#20 – Inside Our Industry – Progress and Promise as One Indiana High School Reimagines Manufacturing Education

Posted on | Inside Our Industry

A couple weeks ago we shared an article on how community colleges can prepare workers for a career in manufacturing. This week we are sharing a great example of how one Indiana high school is doing the same thing. It’s a great story!

Progress and Promise as One Indiana High School Reimagines Manufacturing Education
IndustryWeek  |  Larry Fast  |  October 15, 2020

Recently, IndustryWeek published the article Ready to Print Micro Parts?  I have not done a good job keeping up with the state of the art on 3D printing, and I was struck by the tremendous progress that has been made in recent years. Boston Micro Fabrication was the featured company. I went to its website, and my light bulb came on! My first thought was that this is a technology we could likely work into our equipment complement at my hometown high school, Winchester Community High School (WCHS), in Winchester, Indiana.

I have written previous columns (here and here) on the transformation of the school’s dark and dirty metals shop, with decades old equipment and junk everywhere, to a state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing center (AMC). In just two years, all the old machines have been replaced with state-of-the-art industrial grade machines. The president of a local company visited, was impressed with the new factory, and asked if the students could make small quantities of dollies the firm uses every day in the shop. A few weeks after that, the first order was shipped, and the students received another order. And it continues.

Just a few months later, an idea came to us from another local company. The firm asked WCHS officials if the AMC could make a plastic part for it. The company needs are to shorten its supply chain and to establish another source for its part. During the last several weeks, the WCHS team and I had been gathering information about plastic molding, and in a recent call with an expert in the field, we finally began to understand many of the pros and cons of plastic molding. We briefly discussed the possibility that 3D printing might be an alternative for us to research. That research started with the BMF column. Once our research is completed, we intend to purchase the necessary equipment to go into business on plastic parts. Plastic molding vs. 3D printing. Stay tuned.

WCHS is on the leading edge of introducing world-class manufacturing in a high school setting.  Word spread that the AMC in Winchester was doing something special, and as a result, Terry Anker, president of the board for all Ivy Tech campuses in of Indiana, was invited to come for a visit. He confirmed that the AMC is on the leading edge of technology and manufacturing education.

“The work being done at WCHS AMC represents the leading edge of our state’s effort to get Hoosiers into skilled, high-paying and stable jobs,” he stated. “This kind of innovation is imperative for Indiana to remain attractive to employers and to retain the best and brightest of our youth.”

Vocational education is so important to the workforce. And starting in high school is a great way to get students interested in a fulfilling career. What are you doing to help your local high schools keep or add to their vocational trades programs?