With just a bit over a month to welcome in students and instructors for the next semester, Gateway Technical College’s (GTC) new CNC Lab and Manufacturing Center in Elkhorn, Wisconsin is buzzing with energy and excitement. Construction is coming to an end, equipment continues to arrive, and instructors are reinforcing their own knowledge by familiarizing themselves with the new equipment and software.
Rich Shouse, CNC Technology Instructor, spent a week in October at a PartMaker Training Workshop focusing on programming Swiss CNC machines. Shouse explains, “Learning this computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) system was a very easy transition for me, considering what I have used in the past. I have already programmed, set-up and ran ten jobs through our shop using PartMaker. Personally, I feel it is the strongest CAM system that I have ever used.”
Mukwonago and Beloit (located about 50 miles apart) are two school districts in Wisconsin, whose students’ paths are not likely cross. However, there is a common thread which the share: students from both districts are equally as excited about technology, and are eager to join in extracurricular activities to create products and solve problems, by putting STEM-related principles to work.
Educators and facilitators at both school districts provide the direction, mentoring and encouragement to makeit possible to happen, understanding that the students’ inventions and innovations will need to be put to the test…perhaps through competition, or possibly in the field. Extracurricular initiatives such these are often halted by lack of funding and/or access to facilities, materials or tools that can take the project from design to reality. This is where Precision Plus. and the Milwaukee School of Engineering Rapid Prototyping Consortium come to play. More on that later.
People may know Dean Kamen as a prolific inventor with more than 150 patents to his name, including the famous Segway. However, Kamen is also well known for launching “FIRST – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” an organization whose mission is to “transform culture by creating a world where STEM is celebrated, and where young people dream of being science and technology leaders.” FIRST celebrated its 26th anniversary on March 20, 2015. Kamen explains FIRST in this short video retrieved from their Facebook Page:
Early in the history of FIRST, Kamen enlisted the help of Woodie Flowers, PhD and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, to create the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), where high school teams would compete with robots they designed themselves. Twenty-eight U.S. teams participated in the first competition held in 1992. Today, there are over 800 teams competing globally.
In addition to the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) for grades 9-12, FIRST also sponsors three other competitions: The Junior FIRST LEGO League (Jr.FLL) for children ages 6 to 9, The FIRST LEGO League (FLL) for children 9-14 in the U.S.), and the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) for grades 9-12. In all instances, the competitions are designed for young people to “gain self-confidence, develop people and life skills, make new friends, and perhaps discover an unforeseen career path.”
First Case Study. One of the teams competing this year in FIRST is The Mukwonago BEARs (Building Extremely Awesome Robots), also known as FRC Team #930 from Mukwonago, Wisconsin. The team is participating in two regional competitions: Wisconsin Regional (March 18-21) at the University of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee Panther Arena, and Buckeye Regional (March 25-28) at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
Earlier in the year, FRC Team #930 contacted Precision Plus for support… not financial, but prototyping support. The team needed access to state-of-the-art equipment and technology to design and prototype one-of-a-kind components for their robot. The perfect place to get this accomplished was the MSOE Rapid Prototyping Consortium Center to which only members have access for a specified number of lab hours. As an active member of the consortium, Precision Plus was able to donate lab time for FRC Team #930 to use in time for the competition.
Second Case Study. Precision Plus also had the opportunity to support the launch of Beloit’s FIRST LEGO League for middle school students, The cyBER Team. The program is led by excellent educators and facilitators, with an added layer of mentoring, which is provided by high school students who are also involved in FRC. Through this type of engagement, the high school students are also learning to better communicate and teach. Last November, the cyBER team competed for the first time with great first-time results.
This video documents cyBER Team’s progress during their first year.
Twenty-six years ago, Dean Kamen had an idea, which is continues to grow. Precision Plus is happy to support the school districts of Beloit and Mukwonago and wishes them continued success.
Precision Plus currently serves on several career and technical education (CTE) high school and technical college advisory committees. Typically, the committees include advisors from area businesses, educators, and community and professional associations, who strive to strengthen curricula as well as the partnership between all of those involved.
