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Hiring Hoosiers: IN-MaC labs igniting student interest in manufacturing careers

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Posted at 7:24 AM, Feb 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-19 07:52:18-05

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LAFAYETTE — Production of the 2020 Legacy and the 2020 Outback kicked off at the end of July 2019 at Subaru of Indiana Automotive in Lafayette.

SIA, a company that employs thousands of Hoosier workers, is looking ahead to what production will look like in the years to come. More than three million jobs need to be filled in manufacturing through the year 2025, but only an estimated two million workers will be qualified to fill that need. For SIA, a plant celebrating 30 years of automotive production, the math just doesn't add up.

So, together with Indiana Next Generation Manufacturing Competitiveness Center or IN-MaC, they are looking ahead to the next generation of the workforce.

Lillie Graves and Jacey Provo are both 5th-grade students at James Cole Elementary. They joined their classmates at SIA for a field trip to the In-MaC STEM Learning & Discovery Laboratory.

On a team, they formed an assembly line to produce cars out of Legos in a timed competition.

"The first time we got 18 and the second time we got 35," says Provo. "I was the person who took apart and the person who checked to make sure all looked good."

Graves says the process helped show them how an assembly line works.
"Everybody had a different part in the assembly line," says Graves. "You had to make a car, and if you had tiny pieces, it was harder to get them on."
This lab at SIA first opened its doors to students grades 5 through 12 on October 12, 2018.

It is a 1,000 square foot space filled with 3D printers, robots, construction sets, and virtual reality systems. The stations provide hands-on learning to students who visit and a chance to see, hold, and experience technology that they may typically not get to work within the classroom.

Since opening, the lab has served more than 2,000 students from 19 Indiana counties and one in Illinois.

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Students from James Cole Elementary School trying out different STEM activities inside IN-MaC lab at Subaru of Indiana Automotive.

"When they can actually see the output, it really connects those dots," says Scott Brand, Senior VP of Administration and Quality at SIA. "I tell you what; you see the confidence in the eyes of a kid that comes in thinks, wow there's no way I could ever operate something like that. And after just a few minutes they say, wait a second, this isn't nearly as difficult as I thought it might be and it's a lot of fun."

The labs focus on STEM learning that can spark an interest in the in-demand manufacturing industry. IN-MaC is a Purdue ran program and it creates the curriculum for the spaces. IN-MaC also invests in the technology you see inside IN-MaC Design and Innovation Studios.

On the SIA field trip, students not only go into the lab, but they get a catwalk tour of the facility. Brand says students can see connections between what they know and love, which is computers and technology, and they can see it used in the workspace.

The field trip also helps to break barriers and stereotypes about the manufacturing industry. Today's manufacturing is clean, safe, and full of technology. People can lead successful lives in this industry, and they're several types of positions.

"I think every kid that has an opportunity to come to a factory, see the actual work that's being done, and then be able to come into a lab space like this and be able to touch and operate some of the equipment, will have a great sense of what it's really like," says Brand. "Hopefully, that stimulates them to think maybe that's a good career for me, maybe that's a good opportunity for me."

IN-MaC has labs in SIA, FCA Chrysler and Honda here in Indiana.
It also partners with several area schools for labs, with new ones popping up throughout the years. By 2021 the plan is to have 25 total IN-MaC Design and Innovation Studios in locations across the Hoosier state to expose more young people to the vast opportunities in manufacturing.

One of the studios is located inside of Dayton Elementary in Lafayette.
Their space is new this school year and allows students to work with robots, iPads, and technology.

Principal Ryan Simmons says the IN-MaC Design and Innovation Studio has been a huge hit so far with students as they are already so advanced in the world of technology.

"Students are really excited," says Simmons. "We really just have gotten this off the ground and running right now, but you know, you see kids who may not always be excited about schoolwork, they are able to come in here, and they are able to get that hands-on experience. You are really able to see those students shine and see the light bulb go off."

To learn more about IN-MaC and their innovation studios visit purdue.edu.

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