With October serving as Manufacturing Month across the country, the Greater Fremont Development Council wanted to give local kids an interactive look at a few of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) career pathways available to them when prepare to enter the work force.
To do that, GFDC secured a visit from the Dream It Do It Metro Area Mobile Expo STEM Trailer which gives students a firsthand look at robotics, 3-D printing, welding simulator and virtual reality experience.
The 30-foot gooseneck trailer contains a Fanuc robot with training pendent, a virtual reality training welder, 3-D printer, virtual reality simular and curriculum that is sent prior for educators to use in preparation for the trailer’s visit.
“Last week we went over robotics with the kids and are going to do a followup overview of virtual reality with them as well,” Jesse Vitamvas, youth coordinator at Hope Center, said. “It’s a really cool opportunity for the kids and just something different for them to experience.”
The Metro Area Mobile Expo is the outcome of Governer Pete Ricketts’ Developing Youth Talent Initiative grant, which was awarded to the consortium of industry, educational and community stakeholders— known as Dream It Do It.
“The Developing Youth Talent Initiative is preparing young people across Nebraska for great-paying opportunities in our state’s manufacturing and IT industries,” Governor Ricketts said in a released statement. “At the same time, Nebraska’s job creators are connecting with the highly-skilled, highly-trained workforce they are working to recruit.”
Governor Ricketts launched DYTI in response to a growing nationwide demand for manufacturing and IT professionals with technical and problem-solving skills. Under the program, in-state manufacturing and IT businesses collaborate with local public schools to create and implement engaging, hands-on middle school curricula to promote interest and cultivate basic skills relevant to workforce needs.
“DYTI introduces students to concepts and career ideas that maybe they’ve had only limited exposure to in the past,” said Nebraska Department of Economic Development Director Dave Rippe. “And it does so in a really engaging way, where students are able to connect otherwise abstract concepts to real-world applications. If we can forge connections with students and help even a handful approach high school with an understanding of how important STEM skills are in today’s workforce, then I think we have already succeeded.”
The students at Hope Center took advantage of the opportunity as they tried their hand at the welding simulator and asked an abundance of questions about the Fanuc robotic arm on board the trailer.
“What this represents is the welding process,” volunteer John Vylidahl of Tri-V Tools told students about the welding simulator. “When you’re welding you’re really fusing two pieces of metal together kind of like gluing it together — but your glue is this wire that feeds through the welding gun.”
Vylidahl was one of a number of volunteers who assisted with the program, which fully depends on volunteers to bring the trailer to area schools.
Other volunteers on Thursday included Charlie Klahn, John Fonda, Lana Brodersen, Karna Dam, Rick Sandvig, Mollie Cook, Casey Misek, Ralph Kleinsmith, and Brandon Weidemann.
When the trailer is not out in the community it is housed at Metropolitan Community College — which also provides a truck to haul the trailer.
The trailer is housed with Metropolitan Community College but fully dependent on volunteers being able to go with the trailer to visit area schools.
“We are very thankful to Metropolitan Community College for providing a place to store it and this beautiful truck,” Pierce said.