On March 27th, 2024, more than 8,500 middle and high school students gathered at the Devos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids for MICareerQuest, an event orchestrated by West Michigan Works! This event aimed to foster career exploration for students, spotlighting five high-demand industries: agribusiness, advanced manufacturing, construction, health sciences, and information technology. Among numerous businesses showcasing the ins-and-outs of their field in creative ways, Mission Design & Automation offered students activities like robot dog races and conversation-starters designed to challenge common misconceptions about the manufacturing industry.

MICareerQuest Facilitates Career Discovery

The 2024 MICareerQuest provided 8th-10th graders with a platform to delve into various career trajectories through interactive experiences offered by over 100 businesses. Rotating through the event space in groups, students immersed themselves in hands-on activities and engaged directly with professionals, gaining insights into the experiences and educational paths required for different industries.

Sarah Paro, a technical writer and communications specialist at Mission Design & Automation and a member of the internal committee that organized Mission’s participation in MICareerQuest, emphasized the uniqueness of the event: “I don’t remember anything like this from when I was in high school, where it was all in one spot. You could take career tests or search online, but you rarely had the chance to speak with professionals actually working in those careers.”

Race to Robotics: 8th-10th Graders Race Robot Dogs & Disband Common Manufacturing Myths

Mission Design & Automation aimed to educate about the manufacturing industry by offering students hands-on experiences in manual robot controls and conversations dispelling common stereotypes about manufacturing jobs. The team, comprising Scott Beute, account manager; Evan Schumacher, applications engineer; Sarah Paro, technical writer & communications specialist; Virginia Berger, marketing intern; Jacob Sanchez, marketing associate; and Sami Birch, director of marketing & communications, manned the booth, ready to engage in discussions about robotics and automation.

In collaboration with Jake Hall, the Manufacturing Millennial, who provided his robot dogs for the event, Mission held robot dog relay races, providing an element of fun and friendly competition. Students learned to maneuver and control the robotic canines before facing off in head-to-head matches against their peers on the relay track. When the first robot dog crossed the finish line to claim victory, Mission’s collaborative robot, a FANUC CRX, stationed at the end of the track, waved a flag to indicate the winner and signal the end of the race.

Additionally, students were encouraged to participate in poll questions about manufacturing and engage in conversations with Mission’s manufacturing professionals. This interactive activity not only tackled negative stereotypes surrounding manufacturing but also provided students with the opportunity to share their career aspirations and seek advice about embarking on a manufacturing career path.

“This is an important event in West Michigan because this area—and Michigan in general—is very heavy both on manufacturing and skilled trades. When you look at some of the numbers West Michigan Works! has put out, they’re anticipating a labor shortage eventually in the skilled trades,” Paro said.

“How do we recruit and attract young kids into these skilled trades, so they want to pursue a career? How do we dispel all these myths that manufacturing is boring, dirty, low-paying, or low-skilled? Manufacturing isn’t and doesn’t have to be any of these things, and I think pure exposure to different fields is valuable to kids,” Paro added.

Thank you to all students who participated and explored the manufacturing industry alongside us!