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Creating An Engaged and Sustainable SME

Ismail Fidan
By Ismail Fidan, PhD Professor, Tennessee Tech University, SME Member Since 1993

It seems like it was yesterday, but the reality is that it has been almost 25 years since I first became an SME student member. Yes, the face of manufacturing has changed quite a bit since then, including SME’s name. In line with those changes, the level of the service, opportunity and impact of SME has grown quite a bit too. I was totally impressed with the quality of the AeroDef Manufacturing event when I attended in 2017. The impact SME is having can be seen with the ever-increasing number of students who are awarded SME Education Foundation scholarships every year; in fact, my son was a scholarship winner last year.

In every step of my membership and professional engagement, I’ve viewed SME as a wonderful organization dedicated to helping and supporting its members in all aspects and stages of their professional careers—it’s why I’ve remained a member since 1993. The support provided by chapters, other members, the technical communities and staff is tremendous, and always right there when I need it.

In the early 2000s, I relied heavily on this support. At the time, it was a challenge for me to be a faculty advisor for a failing student chapter. However, based on the full support of our professional chapter, Nashville Chapter 43, and the Membership team, we revitalized our Tennessee Tech University S215 student chapter. Whenever we needed any type of personal or financial support, the Nashville chapter did its best to help us. Our student members have received numerous scholarships and prestigious awards locally, regionally and nationally. Our chapter continually comes up with many unique programs and services that keep our student members engaged and thriving.

During the Golden Eagle Manufacturing Day Summit, students participated in several different competitions, including the foundry-in-the-box and robotics competitions.

Every fall, our chapter supports local disadvantaged people, offering them gift cards, canned foods and manufactured presents during the holiday season. This program has been named “More Than Engineering” by local organizations. In addition, the students enjoy being a part of this impactful program as contributing members of the local community. Attending the professional chapter meetings has also been fruitful, with students making new contacts, learning of new opportunities and gaining new scholarships. If someone were to ask me what the key to a successful student chapter is, my answer would be: Keep your members involved and constantly come up with new, innovative projects to motivate students; it’s been one of the greatest strengths of our student chapter.

To extend our community outreach and innovation, we decided to launch a higher-profile Manufacturing Day event in 2017. In the past, we’d held smaller, local celebrations, inviting local schools and teachers and then organizing various technical activities for all the participants. Last year, though, with the support of SME, Tennessee Tech University’s College of Engineering, the local American Foundry Society student chapter and Nashville Chapter 43, we organized the Golden Eagle Manufacturing Day Summit, held at Tennessee Tech on Oct. 6.

I’m thankful that I’m part of this vital industry and a part of an organization like SME that supports it.

The summit was comprised of two parallel tracks: Track 1 was a lineup of professional speakers, while Track 2 was devoted to student competitions. We’re so thankful to our speakers: Amy Elliott, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Knoxville, TN); Vicki Thompson, America Makes (Youngstown, OH); Greg Haye, Local Motors (Knoxville, TN); Carol Puryear, Tennessee Board of Regents (Nashville); Dean Philips, Link Systems (Nashville); and Ralton Emory, SME. Students from various regional high schools and universities enjoyed competing at the Maker competition, foundry-in-the-box competition, robotics competition and drone competition. Together, we provided a platform for students and professionals to engage, learn and enjoy; it was a great pleasure for everybody who attended the summit.

Due to the engagement we provided, attendees walked away both satisfied and more knowledgeable. With the help of our national experts, we presented the latest trends and technologies, sharing what’s next on the horizon for manufacturing. It was a great event, and I’m grateful our chapter could be a part of it.

We can all agree that manufacturing is changing every day. Making food in a 3D printer and creating knee replacements were mysteries a few years ago. However, this technology revolution and many others are now part of our daily lives. Someday, I may be driving a 3D-printed car or maybe eating a 3D-printed sandwich—one never knows! What I do know is that the possibilities are endless for all of us in manufacturing, and I’m thankful that I’m part of this vital industry and a part of an organization like SME that supports it.

If you’d like to learn more about SME and its chapters, I encourage you to visit or

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