DEARBORN — When it comes to creating the next generation of American manufacturing experts, it’s all about attracting kids, maintaining their interest, and providing access to advanced manufacturing education for pursuit of careers in the skilled trades.

Toward that end, the Dearborn-based SME Education Foundation has provided a $25,000 grant to the Shop Rat Foundation for the development and implementation of a PRIME (Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education) program in Jackson County, with companion programs to be added to the Jackson County Community College campus.

The Shop Rat Foundation is also working with Jackson Community College to produce a science, technology, engineering and mathematics-focused week of programming for their Kids College. This will include innovative vehicle design, a class on home and city construction, welding, gears, simple machines and much more.

The SME Education Foundation is taking a community-based approach to manufacturing education with its PRIME program by creating strong partnerships between organizations, businesses and exemplary schools. PRIME targets three critical issues: transforming manufacturing education, changing public perception of manufacturing, and addressing the shortage of manufacturing and technical talent in the United States. The national initiative builds on the Foundation’s five-year, $5.2 million investment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.

“We are providing local business and industry with an opportunity to become involved with the development of curriculum reflecting real-world advanced manufacturing technology,” said Bart A. Aslin, CEO, SME Education Foundation. “Students who are mentored and given apprenticeships are connected to the community’s infrastructure, become personally invested in its growth, and are more likely to have sustainable careers.”

The grant to the Shop Rat Foundation provides for equipment and software upgrades at the Jackson Area Career Center for PRIME-affiliated programs, and the purchase of equipment, software and staff training to fully align the curriculum of the Shop Rat Foundation Education Program with the “next step” curriculum of affiliated organizations. The grant will also allow the Shop Rat Foundation to cross-program their advertising and marketing, including website banners and print marketing, and to upgrade their website to better highlight programs, partnerships and advocacy efforts.

The Shop Rat Education Program reaches more than 275 children annually within Jackson County area through classes, workshops and special events. The afterschool class for local sixth through 10th grade students has technology embedded throughout all student experiences and offers an introductory course where kids build innovative and unique projects such as two-seat hovercrafts, electric wheelie cars, solar power mini cars, hydraulic robots and many more large and small projects. The course provides a framework for hands-on learning on how to safely use tools and machinery, problem-solving skills, and the confidence to further their education in the skilled trades.

The Shop Rat Education Program will undergo a restructuring of its manufacturing education curriculum to better align with other offerings within the community, most specifically, the Jackson Area Career Center. These changes to the Shop Rat curriculum, along with their county-wide initiative, will provide a complete educational pipeline for students pursuing manufacturing careers.

Developing Shop Rat — Grades 7-9: Students completing the Introductory Shop Rat Program and accomplishing the required levels of skill will participate in trade-specific facets of the industry, including construction, engineering, welding, machining, and environmentally conscious manufacturing processes. Students’ base of knowledge and hands-on learning will be expanded by working with tools and machinery introduced in the beginning program as well as newly-introduced equipment. Students beginning the class as 6th graders will be required to participate in this class for two consecutive years prior to enrolling in the Master Shop Rat Program. This is a 15-week session offered during fall and spring terms.

Master Shop Rat — Grades 9-12: Shop Rat Education Program students beginning their third or fourth year, and who have demonstrated exemplary skill and interest in the manufacturing industry, will select their area of specialization: engineering, welding, machining, construction, or environmentally conscious manufacturing; and work with other students sharing their area of interest in group projects focusing on different facets of each area — such as mechanical engineering, civil engineering, chemical engineering, tool and die, CNC programming, and computer integrated manufacturin. Working with an industry mentor, they will also develop their own project from concept to completion.

These program offerings, with an associated program at Jackson Area Career Center, will use curriculum guided by skills and knowledge critical to their success when they attend the following programs: welding, engineering, Project Lead The Way machining, and construction. The rigorous PLTW curriculum is a critical component to schools being named a PRIME site. The Master Shop Rat Class will be a 30-week session offered during the entire school year.

Specialty Summer Workshops: The Shop Rat Education Program will offer three new workshop opportunities for current students beginning in the summer of 2012. These workshops will focus on three of the five manufacturing specializations offered in the regular curriculum. Programs scheduled for 2012 school year include: welding workshop (3 days), an environmentally conscious manufacturing workshop (3 days), and a roller coaster physics and engineering workshop (5 days).

The Shop Rat Foundation has organized the Jackson STEAMM Connection (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics and Manufacturing) with members representing all component programs and who are also all involved in manufacturing education. The STEAMM Connection includes the Shop Rat Foundation; the Jackson Area Manufacturers Association’s Academy of Manufacturing Careers; Jackson Area Career Center; Jackson Intermediate School District; and Jackson Community College.   This board will cross-promote course and workshop offerings, educate families regarding the manufacturing education pathway, and the steps to success their child may take; ensure that all programs are unique and lack redundancy, and connect with local manufacturers to ensure manufacturing education curriculum provides future employees to meet their needs.

“The PRIME designation helped us to tighten partnerships, establish new contacts and create STEAMM,” said Chris Salow, founder and CEO of the Shop Rat Foundation. “We appreciate and respect the collective strengths of these organizations and our new ability to reinforce manufacturing education for the skilled trades.”

The Shop Rat Foundation, in partnership with the Jackson STEAMM Connection, is now completing the nomination process for the Jackson Area Career Center to be recognized as one of the SME Education Foundation’s exemplary PRIME school sites.

The Shop Rat Foundation is a 501 c 3 nonprofit organization founded in 2006 by manufacturing entrepreneur, Chris Salow, president and CEO. The foundation works to advance the skilled trades industries by offering tech-based, hands-on manufacturing education programs to young people through classes, workshops, and special events. Programming includes an afterschool program, Shop Rat Summer Camp and community involvement. Funding support is generated from like-minded organizations across the United States working to inspire the next generation of skilled workers. Visit

The SME Education Foundation is committed to inspiring, preparing and supporting the next generation of manufacturing engineers and technologists in the advancement of manufacturing education. Created by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers in 1979, the SME Education Foundation has provided more than $31 million since 1980 in grants, scholarships and awards through its partnerships with corporations, organizations, foundations, and individual donors. Visit Also visit for information on advanced manufacturing careers and, our award-winning Web site for young people.


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