They are 16 creators at heart. One creates automation systems for manufacturers. Another designs software for photonics. One helps create high-tech careers in robotics, another in cybersecurity, and a third in the emerging field of remanufacturing. One went to prison and turned his life around to make a six-figure salary in CNC machining.
Several of them describe themselves as tinkerers. Most of them love to travel and learn. They are intellectually curious. What they share most in common is a sense of purpose. They are passionate about their work and how they are helping chart a new course for domestic advanced manufacturing. They are the Modern Makers.
Modern Makers are individuals who embody Manufacturing USA’s mission to secure the future of U.S. manufacturing through innovation, education, and collaboration. The Manufacturing USA network includes 17 manufacturing innovation institutes, each with a different technology niche. The institutes are part of an ecosystem of collaboration among their government sponsors (Department of Defense, Energy, or Commerce), research and academic institutions, and private-sector member companies. We celebrate their inspirational yet relatable stories. We hope you can see yourself alongside them as you learn what makes them tick.
Kim’s connection to service can be seen throughout her life, whether it’s on the job or with the youth soccer booster club, or even with her cribbage club. She made an inspiring midlife career change during the pandemic, and she is now the go-to safety resource at BioFabUSA, the regenerative manufacturing institute. She helps member companies with standard operating procedures, safety data sheets for chemicals, facility guidelines, and many other ways to look out for scientists and other stakeholders. It’s a great alignment with her DNA and inclination for cleanliness, structure, and service. She can’t help herself; she wants to help people she doesn’t even know. Meet Kim.
Adonis makes a deal with every student he works with as a senior metalworking skills instructor at the Jane Addams Resource Corporation in Chicago – if the student gets a machining job offer at a certain pay rate, the student will buy him lunch. A great day for Adonis includes a free lunch, and he gets a lot of free lunches. “They see a better outlook than when they first came here,” he said. Adonis is a big fan of the machinist training curriculum at IACMI, the Composites Institute. Machining helped Adonis turn his life around when he got out of prison. Read more about his inspiring story. Meet Adonis.
Maria has a very cool job as the Director of Advanced Technology for global healthcare giant, Johnson & Johnson. In essence, she leads the efforts to determine what robots and other cool technology can do, from processing test results to manufacturing medical devices and product distribution. Maria works with the ARM Institute to connect robotic applications to needs in her company. It’s also her job to inspire people to design new technological approaches. Maria also has a global role, which has fueled her passion to see and learn about other cultures. Meet Maria.
Victor found a home in karate, where his small stature did not hold him back. Karate requires discipline with technique and the repetition of practice. The lessons learned have served him well in his career in semiconductors and as Director of the PowerAmerica institute. He has a close-up view as his early work is becoming part of the commercial ecosystem for high-power energy efficiency in electronics, power grids, electric vehicles, and more. Meet Victor.
Ashley recently became a project engineer at BlueForge Alliance after four years at America Makes, the additive manufacturing institute in Akron, Ohio. Her introduction to manufacturing was at a tour of America Makes, and she was an intern there while she was in college (and met her husband). As a professional she expanded her expertise and experience to include not only engineering but also workforce and business development. Now Ashley shares her additive manufacturing message with her community through the local television program, Tech Belt Today. Meet Ashley.
Fatima is the Robotic Operations Instructor for LIFT, which advances lightweight materials. She is empowering today’s young workforce with advanced manufacturing skills that can help them find great paying jobs. She says anyone can learn how to use advanced robotics, including young teens who are curious about technology. Fatima experienced a “full circle moment” when she recently was a volunteer judge for the Science & Engineering Fair of Metro Detroit that she participated in as a youth. “I am a first-hand example of why introducing advanced technologies to young students is invaluable.” Meet Fatima.
John is Director of Membership and Workforce Development at the REMADE Institute.
When he’s not hiking in the Pacific Northwest, John is driving advanced manufacturing technology that can help manufacturers become more profitable while protecting our environment. He connects communities of industries, universities, and local organizations who share the same mission. He likes to tell young students that they could be the next generation of climate-friendly innovators: “Maybe you could help design a solar panel or find a way to make a sneaker recyclable or learn how to use robotics for city recycling.” Meet John.
