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Posts Tagged ‘kids’

Lots of highly skilled people will be needed to program and operate robots

Posted by Bert Maes on August 6, 2010

Nigel Platt, Sales & Marketing Manager for ABB Limited’s UK robotics, firmly believes that manufacturing presents a massive opportunity for achieving a more balanced and prosperous economy. But the challenge now is to make sure that the growth that has been achieved continues to be sustained and built on. That is why robots should be a key part of our industrial future.

Over the past 20 years, robot capabilities have evolved massively. Especially in the areas of precision, repeatability, flexibility, simplicity and affordability there has been vast improvements.

The interesting thing is that robots and other automation technology don’t necessarily threat manual labour. “Robots may have video guidance and intelligent path control, and might perform better than the most skilled manual workers, but they still require lots of highly-skilled people to program and operate them,” says Platt. With the high level of deskilling in recent years, the vanishing of traditional manual engineering roles (resulting in a shortage of skilled operators), there are not a lot of other ways than robots and automation to protect the future of our economy’s manufacturing base.

Also with our high costs for raw materials and energy in particular, it’s vitally important for manufacturing companies to get products right first time while doing things better, more quickly and for less cost in order to outperform the next best company.

Whether it’s reducing breakages in a food packaging line or cutting and finishing metal products, robots can deliver precise and consistent performance at a much higher speed, enabling companies to increase yield and reduce overall production times whilst typically enhancing product quality. Even the smallest operations can now benefit just as much from robotic technology as a large automotive company. Introducing even just one robot to the factory floor resulted in benefits, ranging from reduced production costs even through to reduced energy consumption by turning off lighting and heating in the area where the robots are installed.

For manufacturing enterprises, technology start-ups or technical educational establishments there are ‘10 good reasons to invest in robots’:

1. Reduced operating costs
2. Improved product quality and consistency
3. Improved quality of work for employees
4. Increased production output rates
5. Increased product manufacturing flexibility
6. Reduced material waste and increased yield
7. Compliance with safety rules and improved workplace health and safety
8. Reduced labour turnover
9. Reduced capital costs
10. Optimising space in high-value manufacturing areas

Where training is concerned, ABB is actively fostering partnerships with technical colleges throughout the UK to help equip the next generation of engineers with the skills to operate, program and integrate robotic equipment into industrial applications. An example is our work with the New Engineering Foundation (NEF), where we run master classes in robotics for lecturers from technical colleges demonstrating the application of robotic technology, which they can then teach to their own students.

We also have the largest, dedicated industrial robot training school in the UK, based in Milton Keynes, which has recently invested £100,000 in new robots for some of its 10 cells, along with classroom materials. This school is open to representatives from any company wanting to get a better perspective on what robots can do.

With the right education and with the right technology investments we will be able to have a sustainable manufacturing base, producing innovative goods at competitive costs on home turf.

>> READ the full story: How robots could help sustain the UK’s manufacturing growth

PS… Wouldn’t it be cool if you could program a robot to play a musical symphony?


Posted in Solutions, Value of CNC | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The aging workforce: a competitive disadvantage – the necessary actions for the manufacturing sector

Posted by Bert Maes on June 29, 2010

Daily I talk about the problems in education and the resulting catastrophes manufacturing companies are facing in the near future. But many people have to act – not only teachers and school principals. Also enterprises must take significant and necessary steps to make sure the young perceive manufacturing as an interesting and rewarding career opportunity.

A new June 2010 report “The aging workforce: responsive actions for the manufacturing sector” is showing the manufacturing company leaders the way forward.

A quick summary:

In comparison to other sectors, the manufacturing sector’s demographic profile is disproportionately composed of older workers and men. 38% of the workers is aged 40-54 year, compared to 31% in other sectors of the economy. More than others, manufacturing employers will experience a large-scale exodus of older workers in the forthcoming years. The aging of the Baby Boomer generation is likely to have a greater impact on the manufacturing sector than on other sectors.

The question is: how can enterprises attract the young workforce to counter the inevitable exit of the older workers?

The good news is that manufacturing is transforming today. Changes in technology, the use of robots, computers, programmable motion control devices, and various sensing technologies makes the industry evolve away from traditional assembly line systems towards “lean” manufacturing systems that use teams of workers to produce entire products or components, that rotate through different tasks, rather than specializing in a single task.

