The instruments began belting out the opening bars of the rock classic “Smoke on the Water,” but the musicians were nowhere to be found. A computer program was the conductor, and various mechanical devices strummed the guitar strings, tapped on the drums, played the keyboard and plucked at the base strings.
The automated rock band was one of the attractions at the annual Manufacturing Show March 1 at Chippewa Valley Technical College, and Melissa Rasmus of Chippewa Falls pointed out to her son, Sean, that this was a far more elaborate version of a toy they had at home. Should he choose to enroll in CVTC’s Automation Engineering Technology program, it’s a device Sean would be capable of building himself after just two years of study.
Showing people what is taking place in modern manufacturing and the opportunities available for careers in the field is the goal of the Manufacturing Show, which drew about 1,600 people to CVTC’s Manufacturing Education Center. Wonders of modern manufacturing were displayed and demonstrated in CVTC’s Automation Engineering Technology, Industrial Mechanic, Machine Tooling Technics and Welding/Welding Fabrication, as well as Mechanical Design and Manufacturing and Industrial Engineering programs.
About 50 manufacturing companies were also represented with display tables highlighting their products and job opportunities.
“This is an opportunity to show off new technology,” said CVTC Dean of Engineering and Skilled Trades Jeff Sullivan. “The Manufacturing Show brings together alumni and people in the area, and shows off student projects. Our manufacturing partners come in and show the things they’re doing.”
“We thought it would be very interesting for Sean,” Rasmus said. “He’s going into sixth grade next year, and it’s never too early to start thinking about a career.”
Nearby, CVTC student Soren Sigurdsen explained to visitors how to play an automated miniature billiards game and also the pneumatics, electronics and sensors that made the game work. In all the program areas, other students were present to explain what they do, what they are learning, and the exciting opportunities available to them in manufacturing careers.
Sigurdsen is in his final semester in the Automation Engineering Technology program. “When I got out of high school, I needed to find a job,” he said. “I’ve always been exposed to machinery and technology and wanted to get more information on them. The project I’m working on is a conveyor belt, but it’s not running yet because of an error in the programming.”
High schools from around the area brought busloads of students to the Manufacturing Show, with some taking part in competitions.
A team from Menomonie High School won the Vex IQ Challenge robotics competition against teams from Owen-Withee, Durand and Greenwood high schools. Teams had to build and operate their own robots to complete a series of tasks.
“We spent a lot of time prototyping,” said Menomonie student Bobby Nelson. “I was looking over the shoulders of the team members as they were programming. Next year I want to learn how to code.”
“We’re learning a lot of teamwork and leadership,” said Menomonie student Lauren Flaschenriem.
“They are learning a lot of problem-solving skills, teamwork, programming, and basic machine and mechanical skills,” said Menomonie technology education teacher Ryan Sterry. “They are getting a lot out of it. They were very excited to come here to the competition.”
“The atmosphere of getting ready to compete was really fun,” Flaschenriem said. “We’ve only been to one robotics competition before.”
About 50 area manufacturers set up displays at the show, wanting to get the word out on opportunities available at their companies.
“We’re here for recruiting,” said Tony Clausen of Catalytic Combustion in Bloomer. “There are students from CVTC’s Welding program that work for us, and we are expanding, so there are opportunities. But there are people who stop by and ask what we make and where we’re located.