Lance sings in two choirs, enjoys playing the bad guy in theater productions - such as the scheming Mr. Boddy in Clue - and was the captain of his Carnegie Mellon University team that won a national chemical engineering contest sponsored by the RAPID Manufacturing Institute. The contest challenge was to create a 1-foot cube water purification plant for less than $1,500 in materials that could purify at least 25 liters of surface water per day in a low-energy environment. Lance is not sure where his future will take him, but he’s thinking about process engineering, especially after a summer internship with The Hershey Company. Meet Lance.
Tymeeka understands what it means to build up others as part of a team. She attributes that to serving eight years in the U.S. Army. Since then, she has focused on attracting, recruiting, and retaining military veterans in the workforce. Today she helps train the manufacturing workforce to be cyber-literate as the Director of Education and Workforce Development at the Cyber Manufacturing Innovation Institute (CyManII). But she also volunteers for Make a Vet Sweat, a non-profit with a mission to get veterans into gyms to use exercise to combat the hidden wounds of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Meet Tymeeka.
Rachel works with all types of pharmaceutical companies and bioprocess equipment in her research role with The National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL). Like many scientists, she is curious to learn more. So she is pursuing a Master’s degree in Bioinformatics, learning how to analyze and interpret large complex biological data, such as genomic and DNA sequencing data. She has a fascinating future as health care evolves. Meet Rachel.
John Louka is a tinkerer. In his official role as an application engineer at CESMII, the smart manufacturing institute, he helps private sector companies modernize their technology and adopt automation. He’s a technology architect, but in order for him to maintain his “street cred” with clients, he needs to be up to speed with the latest technology and protocols for how it is used. That’s where the tinkering comes in. He is comfortable using his hands to show people how things work. And that comes in handy as he works with manufacturers on the facility floor on how to apply machine learning, AI, virtual reality, augmented reality, and more into their automation and operations. Meet Louka.
Aeon is a Software Application Engineer for Spark Photonics, a role she sees very much in line with hobby of creating cosplay characters. She says success in both her job and hobby boils down to her ability to root out problems and solve them. Spark Photonics designs integrated photonic chips, which comprise photonic devices and circuits that are miniaturized onto the surface of a semiconductor chip. Much of this photonic chip design work is done using computer code. Spark Photonics has partnered with the AIM Photonics institute to create accessible, photonic chips, so students can see this technology first-hand. Meet Aeon.
Rodrigo learned about the concept of engineering through his father’s construction business, and he has carried on the family’s building tradition through manufacturing. Rodrigo is an Integration Engineer at MxD, the digital manufacturing institute and National Center for Cybersecurity in Manufacturing. He works in mechatronics, a field that combines mechanics, computers and electronics. He makes sure robotics, motors, computers and sensors work together. Meet Rodrigo.
Jim DeKloe is most proud of his role in building pathways for great jobs in his community, which required him to pivot from his science career to learn about biomanufacturing. When he heard a major biotech company was building a manufacturing facility in Vacaville, CA, he learned all about manufacturing so he could ensure his students at Solano College could land high-paying jobs. He has been involved with the BioMADE Institute since its inception in 2021. Meet Jim.
John is that scouting dad who leads the battle bots and robotic tank wars. By day he is a Technical Fellow at The Boeing Company. He works closely with the NextFlex manufacturing innovation institute to combine semiconductor devices with more flexible and conformable materials. It’s his job to put technology in everything. It is a big ask given that Boeing is one of the most advanced technological companies in the world. Meet John.
Brenna found her passion for social impact during her college years, and she soon after discovered the emerging world of tech-integrated apparel as a vehicle for creating good jobs. She’s combined these as the founder and CEO of 99Degrees, a company at the leading edge in manufacturing by helping bring automation and robotics to the clothing and textile industries. Her company’s growth coincided with the founding of AFFOA, the institute dedicated to the development of manufacturing for advanced fibers and textiles. Meet Brenna.
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