That means that production work in this sector can no longer rely on lower educated individuals who labor on repetitious low-skilled tasks. Machinists using machine tools such as lathes, milling machines, and grinders, to produce precision metal parts, in most of the cases produce small batches or one-of-a-kind items. They have to use their knowledge of the working properties of metals and their skill with machine tools to plan and carry out the operations needed to make machined products that meet precise specifications. More and more employees can enjoy creative work. That is the good news, which is a significant incentive to attract new and the very best talent.

The other good news is that – while manufacturing workers have significantly less autonomy and fewer opportunities to change their work arrangements in comparison to workers in other sectors of the economy – especially younger workers get more freedom in deciding how to perform their work and are included in decision-making activities. This evolution for sure enhances commitment and talent stability.

The bad news is that working in manufacturing tends to be tiring work. Two in three middle-aged employees in the manufacturing sector – reported that they come home from work too tired to take care of their household chores at least several times a month.

More bad news is that in comparison to other sectors, workers in the manufacturing sector have less access to career progression and promotion programs and fewer options in terms of where, when, and how work is to be performed. All generations express a preference for access to flexible work options. That would increase business effectiveness and productivity. Likely, some rigidities stem from the imperatives of the production process, which can prohibit work off-site, work part-year, reduce work hours, choose work shift etcetera. But still…

On the other hand the authors of the report find evidence that enterprise size strongly predicts the availability of flexible options. One in four small manufacturers (those employing fewer than 100 workers) established flexible work options to a moderate or great extent, a rate that was two to three times higher than medium sized and large sized employers. For young people those small job shops look like the most promising career starts.

And a last – critical – observation is that manufacturers especially have difficulties in

  • recruiting competent job applicants,
  • finding new employees with satisfying operations skills levels,
  • absenteeism,
  • morale,
  • finding employees skilled in management,
  • legal skills
  • and sales/marketing skills.

Teachers of technical schools and parents are the people that can make the change in these skills and attitudes happen.

The manufacturing sector appears to be at a competitive disadvantage without education that leads the world, without redesigned human resource practices to the expansion of flexible work options, and without forward-looking employers…

Posted in Policy, Solutions, Statistics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

[Video] Commitment to Manufacturing in Austria

Posted by Bert Maes on June 23, 2010

ÜAZ Metall Vorarlberg in Austria joined the Haas Technical Education Center (HTEC) program; THE partnership concept and international network for advanced, industry-relevant, inspiring CNC (Computer Numerical Control) manufacturing education across Europe.

Script in English:

This is the ÜAZ technical training establishment, in Vorarlberg, in the western-most region of Austria. On May 7th the school held a celebration to mark its fifth anniversary and the official opening of its Haas Technical Education Centre, which was set-up with the help and support of the Austrian Haas Factory Outlet – a division of Wematech.  The new, benchmark facility is part of the ÜAZ Metall department and boasts 28 Haas CNC machine tools, making it one of the three largest HTECs in the world.  Haas Automation launched the HTEC programme in 2007 to counter the shortage of young people with CNC machining skills who were entering the precision engineering sector. ÜAZ Metall offers practical training to youths who are socially or economically disadvantaged. “Our goal,” says Manfred Gollob “is to provide a top-quality technical education for youngsters who have fewer opportunities than others. We try to give the best technical education to students who are unfamiliar with the metalworking sector. We’re grateful to Haas for their help and support and we hope our collaboration continues for a long time to come.” The ÜAZ Metall HTEC will give 100 students a year the hands-on experience they need to make better lives and successful careers as CNC technologists.

