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‘Mini-Makers’ Camp Enjoys Successful Debut At YSD

*This News Story originally appeared in the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan*

A new high school class organized by educators and local manufacturers is raising awareness about career options in manufacturing for students in the Yankton School District.

Last week about 70 Yankton High School students participated in the first Mini-Maker Camp at the CMTEA building, a one-day educational, hands-on experience with an array of technology, including microcontrollers, collaborative-robot (cobot) technology, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, virtual welding and precision machining.

The camp’s activities are geared toward various manufacturing careers including maintenance technicians, systems technicians and automation technicians, Brooks Jacobsen, who teaches electronic systems technology and robotics at Lake Area Technical College, told the Press & Dakotan after a program wrap-up meeting Tuesday.


“We’ve got a lot of guys getting design engineer jobs, even,” he said. “That’s anywhere from plants that are manufacturing metal, trailers, all the way to food process. We’ve got a lot of cheese plants, dairy plants and ice cream places that a lot of students go with — all automated, all driven off programming.”

And there are many such jobs in Yankton, according to Rita Nelson of Yankton Thrive, who helped organize and plan the event.

“One of the things we were hoping to share with the students is the opportunities that are available locally if they pursue this type of training and education,” she said. “The other part is to showcase what’s available to them, even now as high-school students, if they want to start building their careers.”

Nelson said. the camp could help students interested in manufacturing get their start locally in an entry level job that could ultimately lead them to the type of training available at Lake Area Tech, for example.

“Students start now with an internship and potentially also a Build Dakota Scholarship, they could attend this training for free,” she said, adding that the robotics, electronics, precision machining and welding are all part of the Build Dakota Scholarship.

Students that wish to attend any of South Dakota’s technical schools in those fields can qualify for a full-ride Build Dakota Scholarship and graduate debt-free, LuAnn Strait of Lake Area Tech, noted.

The Mini Maker Camp was designed to help high school students understand careers in the manufacturing space by learning about how things are made, because manufacturing is all about making things, Mike Vetter of SD Manufacturing & Technology Solutions (MTS) told the Press & Dakotan.

“We help them understand how to make different things through different skills like welding, drones and autonomous vehicles, building electrical circuits, programming robots and 3-D printers,” he said. “Then we capped the whole event off, taking all their learning, and they got to build their very own drone.”

Organizers also hope this camp will help dispel some of the stereotypes about jobs in manufacturing, Vetter said.

“A lot of students think that manufacturing is dirty, low paying and there’s not a lot of career potential,” he said. “All of the career paths we showed in the Maker Camp are actually high-paying jobs that are in high demand.”

The modern manufacturing job offers interesting and challenging career paths, including electronics, advanced welding, even building autonomous vehicles, Vetter said.

“Our intention was also to connect employers in Yankton,” said Morgan Larson, a business advisor with MTS. “We had five or six sponsors that were able to attend the event and connect with students and educate them about what they do in Yankton.”

Those sponsors — including Applied Engineering, ASTEC, HYDRO, Truxedo, Wilson Trailers and Vishay — also discussed Build Dakota Scholarship options and their ability to act as local sponsors for students, she said.

Initially, organizers were hoping to limit the class to 60 students, Monte Gulick of RTEC told the Press & Dakotan.

“We wanted to do six groups of 10,” he said. “(We) had over 80 sign up, so I think there’s a waiting list of at least 13 that are ready to do the next event.”

Some students were shy about trying things hands-on at first, Jacobsen noted, but once a few of them got going, every one of the students wanted a try at the equipment.

A survey filled out by students at the end of the day told organizers that the class was a success.

The survey showed that, at the beginning of the class, about half of the attendees were interested in a career in manufacturing, Strait said.

“One of the next questions we asked was, ‘After attending the Mini Maker Camp, would you consider a career path in technology, robotics, automation or manufacturing?’ More than half said yes and a good chunk of them said they are considering it. Only three said no.

“That was our hope: that we could share something exciting with them from the world of ‘Makers’ and get them excited about careers in these fields.”

This article was written by Cora Van Olson (Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan). Read the original publication HERE

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