It might seem like there’s little point in educating your children about manufacturing. After all, with the continuing rise of automation, it feels like there might not be any manufacturing jobs in a few years.
However, manufacturing jobs are not disappearing just yet. And we will still need people to supervise that automation and run those machines for quite some time yet. Furthermore, even if you don’t work in manufacturing, we all benefit from manufacturing, and it can be important for the next generation to understand why.
One thing that works in the favor of those wanting to teach kids about manufacturing is the hands-on nature of manufacturing. This can make manufacturing-based kids’ activities a whole lot of fun. Here are some fun ways you can teach your kids and their friends about manufacturing.
A company called Advanced Technology Services has created an educational program called Tinkertronics, based on the classic Tinkertoy building toy. The idea is simple: Split kids into teams and let each child on the team represent a machine on an assembly line. They are given a model to build and the materials to build them, and they work on the line, each trying to make their products the fastest.
The catch is, every once in a while, the game moderator throws some real-world monkey wrenches in the mix, like a machine breaking down, taking that machine out of commission until the designated maintenance technician can complete a mini-game. Playing Tinkertronics is a fun way to get kids involved in the manufacturing process.
Paper Plane Factory
In this activity, teams of kids are charged with making the most paper airplanes. The premise may seem simple enough, but the catch is the products must be air-worthy — planes that do not fly a designated distance do not count towards the total. This forces kids to consider more than just brute manufacturing — they have to determine the best blueprint for producing the fastest airplanes that will reliably fly.
Automobile Supply Chain
In this game, teams have to build cars out of Legos, but different people on the team have different responsibilities: There are suppliers for sourcing parts, builders, engineers and QA specialists, each with their own tasks to perform. At the end, there’s a buyer, who may reject the car, forcing the team to start over, so it’s important for everyone down the line to do their job correctly.
All these games require multiple individuals, just like manufacturing, so they are best done as a school or after school activity. If your child’s school is not willing to offer one of these programs, offer to run it yourself! In this world where video games and high-powered smartphones dominate kids’ attention, it’s hard to get kids excited about manufacturing, but games like these are a great opportunity to turn that around and help create a pool from which the next generation of great manufacturing workers will come.