Script in German:

Das ist das überbetriebliche Ausbildungszentrum (ÜAZ) in Vorarlberg in der westlichsten Region von Österreich.  Am 07. Mai beging die Schule feierlich den 5. Jahrestag ihrer Gründung und die offizielle Eröffnung ihres HTECs, das mit Hilfe und Unterstützung durch das österreichische Haas Factory Outlet (HFO), einer Sparte von Wematech, eingerichtet wurde.  Diese neue, Maßstäbe setzende Einrichtung ist Bestandteil des ÜAZ-Metall und gehört mit 28 CNC-Werkzeugmaschinen von Haas zu den drei größten HTECs weltweit. Haas Automation hat sein HTEC-Programm im Jahr 2007 ins Leben gerufen, um mehr Auszubildende für die Arbeit an CNC-Werkzeugmaschinen in der Präzisionsfertigung zu interessieren und so dem Mangel in diesem Bereich zu begegnen. Das ÜAZ-Metall bietet sozial oder wirtschaftlich benachteiligten Jugendlichen eine praktische Ausbildung an. „Unser Ziel besteht darin“, erklärt Manfred Gollob, „den Jugendlichen, die bisher weniger Chancen hatten als andere, eine technische Spitzenausbildung zur Verfügung zu stellen. Wir versuchen den Auszubildenden, die ansonsten keine Berührungspunkte mit der metallverarbeitenden Industrie haben, das bestmögliche technische Wissen vermitteln. Wir bedanken uns bei Haas für die Hilfe und Unterstützung und hoffen, dass unsere Zusammenarbeit noch lange andauern wird.“ Jedes Jahr werden in dem HTEC des ÜAZ-Metall 100 Auszubildende genau die Erfahrungen sammeln, die sie für eine erfolgreiche Laufbahn als CNC-Spezialist und ein besseres Leben benötigen.

Script in French:

Le centre est implanté à l’établissement de formation technique ÜAZ, basé à Vorarlberg, dans l’extrême ouest de l’Autriche. Le 7 mai dernier, à l’occasion de son cinquième anniversaire, l’école en a profité pour inaugurer son centre de formation technique Haas, mis en place avec l’aide et le soutien du HFO (Haas Factory Outlet) autrichien, une division de Wematech. Ce nouveau site étalon fait partie du département Metall de l’établissement ÜAZ et compte 28 machines CNC Haas, faisant de lui l’un des trois plus grands centres HTEC du monde. Haas Automation a lancé le programme HTEC en 2007 afin d’endiguer la pénurie de jeunes gens dotés de compétences d’usinage CNC dans l’industrie de la mécanique de précision. ÜAZ Metall propose une formation technique aux jeunes socialement ou économiquement défavorisés. « Notre objectif est d’offrir une formation technique de haute qualité aux jeunes jouissant de moins d’opportunités que les autres, » explique Manfred Gollob. « Nous visons à inculquer à des étudiants étrangers au secteur du travail des métaux la meilleure formation technique possible. Nous sommes reconnaissants à Haas pour son aide et son soutien et espérons que notre collaboration durera encore très longtemps. » Chaque année, le centre HTEC ÜAZ Metall permettra ainsi à 100 étudiants d’acquérir l’expérience pratique dont ils ont besoin pour parvenir à une vie meilleure et embrasser des carrières florissantes en tant que technologues CNC.

Script in Italian:

Si tratta dello stabilimento di formazione tecnica ÜAZ a Voralberg, nella regione occidentale dell’Austria.  Il 7 maggio la scuola ha festeggiato il suo 5º anniversario e l’inaugurazione ufficiale del suo centro HTEC che è stato allestito con l’aiuto e il supporto dell’Haas Factory Outlet austriaco, una divisione di Wematech. Il nuovo impianto di riferimento fa parte del dipartimento ÜAZ Metall e vanta 28 macchine utensili CNC Haas, il che lo rende uno dei tre più grandi centri HTEC al mondo. Haas Automation ha lanciato il programma HTEC nel 2007 per contrastare la carenza di giovani con competenze di lavorazione CNC che accedevano il settore dell’ingegneria di precisione. ÜAZ Metall offre corsi di formazione pratica ai giovani provenienti da ambienti socialmente o economicamente svantaggiati. “Il nostro obiettivo”, spiega Manfred Gollob, “è offrire un’istruzione tecnica della massima qualità ai giovani che dispongono di meno opportunità degli altri. Cerchiamo di offrire la migliore istruzione tecnica agli studenti che non hanno dimestichezza con il settore della lavorazione dei metalli. Siamo grati ad Haas per il suo aiuto e per il suo supporto e speriamo che la nostra collaborazione possa proseguire a lungo in futuro”. Il centro HTEC ÜAZ Metall offrirà a 100 studenti l’esperienza pratica di cui hanno bisogno per migliorare la loro qualità di vita e crearsi una carriera come tecnici CNC.

Script in Russian:

Это техническое учебное заведение ÜAZ в Форарльберге, на самом западе Австрии. 7 мая в данном учебном заведении проходил праздник пятой годовщины с момента его открытия и официального открытия Центра технического обучения Haas, который был создан благодаря помощи и поддержке официального представительства Haas в Австрии – отделения Wematech. Новый эталонный центр образования является частью факультета ÜAZ Metall и обладает более чем 28 станками Haas с ЧПУ, делая его одним из трех самых крупных HTEC в мире. Компания Haas начала реализацию программы HTEC в 2007 году с целью противостоять нехватке молодых людей в точном машиностроении, обладающих навыками работы на станках с ЧПУ. ÜAZ Metall предлагает практическое обучение для молодежи из малоимущих семей или социально неблагополучной среды. «Наша цель, – рассказывает Манфред Голлоб (Manfred Gollob), – обеспечить высшее качество технического образования для молодых людей с меньшими возможностями, чем у других». Мы хотим предоставить лучшее техническое обучение студентам, незнакомым с сектором металлообработки. Мы благодарны Haas за помощь и поддержку и надеемся на достаточно продолжительное сотрудничество». ÜAZ Metall HTEC предоставит 100 студентам год практического обучения для улучшения их жизни и построения успешной карьеры в качестве технологов ЧПУ.

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How to attract more students to technical education? PART 1: the problems

Posted by Bert Maes on April 23, 2010

One critical challenge keeps me going daily: “How to attract more students to technical / manufacturing education?

While, I see many action possibilities, the most important answer might be: finding something appealing to students “that’s not disingenuous and on which they can put their own creative mark”.

Technical education above all should encourage children’s’ creativity. But schools are often doing the opposite. I quote:

  • “We encourage our children to be expressive and make things. Then, suddenly, we switch gears, leaving them with the impression that art class is as extracurricular as baseball and not nearly as important as, say, English or math” (Nicholas Negroponte in Being Digital)

  • It’s more than ironic that a generation that celebrates the iPod, can’t live without its cell phones and share its most intimate videos on YouTube is increasingly turning away from the technological fields that enable today’s youth culture. (John Kao in Innovation Nation)
  • Among 7-11 year olds, art, design and technology are favorite subjects. Children say they prefer these subjects because they enjoy the design and building element and the opportunity to be creative. But a couple of years later, between 11 and 16, only 18 % still perceives engineering as a desirable career. (

  • Ask a class of first graders which of them thinks they’re creative and they’ll all put their hands up. Ask a group of college seniors this same question and most of them won’t. I believe passionately that we are all born with tremendous natural capacities and that we lose touch with many of them. (Ken Robinson in The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything)

So, dear Reader, what’s the problem? Why does this happen?

Sir Ken Robinson points to four reasons:

1) Parental expectations

We, as parents, are trying to do very best for our kids and provide opportunities that will help them mature into intelligent, capable adults, right? However, we often steer our kids away from their true talents on the assumption that they have to follow conventional routes to success.

There is a whole system of social roles and expectations in our local communities that is dictating our future: “Don’t take a dance program, you can’t make a living as dancer,” or “I’m not paying for you to be a philosophy major” or “You’re good at math, you should become an accountant”.

Money is the focus of many parents, whereas money is not extremely important for kids, they don’t want some lousy expensive car, they want something meaningful with their lives, they want ‘excitement’.

It seems like getting a Ph.D. or some boring job is key to being successful in life. We believe we are giving these messages for their own good, but this way we actually discourage our kids from taking a particular path. A path on which they can do what they love to do. A path on which they can do and make the things they feel born to do or to create.

2) Peer pressure

Besides pressure from our parents, there is the pressure to conform to the standards and expectations of friends. Kids want to be like their peers, but just in case they have any funny ideas, their peers are quick to remind them of the penalties of being different. We often deny our deepest passions to stay connected with our peers. At school, we disguise an interest in physics because our circle finds it uncool. If you’re doing science, you’re a geek; if you’re doing art or dance, you’re effete. You’re trapped in a compulsion to conform.

3) Implicit beliefs in our culture

Beyond the social constraints we may feel from families and friends, there are others that are implicit in the general culture. The natural instinct of children is to copy and imitate, and as they grow they absorb not only the sounds they hear but the sensibilities they express and the culture they convey. In our local community, we learn ways of thinking, feeling and relating. Such constraints inhibit our passions when they seem inconsistent with the culture. That is exactly why it is so difficult to attract women to manufacturing.

4) Uncommitted teachers

Education should be one of the main processes that unleash the unlimited creativity of people. School should be the place where you discover what you love to do.

School should be the place where you can experience the “flow; the moment where hours pass, and it feels like minutes; the moment where you ignore everything and just concentrate passionately. You forget about the rest of the world and get completely focused and intent, living in the moment.

Eric Clapton describes it as being “in harmony with time. It’s a great feeling, there’s nothing like it”.

Mathematics for instance can be an ideal subject to reach the “flow”. Math hides huge creative opportunities, but teachers often present math as an interminable series of puzzles to which someone else already knew the answers, and the only options were to get it right or wrong.

The whole process is usually so dull and repetitive. Teachers teach it the wrong way or at the wrong time.

Richard Branson for example was clearly bright, personable and capable of putting his mind to good use, but he was completely unwilling to conform to the school’s standard. He says: “In fact all the great entrepreneurs of my generation really struggled at school and couldn’t wait to get out and make something themselves.”

The current education system seems to systematically drain the creativity out of our children.

>> Dear Reader, do you see more issues related to attractive technical education??

Monday, I will be my usual practical and concrete self and come up with the post: Knowing this, how can we transform CNC manufacturing education? See you on Monday…

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Bringing manufacturing back to schools

Posted by Bert Maes on January 12, 2010

By AJ, Director of Social Media and Community at

The Shop Rat Foundation is a Michigan-based initiative to bring manufacturing and hands-on skilled trades training to middle-school students. Its efforts extend beyond Michigan’s borders, and the Shop Rat classes & events are creative and effective. More background, from the site:

An Alabama-based chapter of Shop Rats

In Fall of 2006 the Shop Rat Foundation began its first program to pursue its mission called the Shop Rat Education Program. The Shop Rat Education Program is an afterschool private program for local Middle School Students. During the program the students learn Hands-on skills in the Skilled Trade Industry along with skill sets in math, science, team work, work ethic and employability. Students complete projects such as custom built motorcycle choppers, customized wheelchairs and full size two seat hovercrafts. Classes are FREE to students and the program is funded with donations, sponsorships and personal contributions.

Whether you choose to donate or not, pay these guys a visit online and give ‘em some encouragement. A noble cause, this.

AJ for Mojo.

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Unique program to make CNC education attractive grows unabated

Posted by Bert Maes on January 11, 2010

The company Haas Automation Europe has formed four new partnerships with technical schools to attract a new generation of young people to start careers in manufacturing technology.

The largest CNC machine-tool builder in the Western world has opened 36 Haas Technical Education Centers (HTEC) the last 2 years.

A few reactions from the four Russian schools that just joined the HTEC network:

  • Being part of the HTEC network enables us to achieve several of our missions, such as increasing student motivation, expanding our existing co-operation with enterprises in Moscow and beyond, and boosting the prestige of our school.” (Natalia Bokatuk, Polytechnic College n° 42)
  • This new step will raise our school’s appeal to students considerably and enables us to play a vital role in preparing the highly-skilled personnel that our republic urgently needs. We will develop further as an innovative centre covering all modern technologies.” (Shakurov Zumejra Munirovna, Kazan Energy College)
  • Companies around the world face great difficulties in recruiting CNC operators with the right competencies.  These HTECs show students that precision engineering is an exciting world with well-paid jobs.” (Peter Hall, Haas Automation Europe)

FULL ARTICLE: Four new HTECs Bring Total in Russian Federation to 12!

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An inspiring school building

Posted by Bert Maes on December 3, 2009

The newly opened Langley science academy in Slough has just about everything to motivate, inspire and excite students to study science.

The building is:

  • airy
  • light
  • open
  • eco-friendly
  • full of modern technologies

Read more about the impact of the school infrastructure on student outcomes…

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[Video] How quality knives are actually produced

Posted by Bert Maes on November 16, 2009

Kevin Wilkins is one of the best custom-made knife makers in the world.

gd7_09He shows on his website that the creation of these everyday useful objects in the most effective and efficient way all comes down to four (4) things:

  1. Designing a computer CAD/CAM blue print of the object you want to make.
  2. Selecting the right metal, aluminium or other material.
  3. Learning how to program and handle precision cutting CNC machines.
  4. And lots of passion and creativity.


To read more in ENGLISH:  CNC Magazine 3D EBook: “The Art of Steel by Matt Bailey

ht_cher_1To see more on the production of Wilkins Knives [in GERMAN]:

To learn where to study CNC machining:


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Robotics draws students to math, science, teamwork

Posted by Bert Maes on November 5, 2009

Kids don’t like maths.

I talked about that in a previous post. I said that we’ll need better marketing, better teaching and better training equipment.

NASA Robot

NASA Robot

A BEST PRACTICE of this vision is ROBOTS in the classroom:

Teaching in robotics is an excellent way to engage students in science and math in a hands-on way.

It’s so empowering to children to build something and program it to do something, and it does it. It’s better than any video game.” (Karlicia Berry, teacher Ponderosa Elementary School in Post Falls)

Kids get engaged and turned on while learning to build and write algorithms and program robots, i.e. while applying serious engineering.

And, believe it or not, reports that this approach leads to careers in engineering and technology.

The students participating in the robotics project were nearly twice as likely to major in science or engineering and more than twice as likely as students in a comparison group to expect a career in science or technology.

More: Why “Generation Y” Loves Robots

More: Creating a Buzz: Robot Camp


Robotics draws students to math, science, teamwork
Teaching in robotics is an excellent way to engage students in science and math in a hands-on way

It’s so empowering to children to build something and program it to do something, and it does it. It’s better than any video game.”

Kids get engaged and turned on while learning to build and write algorithms and program robots, while applying serious engineering.

And, believe it or not, this approach leads to careers in engineering and technology. The students participating in the robotics project were nearly twice as likely to major in science or engineering and more than twice as likely as students in a comparison group to expect a career in science or technology.

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Best Practices: Generation Y and Robots

Posted by Bert Maes on July 31, 2009

I’ve been talking about Creating a “Buzz” to attract young people to technical education.

I mentioned a ROBOT CAMP for kids in Belgium. Each kid was challenged to make his own robot using advanced technology in CNC machines, 3D computer drawing, electronics, soldering, sensors, etc.

Let’s take it a step further now: I’ve met great people of the National Robotics League (NRL) in the United States.

They pretty much understand young

Kids have a desire to be creative. They are very very ambitious. As a parent and/or teacher you always try to do the very best for your kids and provide opportunities that will help them towards well-being and success in life.

>> Nurturing their creative capabilities helps your kids along this road!

>> Give kids the challenges they long for. Offer them new experiences!

>> Why not giving them the chance to study for high-tech, exciting, rewarding careers in TECHNOLOGY CREATIONlearning how to make very COOL robots?

>> Let your kids watch this video:

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Best Practices: Creating a “Buzz”

Posted by Bert Maes on July 6, 2009

One of those excellent examples of hands-on, creative and fun technical education:

A school in Antwerp (Belgium) organised a ROBOT CAMP for kids, aged between 11 and 14. Each kid was challenged to make his own robot using advanced technology in CNC machines, 3D computer drawing, electronics, soldering, sensors, etc.

Robot CampThat is what kids love. And this is the kind of cool activities that can attract young people to technical education.

Kids want to turn their own ideas into final products. They are eager to create things, using their own imagination.

>> If technical schools manage to create a “buzz”, a special learning experience – with projects that are fun, very visual, have practical use and relevancy for the lives of kids – they can catch their attention.

Young people want to be ‘master’ in a discipline. They are looking for honor and respect in their friends’ community.

>> CNC education can give young people that respect, if they communicate to their friends
Hey, I built this from scratch!”.

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