“It’s ideal to get this information across to them when they are so young,” said Jaime Ortiz, engineer at Universal Forest Products, Inc. in Saginaw, Texas. Ortiz was the only representative of the component manufacturing industry at the Midwestern State University Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Camp held in Wichita Falls, Texas this past June. At the camp, he shared his experiences and introduced the campers to career paths in component manufacturing.
The weeklong STEM camp gives sixth, seventh and eighth grade students the chance to engage in activities ranging from medicine, forensics and aeronautics to computer programming and 3-D design and printing. Ortiz seized the opportunity to connect with these young minds and made an hour-long presentation to a group of 20 students.
“It’s difficult to find a balance when presenting to different grade levels, but here you had a group of gifted and motivated students who had applied to participate in the program. They wanted to be there and they were there to learn,” said Ortiz.
A question about whether the industry is open to females surprised Ortiz during the question and answer session. Ortiz explained that the industry is open to everyone and can offer a variety of rewarding career paths. Students also raised questions about the educational requirements for careers in component manufacturing.
It was the first time Ortiz, a former high school math teacher, presented to middle school students, and he had done his homework. “Students have short attention spans, so you need to attract their attention and retain it, and that’s easier with something they can visualize,” he explained.
According to Ortiz, the technology they saw in YouTube videos of component manufacturing processes and equipment, from gantry tables to automated saws, definitely sparked their interest. But that wasn’t all Ortiz had to show. “The focus was more on the engineering aspect of the work. I used materials from a couple different component manufacturer suppliers and did a live demonstration of the software, where they could see the building from within the building,” said Ortiz.
He ended his presentation with a multiple-choice quiz, which included questions on visualizing 2-D and 3-D objects. “These students had that competitive edge and were comfortable with the idea of being tested,” he explained, “and they fared very well.”
Ortiz supports the notion that introductions to different career options should begin when students are young, even before they reach high school. Ortiz concluded, “It was a positive experience to have the opportunity to introduce campers to daily engineering design challenges that both excite and inspire them about their future.”
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