March 14, 2024
5 min read

Highlights from the 2024 Future FocusEd Summit

Over 50 CAD, Engineering, and Robotics teachers from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire joined AET Labs at the Future FocusEd Summit. This (almost) annual summit started in 2007 for CAD teachers to come together and collaborate. It has expanded and evolved over the years to also include engineering and robotics teachers now that CAD is integral to those disciplines as industries transform.

The summit took place in Cory Rugg's Robotics and Automation lab at the beautiful new Attleboro High School. His classroom is packed with industry-relevant equipment, including educational, collaborative, and industrial robots, electrical training equipment, 3D printers, lasers, and more. It was hard for teachers not to be jealous of everything he has access to there!

The theme for this year's event was connecting the industry with education. We welcomed speakers from the architecture, construction, manufacturing, and life sciences industries who talked about their career paths from high school to successes in their careers. They also gave us a glimpse into how they use CAD and engineering in their roles. 

We also heard from instructors about how they engage their students in their classes, and we announced winners from the Festo MecLab Student Challenge and the 3rd annual CAD Teacher of the Year.

Session Takeaways

There were a variety of speakers at the summit, including industry partners and teachers, to give attendees a mix of perspectives. Here are some of the key themes from the day:

Teachers make a lasting impact on student's lives.

This takeaway is obvious, but in the busy days of a teacher, it's not always top of mind or recognized. Two of our speakers emphasized the importance high school teachers made on their lives, which played key roles in the success of their lives today. 

Ian Hobkirk, Founder of Commonwealth Supply Chain Advisors, didn't go to college. He wasn't sure about his path after high school, but a teacher motivated him to take drafting classes and go to a vocational center to learn technical skills that eventually led him to a starting his own company in supply chain conveyor systems, which he sold to another company. Greg Joynt, Associate Principal at KBA, shared that he took a drafting class in high school, and his teacher challenged him to enter a competition. He won, was featured in the local newspaper, and got his first job from someone who saw him in the paper.

Hook freshmen in exploratory with hands-on projects.

Cory Rugg from Attleboro High School shared that he has seen success in hooking students in freshman exploratory by letting them get hands-on experience with some of the equipment he has. He uses the DOBOT Magician robotic arm to let students program a robot easily. 

Partnerships make transformational differences for schools, students, and communities.

Ashraf Ohran, Associate Professor at Mass Maritime Academy, talked about the Operation Control Center Lab he manages as part of the Facilities Engineering program. A grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center allowed the university to outfit the lab with automation equipment from Festo that replicates automated scenarios to prepare their cadets for careers managing the maintenance of building and marine facilities. The grant included partnerships with local employers and high schools.

Industry-relevant technical training opens more job opportunities.

Mike Scanlon, Senior Mechanical Engineer at Waters Corporation and Ian of Commonwealth Supply Chain Advisors mentioned how industry-relevant technical training helps open more job opportunities for students. Learning on the same equipment and software used by companies and learning relevant concepts, like GD&T in engineering, helps students stand out to employers who know they can quickly onboard them into roles. Cory Rugg from Attleboro High School also shared that his students get NC3 industry-recognized certifications in robotics as part of his curriculum.

"Robots aren't stopping jobs. We think there are more important things people can be doing."

Mike from Waters Corporation said this great quote. Ian of Commonwealth Supply Chain Advisors and Ashraf from Mass Maritime Academy talked about the prevalence of automation in industries, including e-commerce warehouses and commercial building facilities. Robots and automated systems help by taking on repetitive and precise tasks. Instead of people doing that mindless work, they are challenged more to program and maintain robots and automated systems, opening exciting career paths for students now and in the future.

Festo MecLab Student Challenge

To help prepare students for the upcoming Skills USA mechatronics competition, AET Labs hosted the Festo MecLab Team Challenge. Mechatronics is the combination of electromechanical systems, CAD, and computer programming. The Festo MecLab system is an excellent representation of the industry that challenges students to learn the technologies and develop skills to be future automation technicians and engineers.

Five teams participated in the competition. They redesigned a Festo MecLab system to dispense marbles into a black or metallic container, which were then ejected from the system to a collection platform. The students all did an amazing job taking on this challenge, and we are proud of their efforts!

The winner was team Mike 2.0, who successfully completed all of the requirements in the challenge. Congratulations to this team from Jeff Napior's class at Bristol-Plymouth Regional Technical High School. Here is their winning submission:

CAD Teacher of the Year Award

For the past three years, we've recognized a CAD teacher who has gone above and beyond for their students.

This year's CAD Teacher of the Year was Greg King from McCann Technical High School. His nomination included supportive quotes from the Superintendent and many of his students. Look at some of these amazing words from his students:

"Mr. King is a great inspiration to me. He is always willing to teach you something new or if you are unsure of something he will always be there to help. He is also SO positive and someone that I feel I can always go to if I need anything."

"Mr. King has reinvigorated me wanting to learn more CAD."

"He is a great teacher with a positive attitude to everything and makes a great teacher for CAD."

He has contributed greatly to the CAD program at McCann Tech. CAD has become the highest recruiting shop in the school since he joined. There was a long list of how he has helped the program with curriculum additions and real-world projects. Here are just a few examples of his creative improvements:

  • Designed a full MEP theory curriculum for CAD students to learn architectural construction drawings.
  • Created and updated a full additive manufacturing theory curriculum lesson to help train students on how to get started with 3D printers in the prototyping lab.
  • Led a team of students to create proposal plans and renderings for the city of North Adams to use for bid requests for a new restaurant space. The Mayor used the students' design as material in the official legal paperwork.
  • Organized and empowered students to create a full grant proposal design for The Woodcraft Collaborative at Tavern Farm in Charlemont. The collaboration will have a huge economic impact on the carpentry and woodworking industry.

Congratulations on this well-deserved award!

Looking to Next Year

We're already looking forward to next year's summit. We're thankful to our host, Attleboro High School, the summit sponsor, KBA, and, of course, to every speaker and teacher who joined us to make this a collaborative, helpful, and engaging day!

If you would like to be notified next year when the next summit is announced, please sign up for our newsletter to be kept up-to-date.