On December 9, 2014, Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus and Barry Butters, the company’s Director of Education and Training attended a CTE meeting at Beloit Memorial High School. At this regularly scheduled meeting, school representatives appraised their business partners on the status of courses, curriculum and overall participation by the students, while manufacturers reviewed workforce related issues and suggested course offering revisions that would help to address these issues.
On December 10, 2014, Butters and Reader attended two CTE committee meetings: the Elkhorn Area High School meeting, and the Gateway Technical College Elkhorn Campus meeting.
At the Elkhorn Area High School CTE committee meeting, school representatives also sought the input of their business partners to develop a curriculum that best addresses key industry needs.
These changes are being discussed in anticipation to a major remodeling of the technical education facilities at the high school. Chris Trottier, their principal, led these discussions, explaining the school’s goal to prepare students to take full advantage of new industry opportunities as they become available. On December 15, 2015, Barry Butters will be part of a presentation to the School Board on the committee’s recommendation.
Barry Butters, Director of Education and Training at Precision Plus, who also serves on the Facility Advisory Committee for the Elkhorn School District, confirmed that a recent survey shows overwhelming support by the community for this remodeling project and the technology education opportunities that could be derived from this undertaking.
At the Gateway Technical College Elkhorn Campus CTE committee meeting, advisors convened to take action on a grant proposal for nearly $500,000 to expand the CNC offerings at the Elkhorn campus. Currently the CNC offerings are only at the Racine campus. A successful outcome, would result in the remodeling of the technical education wing to host equipment for CNC machining. The results will be known in March.
The CTE committee meeting was also attended by three representatives from Haas Automation, as well as a number of representatives from area manufacturers.
U.S. Senator (Wisconsin) Tammy Baldwin is scheduled to visit and take a plant tour of Precision Plus on Thursday, April 24, 2014 between 2:45 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. The tour will include a first-hand look of the advanced and high-tech machinery in action, the company’s Quality Lab and a brand-new training facility dedicated to train local high school students in engineering and high-skilled manufacturing careers.
In 2013, Senator Baldwin joined the ‘Manufacturing Jobs for America’ initiative. After the plant tour, Senator Baldwin plans to answer employee questions regarding the current state of affairs in Washington with regards to manufacturing. Precision Plus welcomes Senator Baldwin.
As a company, Precision Plus maintains multiple metrics to measure our progress. These metrics are generally comparisons of where we are today compared to where we were last year, last month, and perhaps even yesterday. As anyone who sets goals knows, it’s the process of always chasing the elusive next level that leads us forward. However, when the dust settles and there is that moment of clarity for the big picture, one asks, “Is there more to life than business?” The Reader family, who has owned Precision Plus Inc. since 1988, keeps that big picture in focus and has generously supported the local community and organizations that serve, protect and care for us in times of need.
“Contributing positively to our community and environment” is one tenant of the pillar of Integrity that Precision Plus has built into its business vision. The company gifts monies to a number of organizations that serve and protect: Elkhorn Fire Department, the National Fire Safety Council, and the Sharon American Legion. Adding to that list, Mike Reader is leading a campaign through the PMPA to support a group called “Workshop for Warriors,” which is a non-profit organization dedicated to training, certifying, and placing veterans in manufacturing careers.
Support from Precision Plus extends especially deep into the education community, adding financial support to its ongoing efforts to educate the area’s best and brightest students on careers in manufacturing. Among the organizations that have received this support:
The E-TECH Club of Elkhorn Area High School, a group of high school and middle school students who participate in First Robotics and promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiatives in the younger grades.
Beloit Memorial High School’s group, similar to E-TECH that is involved in establishing a local FIRST Robotics Community in the Beloit School District
Wisconsin Project Lead the Way (PLTW) – Precision Plus was a lead sponsor for the PLTW State Teachers Conference held in Pewaukee on December 9th. At the conference, Wisconsin’s Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch addressed the state’s PLTW teachers who are working in conjunction with the PLTW program through the Milwaukee School of Engineering to stimulate interest in careers in engineering in Wisconsin’s youth.
What is clear from these efforts is that Precision Plus pays attention to more than just its own bottom line. The Reader Family, the company, and its employees are committed to improving the metrics of the community.
Customers come to us for the more demanding and mission-critical programs. It is our proven track record of delivering exceptional results that make us the preferred solution provider to many Fortune 500 companies.