Here is a report of some good work done through the Education Foundation of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME).(You can also check out Manufacturing Is Cool.)

This is not your father’s “shop class” but rather learning a series of interrelated activities and operations that involve product design, planning, producing, materials control, quality assurance, management, and the marketing of that product. In executing its master plan for building a technically-skilled workforce, the SME Education Foundation is raising the bar for high school students with a $175,000 in funding for the introduction of Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) Centers at 400 Project Lead The Way (PLTW) schools across the country while engaging industry partners and SME Chapters.

The CIM course, rewritten by the Foundation’s industry partner, PLTW, enhances students’ computer modeling skills by applying the principles of robotics and automation to the creation of three-dimensional design models. The course will be offered at 65 PLTW high schools, reaching 2,000 students in 25 states where CIM classes are currently taught. Funded states include: Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.

The Foundation’s funding criteria provides up to $5,000 per school based on the number of years the CIM program has been taught, and granting the total amount or fifty percent, depending on the financial situation at the school, with either the school or an industry partner paying the other half.

The Foundation will begin working with industry advisory boards already established at each of the PLTW high schools – some of whom are manufacturers, and engage these companies and SME Chapters in setting up the new Computer Integrated Manufacturing Education Centers at high schools, asking them to serve as mentors and offer internships.

The CIM course is based on several key concepts: Computer Modeling using a three-dimensional, solid modeling software package with mass property analysis; CNC Equipment – understanding the machine tools and its operating and programming aspects; CAM Software – converting computer generated geometry into a program to drive CNC machine tools; Robotics – using a robot for material handling and assembly operations, and Flexible Manufacturing Systems – working in teams to design manufacturing work cells and table-top factory simulations.

Says Bart Aslin, director, SME Education Foundation, “The complex, high tech processes of advanced manufacturing today calls for a highly-trained, skilled workforce, making the funding of our CIM program critically important to the economic future of our country.”

In one section of the course, “Designing for Manufacturability,” high school students learn, while at a very impressionable age, that manufacturers have an ethical responsibility to create safe products and to provide a safe work environment. They also learn manufacturers have a legal responsibility to provide safety information about their products, about following a code of conduct or code of ethics, and how to analyze case studies of engineering failures in order to avoid future failures.

The Foundation is also sponsoring the course at pre-existing partner schools in Charlotte, N.C., and Lee’s Summit, Mo.  The Lee’s Summit R-7 School District’s Summit Technology Academy, Lee’s Summit, Mo. was funded on Feb. 16 for the creation of its first CIM laboratory serving students in the Kansas City region.

As next generation products continue to develop, parts for combat vehicles, molds for passenger jets, components for solar dishes, the demand for technically skilled workers is a given. In order to increase student awareness and encourage them to prepare for these jobs, the Foundation will also introduce students to the myriad career opportunities in advanced manufacturing through an upper-level high school program, the sMe Institute (summer Manufacturing institute).

According to a new study published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), “As a group, graduates with computer-related degrees (computer programming, computer science, computer systems analysis, and information sciences/systems) posted a 6.1 percent salary increase—the highest reported in the Winter 2010 Salary Survey, which pushed their average up from $56,128 to $59,570.

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