• Greg Jones

Reimagining the Smartforce Student Summit

By Greg Jones

Vice President, Smartforce Development

For the past eight years, a great deal of my time has been dedicated to producing the Smartforce Student Summit at IMTS. The event was designed to have a positive impact on the next generation of young people and encourage them to seek an education and career pathway in manufacturing. From elementary school to middle school and high school, as well as college students, we’ve seen tens of thousands of students come to IMTS to engage with manufacturing technology, and hopefully become excited enough to choose a career in our industry. Even before I joined AMT, I worked as an industry volunteer for this event.

This has been an interesting year to say the least, and we’ve all seen a great deal of change as 2020 progressed. In Smartforce Development, we could see in the early spring that the pandemic would not allow us to invite students to IMTS, even if the show could be held. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published guidelines suggesting that schools “nix all field trips” for the fall.

We began to reimagine how we could provide teachers with industry-developed content and students with fun and engaging learning experiences while school buildings might be in various stages of re-opening or closure and while many students across the country may be learning from home. Fortunately, we have a great group of colleagues at AMT. As IMTS and every other department at AMT was in a rethinking, rebuilding, and reimagining mode, we found that we all shared ideas, innovations, goals, and values to serve our entire industry the best we know how. On Sept. 1, the Smartforce Career & Education Experience launched with completely new branding, social media profiles, services, and content pages on the IMTS 2022 website. Below are a few of the topics and areas of concern we specifically addressed in order to ensure a successful and useful user experience.

How could we provide CTE, community college, and engineering teachers with fun and engaging content while their students were primarily learning from home?

In 2020, we have been championing an AMT priority project alongside the AMT Technology Department to educate and inform the industry on six transformational technologies: additive manufacturing (AM); artificial intelligence (AI) with a focus on machine learning and specifically predictive and preventative maintenance; augmented reality (AR); automation with an emphasis on robotics; digital twin; and generative design. After we developed a trivia game as a fun learning tool on these technologies, we joined our friends at the IMTS Network to convert the game into a live show called “Tech It Out!” But we didn’t stop there. Next, we developed a free, student-friendly version of “Tech It Out!” which will be available this fall through MTUniversity, AMT’s e-learning platform.

How would we connect students with the latest and greatest technologies for career and technical education programs?

As luck would have it, we had that covered as early as February when we partnered with Lingar, an AR smartphone app, so that students could use their smartphones and tablets to engage with 3D models, digital twins, and other rich media content. This capability allows students to not just learn from home, but easily share what they’ve learned about manufacturing technology with their friends and family.

How could we help high school students find industry mentors to assist with tech-related school projects?

We partnered with Mentor Matching Engine to make it easy for mentors, especially ones from AMT member companies, to connect with project-based opportunities and volunteer remotely.

How could we connect students nearing graduation to a career in our industry?

We partnered with the National Institute for Metalworking Skills Inc. (NIMS) to build and launch an industry job board that lets individuals make career connections and even generate a resume. Further, the NIMS job board will be useful for those whose employment or career have been impacted by the pandemic.

How could we continue our commitment to assist underserved, underrepresented students in STEM school programs and robotics teams?

Miles for Manufacturing will be held virtually Oct. 12-16 – and not just in Chicago but across the country and in your community! Through sponsorships and participant fees, we will continue making donations to STEM programs and hopefully lead students to careers in manufacturing.

Thanks to my colleagues and to all AMT members who support our Smartforce Development efforts. 

For more information, please contact gjones@AMTonline.org, and for more timely updates, follow @GregoryAJones and @CatherineR_AMT on Twitter. Find our social media at @IMTS_Smartforce on Twitter and Instagram or on Facebook at facebook.com/IMTS.Smartforce.