August 16, 2016
6 min read

Stratasys and SME Help Students Prepare for STEM Careers at Skills USA

Skills USA is a partnership between students, teachers and industry; they work together to ensure that America maintains a skilled, STEM-educated workforce. The 52nd annual SkillsUSA 2016 National Leadership and Skills Conference was held at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky, where over 6,000 Career and Technical Education (CTE) students competed in hands-on trade, technical and leadership contests.Stratasys and SME were honored to play leading roles in the Skills USA Additive Manufacturing competition for the second year in a row. Their goal is to work together in order to give students the experience they need to succeed in the future. During the competition, Stratasys supplied 3D printers, materials and assistance to SME, which relied on Stratasys’ 3D printing expertise when it came time to print the students’ projects. The notebook students presented to the judges was also provided by Stratasys. SME members and a Stratasys Applications Engineer judged the competition, and SME announced the winners on their website.

Watch the video from this year’s Skills USA to how 3D printing inspires students to pursue STEM.

Practice makes perfect! Before meeting with the judges, two competitors practice launching with their catapults.

After a year of practicing their design and 3D printing skills, and competing in state competitions, students were ready for the contest!  Jennifer Sprow, a 2016 competitor, said: “You need to try [the competition], because if you don’t try you will never get anywhere.” Many students had been a part of the 2015 challenge, presented by Stratasys at last year’s Additive Manufacturing Competition. These students are putting their digital design and additive manufacturing skills to the test, and — win or lose – it’s a fantastic endeavor. Elizabeth Mitchell said: “To be here today at SkillsUSA Nationals was such a great experience. Even if you don’t win the competition, at the end of the day, everyone who made it to Nationals is a winner.”

These students are putting their digital design and additive manufacturing skills to the testTweet this

Gold medalists in the college division: Kevin L. Barger and Michael T. McMahon from Sheridan College.

In 2015, students were able to submit designs ahead of time and received their 3D printed parts on-site, but this year Stratasys and SME revealed nothing about the challenge ahead of time. Students poured their excitement and nervous energy into the challenge to design a catapult that would be able to launch a Lego piece. Avery Peith, contestant 111, said: “Nothing is as exciting as being able to create something on a computer from your imagination and being able to hold it the next day. That’s what I love about 3D printing, and that’s why I love this competition. I just love it!”

The contest took place over three days:

  • Day 1: Design
  • Day 2: Iterate and improve – correct any tolerance or structural issues
  • Day 3: Present and be judged
Gold medalists in the high school division: Christopher Dagher and Justin Heck from Payette River Technical Academy.

The SkillsUSA Additive Manufacturing contest pushed these students to their limits. The time frame was very small for the amount of work they had to do, and they did a phenomenal job. “Students and instructors have been asking for an Additive Manufacturing contest, and with the partnership we have with SME, I believe we created a challenge that allows the students to showcase their creativity, problem solving skills and talents in designing for 3D printing,” said Jesse Roitenberg, Stratasys Education Sales Manager.

Stratasys and SME would like to congratulate the gold medalists.

This year’s prize package included:

We would also like to thank all of the contestants for doing a terrific job and taking part in our competition. We encourage students to take advantage of competitions like Extreme Redesign to practice for SkillsUSA, and also to look into regional competitions to be eligible to join us to compete for gold at SkillsUSA in 2017. Keep innovating!

We created a challenge for students to showcase creativity and problem solving skills for 3D…Tweet this


Gina Scala is Stratasys’ director of marketing for worldwide education where she works to listen to the voice of the education customer and translate that into meaningful marketing messages and product solutions that meet teaching and learning needs for schools. Prior to this role she served as Vice President of education & professional development at the Direct Marketing Association. Gina has a strong background in both marketing and education. Prior to DMA, she served as Director of Marketing for a global professional development company, Editure, where she was responsible for the marketing strategy and development for six subsidiary companies. She also worked for education publishers: Sadlier, delivering in-service training, and Pearson Education as an educational product manager. Scala holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from the Pennsylvania State University, a MA in special education from The College of New Jersey and she is a credentialed teacher in the state of NJ. She is most proud however of her two amazing children who inspire her each day as they learn about the world around them.