Bemidji State hosts hands-on manufacturing training for teachers

BEMIDJI, Minn. – Nine high school and junior college teachers from across the country spent time at Bemidji State University to take part in the Project Lead the Way Summer Training Institute and receive hands-on training in computer integrated manufacturing.

The summer institute, sponsored by the 360° Manufacturing and Applied Engineering Center of Excellence, condensed a year’s worth of coursework into an intense, two-week workshop in Bemidji State’s Bridgeman Hall. The institute taught enhanced computer modeling skills by applying principles of robotics and automation to the creation of models of three-dimensional designs.

The course helped the participants develop new instructional techniques they could take back to their home classrooms, and was well received by the teachers in attendance.

“There are great people, great hospitality and a great community here,” said Ray Niehaus, a participant in the program from Pike Central High School in Petersburg, Ind. “And great learning, too.”

Project Lead the Way is a middle and high school pre-engineering curriculum, and the computer integrated manufacturing course at Bemidji State is an advanced level of PLTW. The Summer Training Institute at Bemidji State was part of a group of classes held during the last part of June, and featured instructors Dave Lord, a high school teacher from the Dayton, Ohio area with a lengthy background in Project Lead the Way, and Gerald Nestel, associate professor of technological studies at Bemidji State.

Nestel, who teaches courses at Bemidji State in areas such as computer-controlled machining, robotic control and computer-aided drawing, has been teaching the computer integrated manufacturing classes since 1986.

Bemidji State’s efforts are supported by the Office of Business Development at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Diane Knutson, the Minnesota’s Manufacturers’ Advocate for the OBD, visited the workshop.

“This workshop will help give students an introduction to manufacturing that has been missing from schools for a long time,” Knutson said. “We’re helping get science and math back into the classroom, and these types of programs may be the only experience that junior and senior high school students ever get to manufacturing.

“The manufacturing industry is going to be impacted strongly by the retirement of baby boomers,” Knutson said. “By 2011, there will likely be a mass exodus of retiring workers from the field, and there just aren’t enough people in the feeder streams to replace them. Initiatives like Project Lead the Way are becoming increasingly important, not only in Minnesota but across the entire country.”

In addition to the hands-on coursework on campus, workshop participants also visited a northern Minnesota business to see the techniques demonstrated during the workshop executed in a live production environment.

About 360°
360° -Manufacturing and Applied Engineering Center of Excellence is a partnership of nine institutions led by Bemidji State University which includes Central Lakes College, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Northland Community and Technical College, Northwest Technical College, Pine Technical College, Riverland Community College, Saint Paul College and St. Cloud Technical College. 360° was initiated by the Governor of Minnesota to strengthen the state’s manufacturing economic sector and seeks to serve the needs of industry by cultivating a potential future workforce through more flexible educational opportunities via the concept of the seamless career pathway.
For further information about 360°, visit it on the Web at: