WHEELING, Ill., September 10, 2013 — In September 2013, SME’s Industrial Laser Community decided to do something a little different when community advisors Elizabeth Kautzmann, program manager, laser /fabrication, FANUC America, and Neil Ball, president, Directed Light Inc. gave a presentation promoting laser technology to students at Wheeling High School in Wheeling, Ill. Wheeling High School was chosen as an SME Education Foundation (SME-EF) PRIME school in 2011. Also on hand for the presentation was Lazaro Lopez, PhD, associate superintendent for technology & learning, Township High School District 214. Both Lopez and Kautzmann are currently serving as directors for SME-EF.
During their presentation, Kautzmann and Ball used both humor and a game-show type of Q&A session, which helped reduce some of the students’ intimidation on the subject matter. Once the concept was embraced by the students, the strategy to build on some of their previously acquired knowledge regarding facts and history became the centerpiece of the ILC’s Laser Road Show. Ultimately, it was the launch point to reveal the laser discoveries and how they influenced so many other developments — developments that affect the students, and therefore, are likely to garner greater interest from them.

ILC Roadshow 1  ILC Roadshow 2

ILC Roadshow 3

Many of the students enjoyed hearing the story of how most new products are built on platforms of various technologies, and how those data points connect and eventually generate new possibilities. The presenters shared the fact that science isn’t magic — it’s a deliberate progression of perseverance laced with a bit of fun, but mostly just true grit. After that, Kautzmann and Ball were able to get the students to envision how their unique contributions to the future could have a relevant and interesting place in emerging technologies.
Final takeaway The real significance of the contribution, ripple effects of the discussions and demo at the ILC’s Laser Road Show came months later when the same students were very excited during FABTECH 2013. The students who attended were actually able to piece together their own recognition of different technologies and applications as they viewed the vast number of manufacturing systems on the show floor. The enthusiasm and “ah-ha!” moments were priceless!