STEM-focued MakerMinded manufacturing learning platform launched in Indiana

Indiana middle school and high school students interested in learning more about how science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) can lead to a career in advanced manufacturing have a new path to get there.

Detroit-based Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow(LIFT), a Manufacturing USA institute, and the Indiana Manufacturing Competitiveness Center (In-MaC)—an initiative of Purdue University in partnership with Ivy Tech Community College and Vincennes University—have launched LIFT’s MakerMinded program in Indiana. The program expands students’ and schools’ access to world-class advanced manufacturing and STEM learning experiences through a digital platform and student competition.

With an aging workforce, launching the program in Indiana may help introduce more young people to manufacturing careers, LIFT said. Manufacturing accounts for 28.8 percent of Indiana’s total economic output and employs more than 500,000 people.

“IN-MaC’s education and workforce development team continues to shape the emergence of manufacturing workforce talent through accessible learning pathways,” said Sascha Harrell, director of education workforce development with IN-MaC. “MakerMinded is another way to engage students in STEM activities and professional skills through exploration and skill development. Giving students the opportunity to learn through these hands-on experiences is critical to the exposure to future careers.”

The Indiana Manufacturers Association is helping to introduce the program to the state.

“The (IMA) is very pleased to partner with our friends at IN-MaC on the MakerMinded program in Indiana,” said Stephanie Wells, IMA’s vice president of workforce development policy and administration.

Wells said the program is another step to improving awareness around the opportunities in the high-wage, high-growth, high-tech 21st century manufacturing industry.

“As the development of STEM talent becomes more important to growing our industry, it is initiatives such as MakerMinded that will become increasingly more important in building a sustainable talent pipeline for the largest economic sector of Indiana,” Wells said.

The Indiana MakerMinded’s goal is to sign up 50 schools and 1,000 users across the state by the end of the 2018-19 academic year. Awards will be presented to the top performing schools for their engagement in May 2019.

The program’s expansion into Indiana came through a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense’s National Defense Education Program, which aims to attract, inspire, and develop STEM talent across the country. Through the program, MakerMinded students can become the future workforce needed to meet the nation’s most complex defense technological and manufacturing challenges.

The MakerMinded program launched in 2016. It was designed to help students learn about advanced manufacturing and links them to a diverse range of national and local STEM and advanced manufacturing programs, including manufacturing facility tours, gaming activities and project-based learning. MakerMinded also drives a sense of competition, as students and schools receive points for each completed activity, which are tallied on a real-time online leader board, with the top schools being celebrated at year-end recognition events.

MakerMinded programs today operate in Detroit, Idaho, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia. To date, more than 5,000 students and teachers from more than 400 middle and high schools are active on the platform.