Last week, many area high school students had the opportunity of attending one of the largest industrial trade shows in the world, featuring more than 2,500 exhibiting companies and over 129,000 registrants. On Friday, September 14, we chartered three coach buses headed to IMTS 2018 at McCormick Place in Chicago. Our buses were filled with 165 students, educators, and engaged parents, ready to take on this year’s show – the biggest one to date.
We loaded up the buses at 5:30 a.m. with coolers of water, breakfast boxes, swag bags and event t-shirts, and after picking up students from Elkhorn Area High School (EAHS), we headed to Chicago. The students were missing a day of school but definitely not a day of education. This was an opportunity to explore how they can apply their classroom learning to real world tasks and a possible career in their future.
IMTS 2018 broke records for registrations, square feet of exhibit space, exhibiting companies, and booths. Representatives for IMTS explain that the show has grown exponentially from 2016 since, “The booming manufacturing economy means visitors have capital and are ready to invest.”
Of course, our students were there for the once in a lifetime experience of learning, creating personal connections, and being immersed in innovative technologies they may not get the chance to see anywhere else. This show is the perfect way to see what goes into the technology we use in everyday life, as well as the future of manufacturing.
IMTS is all about the exhibitors, and our attendees and their chaperones certainly had their favorites. The Smartforce Student Summit featured interactive booths, such as an air rocket competition where students tested their own design, and the “beat the robot” booth was also a lot of fun. The students voiced interest in the Carbon 3D printing booth, the design and software booths, and the virtual reality used to give a simulated machining or design experience. In addition to all the new technology they loved seeing, the students were also interested in checking out the latest versions of the large machinery and CNC machinery that they are already familiar with.
There was an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from the attendees of IMTS, both students and adults. Some of the recurring comments overheard from the kids were, “it was very cool seeing everything in action,” “I learned about technology I didn’t even know existed,” and “there are so many things that make our world that you have to see it to believe it.” One of our adult attendees said, “Seeing the technology that powers manufacturing is truly amazing.”
The students also voiced gratitude toward the exhibitors’ patience and kindness when they took the time to answer their questions and then demonstrated the answers interactively. They really appreciated having everything explained to them and having their minds opened to different concepts of engineering. Of course, hearing feedback like, “This is a good eye opener for finding the career I’d like to pursue,” is a huge reason why Precision Plus takes on projects like Operation Exploration. IMTS uses the slogan, “We’ll change your perspective.” Precision Plus is very proud to be a part of that change and to show this group of EAHS students what a great career in advanced manufacturing looks like.
Kudos to the other sponsors and partners from the Elkhorn community who all helped make this happen. A great big thank you to Hudapack Metal Treating and owner Gary Huss, Certified Power’s General Manager Scott Hawkinson and Manufacturing Engineer Mark Rhodes, and Palmer Hamilton’s President John Gardner. They each stepped forward when they were asked to participate, and we are so fortunate to have such engaged business leaders in our community. Additionally, none of this would have happened without the longtime leadership of some wonderful educators. JoAnn Pella and Barry Butters have been tireless advocates for technical education, career exploration through youth apprenticeships, and summer internships. Last but not least, we thank Principal Chris Trottier, Superintendent Jason Tadlock, the other Technical Education instructors, our school board and community. We are blessed to have such an engaged community that has embraced the goodness that comes with a rewarding career in manufacturing.
Both student and adult attendees agreed that they wished they had had more time to explore everything at IMTS. With over 1.4 million square feet of exhibiting space, the number of exhibits and attractions to see is quite overwhelming. A directory of exhibitors can be found at https://www.imts.com/show/2018Recap.html as a helpful resource. Operation Exploration was a success, and we look forward to IMTS 2020!