The Institute for Supply Management issued its manufacturing report in early February, and the outlook was less than rosy. Economic output in manufacturing contracted for the fourth straight month and as a result of the strong dollar, the weak state of other countries’ economies, and the generally low cost of energy across the world, that trend may continue.
US News and World Report’s Andrew Soergel sat down with Scott Paul, the President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, to get his feedback on trends. The entire article can be found here, but one of the most interesting segments of the interview was when Soergel asked what legislation should be passed immediately to help the manufacturing sector. Paul said,
“ I think the most useful thing policymakers could do involves shoring up on the domestic side our competitiveness, which means investing in skills and training [and in] our infrastructure; continuing investments in research and development between the public and private sectors to ensure we maintain a technological lead that we’re incorporating on our factory floors.”
Programs like the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center at Housatonic Community College have beefed up their training in technology at the college level, and Platt Tech in Milford has had 3D printing for a few years. The real question is: how do we reach middle schoolers more frequently than through the few days dedicate to learning about manufacturing during the school year, and possibly a manufacturing camp in the summer?
One answer is the Maker movement. I sat down last week with Mark Mathias, the creator of the Westport Mini Maker Faire. The Faire is on April 30th and is in its 5th year. It has approximately doubled in attendance and size every single year. The Faire sprawls across 3.5 acres at the Westport Library and the surrounding area under both open skies and under large tents. While there are vendors, the admission is free and the mission is simple: get the kids involved and doing maker activities.
Maker activities lead directly to kids asking questions about engineering, science and manufacturing. Mathias has been pushing the “A” for “ART” in the STEAM acronym in recent years. This year there will be an art competition using 3D printers as the artists’ canvas. For more information on attending the event and to discover what activities are highlighted, click here.