University hosts Connecticut Manufacturing Roadshow

April 16, 2024

An overhead shot of the M&T Bank Arena filled with tables and people.

Future makers merged with manufacturers from STEM-based businesses when the Connecticut Manufacturing Careers Roadshow came to Quinnipiac on April 11.

Set up inside and outside the M&T Bank Arena, the roadshow drew 1,000 area middle school and high school students to interact with 25 exhibitors on the York Hill Campus. Students checked out innovative products made by Connecticut manufacturers and learned more about the spectrum of careers supporting tech-driven companies.

The annual roadshow stop, one of five regional show sites, is a partnership of Quinnipiac School of Engineering and Computing, Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, ReadyCT, South Central Manufacturing Partnership and Goodwin University.

With research showing many students make decisions about pursuing STEM careers by the time they’re in middle school, the roadshow seeks to expose students early on to the opportunities available to them in Connecticut, said ReadyCT Project Coordinator Deb Presbie.

“An important message we hope students will take away today is that manufacturing is a sector, so while there are many production jobs, we also need quality people in finance, sales, human resources and many other areas,” Presbie said. “We love the partnership with Quinnipiac, because we’re not only able to bring students here to experience what manufacturing careers are like, but they also get exposure to what the university offers in terms of career preparation.”

John Bau, Quinnipiac’s director of career development, said it’s important for educators to help students understand that role and industry are not always linked. He noted that, in developing regional sector partnerships, the State of Connecticut identified four critical industries: manufacturing, healthcare, life sciences and professional services.

“When you support manufacturing and STEM education, you’re really supporting all those industries,” said Bau.

Electric Boat Manager of Supplier and Workforce Development Jess Key said the Groton, Connecticut division of General Dynamics has a huge need to fill manufacture-driven roles now and in the coming years.

“We are hiring somewhere on the magnitude of about 5,000 people per year for the next few years, at a minimum, and probably a few years beyond that into the future,” said Key. “We need to do everything we can to make folks understand what careers are available and what those careers mean in terms of earning and advancement potential for them and their families.”

The huge, experiential inflatable submarine anchoring Electric Boat’s exhibit allowed students to explore different areas and aspects inside a sub, such as sonar in the control room, components of an engine room and berthing areas with lockers.

“It just gives an idea of the piece parts of a submarine and it’s an opportunity to engage them in a meaningful way to talk about the careers that are available to build one of these,” Key said. “It takes welders, pipefitters, electricians, machinists, carpenters, painters, thousands of engineers and all kinds of business functions.”

Outside the M&T Bank Arena, tech company ASML’s EUV Challenge trailer, ushered a steady line of students in to discover more about careers in STEM.

ASML, which manufactures complex lithography systems critical to the production of microchips, is currently the only company in the world which has constructed a machine using extreme ultraviolet (EUV) as the light source to print the tiny features on the chips, said ASML University Relations Team member Corey Marasco.

“It’s been said it’s the most complicated man-made machine in the world,” said Marasco. “We sell these big, complex machines to Intel and Samsung and TSMC and they use it to print microchips. So, every chip in those phones and computers come from our technology and our machines.”

The company employs approximately 40,000 worldwide including 3,500 employees at its Wilton, Connecticut location, which will be ramping up hiring in the coming years, Marasco said.

“We’re here because we need students to know who we are, including middle school and high school students,” said Marasco.

Students taking the ASML EUV Challenge used optics and mirrors to race a laser through a maze, with prizes for the highest scorers. Back inside the arena, New Haven area high schoolers comprising Elm City Robo FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Team 558 demonstrated capabilities they built into two ‘bots, including a qualifier headed to the upcoming state championship.

“We’re showing the application of all the types of science, technology, art and creative design that’s wrapped up in being a part of a robotics team,” said Ernie Smoker, a physics teacher at Hill Regional Career High School and the team’s senior mentor.

Several companies using robotics in manufacturing brought hands-on exhibits for students to operate; while others employed virtual reality headsets to take students into their work tech environments. The Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology showed students how collaborative robots (cobots) are used and programmed in a manufacturing environment through hands-on demonstrations.

Cindy Hetu, a representative of Connecticut’s Department of Economic Community Development Office of Manufacturing, said the range of options available for the students to view and experience was inspiring.

“It’s exciting for them. It’s pretty neat to be talking to students about what they want to do and whether they want to learn more in college or just get into an industry to learn hands-on as they go with an apprenticeship program,” said Hetu.

Quinnipiac’s Program Director for Mechanical Engineering Lynn Byers said it was exciting for her to see students who may be part of the future of manufacturing exploring the show.

“We’re introducing them to the possibilities of careers in manufacturing, including
Industry 4.0 aspects of manufacturing, such as robotics and even cobots, where robots are working next to humans,” Byers said. “It’s exciting, because there are lot of opportunities in manufacturing for a lot of people with different interests."

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