The end of the year brings reflections of years past.

My great-grandfather was an early electrical engineer. I heard many stories of bringing electricity to rural western Ohio at the dawn of that age.

Interestingly, he captured another spirit of his age by building an airplane and learning to fly it somewhere around 1919. His great-great-grandson now flies Boeing 777s. He’d be happy to see the progress.

He told his son, my grandfather, that at age 16 school was now a waste of time. He needed to learn a trade and bring some money home for the family. That would have been 1915 or so.

Grandpa apprenticed as a machinist at the Monarch Machine Tool Co. (Vestiges of which you can find at Monarch Lathes.) Somewhere in my archives there is a blog post about the demise of a great machine tool company in Sidney, Ohio.

Eventually grandpa became an area superintendent of production at a GM plant. He told stories about classes he took at General Motors Institute (GMI, now Kettering University named for Charles Kettering) when I was young.

He often described how he converted a plant that made refrigerators (Frigidaire was part of GM at the time) into a plant that made machine gun part for aircraft during World War II. Many of the ideas and actions he talked about as “common sense” were what I later learned as Lean.

Makes me reflect on what stories I’m telling and perhaps what stories you’re telling to young people now to get them interested in making things.

I’m about to mentor a small group of kids learning the LEGO Robotics. The school was looking for someone who knew something about programming to give them tips. I’m in a position to share. What about you?

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