More than 800 students from McHenry County high schools boarded coach buses last week to attend the International Manufacturing Technology Show at Chicago's McCormick Place.
The trips were sponsored by the McHenry County Economic Development Corp,, Scot Forge in Spring Grove, Sage Products in Cary and Wells Manufacturing in Woodstock.
MCEDC President Pam Cumpata, who accompanied the students on two of the five trips, said the show was "amazing. It far exceeded the other shows. There were more exhibits. The world of manufacturing is humming right now and when it's humming they tend to do more at the shows."
The technology show featured 1,900 exhibiting companies, covering 1.24 million square feet of exhibit space. IMTS organizers said total registration for the show was 100,200, a 21.6 percent increase over 2010. The next show will be in 2014.
In addition to helping to underwrite the cost of the bus trip, Cumpata said Scot Forge sent 12 of representatives on the bus trips, "so students could ask questions about the company."
During the trip, students watched a video produced for the MCEDC by Robin F. Pendergrast Photography in Crystal Lake. The video focused on the products manufactured in McHenry County.
"Many of the students had no idea of the variety of products made in McHenry County," said Pendergrast, who accompanied students on one of the trips. "And that's just the tip of the iceberg."
Pendergrast said exhibitors were welcoming to the students.
"Everyone at the show was receptive to students attending." Pendergrast said. "They know this is their workforce in 10 to 15 years."
Participating high schools were Johnsburg, McHenry, Woodstock, Richmond-Burton, Harvard, Alden-Hebron, Cary Grove, Marengo and Huntley.
Cumpata said the goal was to create an understanding of the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and to create an appetite for manufacturing careers.
"It was an eye opener for the kids," Cumpata said.
"Every student that we spoke with loved the show," said Harvard High School woods teacher Paul Meyer, who made the trip to Chicago. "They saw things that they had never seen before such as computer-controlled milling machines, water jet cutters and robots, They were also impressed with how large the McCormick Place was.
"I don't think many of them knew what opportunities are available in the manufacturing industry," Meyer continued. "I think this trip – and video – gave them an idea of what careers are available and what they saw looked pretty exciting to them."
Cumpata said the MCEDC plans to continue to engage high school students. "The next step is tours into a number of manufacturers in the county," she said.
According to the MCEDC, more than 25 percent of McHenry County’s economic wealth is created by the manufacturing community.
MCEDC’s Annual Dinner Oct. 11: The McHenry County Economic Development Corp's Annual Dinner will be from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Crystal Lake Holiday Inn. Rick Stephens, senior vice president of human resources for The Boeing Corp., will be the keynote speaker. Business Champion nominees will be introduced, and the Business Champion winners will be announced. For more information, visit www.mchenrycountyedc.com, or call 815-893-0895.