‘MFG Day’ Means Iowans Learning about Manufacturing

Students at East Mills School in Malvern examined Iowa State’s Team PrISUm solar-powered car.

Thanks to CIRAS and its partners, more than 8,000 Iowans ended October with a greater appreciation for the people who make a living making things.

School children, parents, and community leaders attended a total of 149 events in October to commemorate National Manufacturing Day—an annual October 7 industry celebration that Iowa stretches into an entire month full of education.

This is the second year that CIRAS has worked with community colleges, Elevate Iowa, the Iowa Area Development Group, the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach to fill October with “MFG Day” events in all 99 Iowa counties.

“This year, we definitely reached more people,” said CIRAS account manager Paul Dunnwald. “Everything was bigger.”

Events included a host of school visits (several by Iowa State University’s solar-powered PrISUm car) and factory tours involving everyone from Cherokee Middle Schoolers to Governor Terry Branstad.

Chris Hill, head of CIRAS’ Technology Assistance Program, spoke to Boone High School students about metal 3D printing and (right) displayed 3D printed items.

At Boone High School, science and engineering students heard a presentation on metal additive manufacturing—a cutting-edge form of 3D printing that promises to revolutionize product creation and design.

“I need more opportunities like this to let the kids see that what I’m saying is not just a dog-and-pony show,” said Boone teacher Shelly Vanyo. “They need to see that what they’re learning, if they invest in it, can become a career.”

After all the nationwide statistics are in, Iowa placed fourth in terms of the number of MFG Day events hosted—behind Michigan’s 215, Ohio’s 187, and the 178 in California. “Per capita, we just smoked everybody,” Dunnwald said.

Iowa has roughly 6,110 manufacturing firms, including nearly 900 food factories. Combined, they add more than $30 billion annually to the state’s economy and make up the second-largest portion of its gross domestic product. On average, Iowa manufacturing jobs pay 20 percent higher than other positions, yet surveys show that only 37 percent of Americans would encourage their children to go into manufacturing.

Organizers believe MFG Day events can help a skeptical public gain new appreciation for the professionalism of modern manufacturing. In Iowa, it seems to be working, Dunnwald said.

“Some of these Iowa companies may not look like much on the outside, but their capabilities are fantastic,” he said. “And they’re filled with good, hardworking people.”

CIRAS staffers began planning the 2017 MFG Day in January.

For more information or to suggest an event, contact Paul Dunnwald at dunnwald@iastate.edu or 515-509-1377.


 A version of this article was published in the Winter 2017 edition of CIRAS News. To read more of that edition or others, please explore elsewhere on our website.