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Brittany Vogel

Metrology

SME Program Mentors Future Engineers

SME program helps ensure U.S. manufacturing survives by reaching out to high school students.

Published: Monday, July 6, 2009 - 13:50

Bright Minds, a Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) mentoring program, provides a chance for students interested in manufacturing to get an in-depth look into the industry. Students are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in rapid prototyping, tooling, and additive manufacturing. Under the guidance of a mentor, students find themselves getting hands-on experience in the world of product and prototype development and learning about possible careers.

The one-day program coincides SME's RAPID conference, the nation's largest rapid and additive manufacturing conference and exposition, so that students and their mentors can experience its informational sessions and exhibits together. This pairing of the two events allows students to ask questions of a qualified professional while learning about the various manufacturing technologies and their uses. Not only do students receive a first-hand look into the industry, but they also discover how they can one day become a part of it by receiving information on the various careers offered in the manufacturing field.

This program ensures that only the most interested students attend by requiring a prequalification application and essay, which makes for a more valued experience for both the mentor and the student.

Because they work in industry, mentors have a sincere interest in sharing their knowledge.

“Unlike most teachers who are just teaching what they have read in books or have been shown, the mentors are passionate about these technologies and feel a very real need to pass on their knowledge to ensure the industry thrives and survives in the future,” says Graham Tromans, Rapid Manufacturing consortium manager, who has served as a mentor in the program for four years.

The Education and Exchange Tech Group within the Rapid Technologies and Additive Manufacturing (RATM) community of SME developed the Bright Minds Mentor Program in 2004. The program was created to nurture interest in the manufacturing field. The program aims to “create interest, excitement, and an appreciation for rapid product development methods, technologies, and applications among high school students,” according to the Bright Minds Mentor Program overview. By increasing awareness of this technology’s importance and making current data relevant for future generation’s education, SME hopes to help the industry continue its expansion.

“These students are the future, and without them the industry will not develop,” says Tromans.

At the 2009 conference, Bright Minds alum, Thomas Ballard, served as a keynote speaker. Ballard spoke of his experience at the program, how he obtained an internship through the contacts he made there, started college studying aerospace engineering, and is currently interning at NASA Langley, according to Jane Wellington, SME staff liaison to the program’s creator. Ballard even served as a fill-in mentor when a previous employer of his was unable to attend.

Ballard attended Bright Minds during his senior year of high school. In an article Ballard wrote for SME, he noted how much the Bright Minds program helped him in getting started in the field.

“Not only did I learn a great deal about an important part of the engineering profession, I also left the program with valuable contacts and references,” wrote Ballard.

Ballard, through his mentor, Jeff DeGrange, who worked for Boeing at the time, secured an internship for that summer. He interned for Met-L-Flo, a plastics prototyping service center, after being introduced to Carl Dekker, the company's president.

Dekker has since introduced Ballard to several people at Boeing IDS where Ballard hopes to land a job following graduation.

“I owe all of this to the people who created and maintained the Bright Minds Mentoring Program,” says Ballard.

For more information visit SME at www.sme.org  or the Bright Minds program.

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Brittany Vogel

Brittany Vogel is a reporter and editor for Quality Digest.