Purdue Polytechnic faculty, students participate in summer manufacturing robotics camps for children

IN-MaC is a coalition of businesses and area colleges, including Purdue University’s Polytechnic Institute, that strive to interest K-8 students in technology careers.

 Students program the DOBOT Magician Lite, a multi-functional lightweight intelligent robotic arm, to learn how artificial intelligence and mechanics work.

Faculty and students from Purdue Polytechnic teamed with local businesses and tech-focused higher-education institutions to bring lessons in robotics and manufacturing to area youngsters during week-long summer camps. The camps reached approximately 150 K-8 students in Tippecanoe and White Counties. Lessons included a blend of technical and soft skills to prepare grade school and middle school students for anticipated future workforce needs, and included sessions in electric circuitry, 3D design and printing, and miniature robotic forklifts.

Greg Strimel is an assistant professor of engineering/technology teacher education in Purdue Polytechnic. His students are studying to become K-8 STEM instructors.

“Polytechnic students enjoy the opportunity to create activities that challenge K-8 students’ perceptions of manufacturing and allow those students to imagine a future where they are a successful part of our local workforce,” said Strimel. “From coding to robotics, the younger students are learning essential skills and how those skills factor into our local and global economies.”

The tech-themed activities took place at summer robotics camps developed by the Greater Lafayette Commerce (GLC) to serve children in the Wabash Heartland Innovation Network (WHIN) region. Industry partners, such as like Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc.; Caterpillar, Wabash National, Kirby Risk, Polymer Science, and Jordan Manufacturing provided instruction and activities.

"Our goal with these camps is to spark a passion and ignite a fire within these kids to see something they can do, enjoy doing, and do within their community," said Kara Webb, workforce development director at GLC.

Information on robotics camps for 2021 is available at www.GreaterLafayetteCommerce.com.

IN-MaC: Indiana Manufacturing Competitiveness Center

In 2013, the Purdue Polytechnic Institute’s Engineering/Technology Teacher Education program (ETTE) partnered with Ivy Tech Community College and Vincennes University to create the Indiana Manufacturing Competitiveness Center (IN-MaC). The goal of the academic partnership is to promote high-tech manufacturing industries – and the education needed to staff and propel those industries – in the Hoosier state. IN-MaC Design and Innovation Studios are housed in elementary, middle schools and industry locations throughout Indiana.

“Twenty-seven curriculum modules are being utilized at IN-MaC Design and Innovation Studios,” said Sascha Harrell, director of education and workforce at IN-MaC. “The activities educate and inspire, spark creative thinking and develop the essential skill sets critical for future careers in manufacturing.”

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