Gadget Camp — a week of band saws and factory field trips — is trying to interest kids in manufacturing careers, reports the New York Times.
Manufacturers . . . complain that few applicants can operate computerized equipment, read blueprints and solve production problems. And with the baby boomers starting to retire, these and other employers worry there will be few young workers willing or able to replace them.
Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs, a foundation affiliated with the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, is financing 10 Gadget camps this summer, including one in Illinois for girls only.
Across the country, a handful of companies, nonprofit groups, public educational agencies and even science museums are trying to make manufacturing seem, well, fun. Focusing mainly on children aged 10 to 17, organizations including the Da Vinci Science Center in Allentown, Pa.; and Stihl, a maker of chain saws and other outdoor power equipment in Virginia Beach, Va., run camps that let students operate basic machinery, meet workers and make things.
Antigone Sharris, who came up with the idea for the all-girls Gadget camp, worked in manufacturing before becoming an instructor in electronics, welding and computer-aided machinery at Triton College, a community college that hosted the camp.
“Girls don’t naturally gravitate toward engineering,” said Ms. Sharris, a jolly and patient instructor who interspersed practical tips on using a band saw or a drill press with casual explanations of fractions, the concept of leverage and Newton’s laws.
. . . 16 girls aged 11 to 15 designed and constructed a cat feeder, a candy dispenser and various pieces of jewelry and music boxes, using foam board, wood, metal, fiberglass and PVC pipe.
“Not letting your children learn the hands-on component of the theory of science is killing us as a nation,” Ms. Sharris said. “You have to stop giving kids books and start giving them tools.”
Girls learned about manufacturing salaries, which start at $40,000 in the area, and visited nearby factories.
Stop giving kids books? I hope not. But I do think children need more opportunities to make things — real things, not virtual representations.
I took shop in fourth, fifth and sixth grade. We all learned to use a band saw. I made a set of shelves, a lamp and an inadvertently Dali-esque checkerboard, though my fiberglass ring was sucked into the buffer and never seen again. We did technical drawing too. I don’t know if it produced any engineers or carpenters, but we were very proud of our creations.