NASA HUNCH and SME PRIME High School Stories

HUNCH and PRIME High School Stories

Industry knows — and academia is catching on to the fact — that this nation is facing an immediate shortage of capable, trained and skilled workers. The problem is especially acute in manufacturing. 

Wheeling High School, in Illinois, refers to this skills gap on its web page. But it’s done more than that. As an SME PRIME school, Wheeling has enjoyed a unique opportunity to participate in the groundbreaking partnership our foundation established last year with NASA.

What makes this program so special? It inspires students by giving them opportunities to engage with engineers and scientists from one of America’s technological leaders. It offers students direct hands-on experience designing and producing real-world hardware. And it allows students to note on their resumes that they have developed products for NASA. To date, Wheeling students have shipped two containers of parts they produced to the Johnson Space Center, ready for use on the International Space Station. 

Students here are accepting challenges and pushing technical boundaries in every way, exploring high-mileage vehicle programs, robotics programs and automation studies. 

Think about what that training offers young people. In terms of technical ability, they’re becoming conversant in the language of modern advanced manufacturing: precision metrology, computer and numerical controls, programming, and machine and tool operation — all important and in-demand skills and abilities.

But they’re learning even more. Teamwork. Communication. Collaboration. Critical thinking. 

In short, Wheeling students are being prepared and equipped to take their place in a rapidly changing world that is increasingly dependent on technologies and tools that did not exist a decade ago. And that change, progress and advancement are not going stop — they’re not even going to slow down. But Wheeling is working to build a solid foundation for students by equipping them with skills that are useful today, and with  knowledge and experience that will round out their expanding roles in the future.