then compete in head-to-head races. Established in the UK in 1999, this proven project leverages the excitement of motorsport to inspire students from Elementary school through College to excel in STEM education.”
But if a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth even more. This link shows Greenpower International Finals videos showing the excitement it brings to students. You can find more videos like the one linked above as well as more information on the GreenpowerUSA website. We are excited about GreenpowerUSA’s relationship with INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There will be a Greenpower race on May 1st.
Not to beat a dead horse(power of an internal combustion engine), but Manufactured in America is not just for those directly involved in manufacturing or students skilled in the sciences, or parents hoping to inspire their children to study harder in mathematics courses; it is for every American who fears America is in danger of outsourcing our ability to build sophisticated machinery. Despite what pessimists may insist is the way of the future, expos like this one proudly demonstrate that not does America still makes stuff, it is manufacturing a bright and profitable future for us all.
James M. Stange
Feature Correspondent, GreeningDetroit.com and Health Guru