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Pssst, teenagers love manufacturing

Republished post from LinkedIn.

By Brynt Parmeter, NextFlex

I’ll let you in on a secret. Believe it or not, manufacturing is where people come together to actually make things – really cool things. And, what is even more crazy, is that teenagers love it! I know this sounds too weird to be true but it is and we have proof.

Less than a year ago, myself and several colleagues at NextFlex, one of the Manufacturing USA Institutes, were figuring out a way to do something both impactful and fun for National Manufacturing Day. Not the same old stuff like one day field trips but to really immerse students in the cool stuff. I had the good fortune of meeting up with a few outstanding teachers at a local high school and we started dry erase boarding some ideas.

What has resulted is a four week project based learning program that has taken off like a rocket ship and instead of doing it one day, it is something that we do year round.

We started this experiment with eight students in an English class (yes, you heard that right). It has since grown to more than a thousand kids across English, Economics, Engineering, Math, Biology, and other classes and is in half a dozen school districts in Santa Clara County. Our biggest problem now is how to keep up with the demand to expand further.

The concept behind the program is very simple. Students are provided a touch of exposure to the world of manufacturing (thank you Flex, Jabil, and Xilinx), they are familiarized with some new and exciting technologies (flexible hybrid electronics), and they are given an overview of entrepreneurship (value propositions, customer development, etc…).

Then, they identify and research a real problem, develop an innovative hardware product concept to solve that problem, and build a business model around that problem and product.

They do all this in four weeks, in small project teams, and pitch these business models to groups of industry, academic, government, and non-profit professionals. (They also get college credit for this activity due to the amazing partners we have at San Jose City College and Evergreen Valley College).

Students love the program because they get to innovate through amazing product ideas that will become the solutions to tough problems in this century.

High schools love the program because it is an approach that aligns very well with a number of their important objectives to include leadership, project based learning, career technical education, career pathway development, and connections with industry.

Community colleges love the program because it gets them into the high schools and gets high school students into their wonderful programs through no-cost dual-enrollment initiatives.

Companies love the program because it perfectly serves as a balance between strategic talent pipeline, socially responsible engagement, and a way for employees to connect with young people in a meaningful way that also supports their core business tasks.

Connect with me if you want to team up and learn more about FlexFactor, the amazing experience that is going to help create the future of advanced manufacturing one innovative teenager at a time.