Extra credit: Bill Merchantz -- Elk Grove High School

  • Elk Grove High School technology and manufacturing instructor Bill Merchantz works with a student at the high school's lab. Today's labs, he said, are filled with "things that we would have only dreamed of having in our labs a decade ago," he says.

    Elk Grove High School technology and manufacturing instructor Bill Merchantz works with a student at the high school's lab. Today's labs, he said, are filled with "things that we would have only dreamed of having in our labs a decade ago," he says. Courtesy of District 214

  • Elk Grove High School technology and manufacturing instructor Bill Merchantz, left, met with Gov. Bruce Rauner last year when the governor toured the Elk Grove Village Manufacturing & Technology Expo held at the high school.

    Elk Grove High School technology and manufacturing instructor Bill Merchantz, left, met with Gov. Bruce Rauner last year when the governor toured the Elk Grove Village Manufacturing & Technology Expo held at the high school. Courtesy of District 214

 
Daily Herald report
Posted2/8/2016 7:50 AM

Need to know: Bill Merchantz Technology and Manufacturing Instructor at Elk Grove High School and past president of the Technology Education Association of Illinois.

Q. How has teaching industrial technology changed over the past five or 10 years?

 

A. So much has changed in just the last 10 years that it is hard to describe it all. Probably the biggest change has been in the equipment and resources that we have in our labs. Things that we would have only dreamed of having in our labs a decade ago such as Advanced CNC equipment, diagnostic scan tools, 3-D printers, and robotics are being commonplace. Technology Education has not sat still while the world has kept on moving and we are being recognized as leaders in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education. Our classes are the practical hands-on application that bridges the learning of math and science while exposing students to engineering and technology principles.

Q. What are some of your secrets for preparing students who may not be headed to college for successful careers in the workforce?

A. A few of the big secrets are getting the students to think critically so that they are better able to analyze, troubleshoot, and problem solve. Having the technical knowledge and skills are still critically important, but teaching people to determine why something is happening (or not occurring) helps to set them apart from everyone else. Figuring out why a machine is cutting parts differently than it was set up for, why a robot is not following the path it was programmed to, or even the idea of how we make something through a design process separates the "thinkers" from the low-skill, low-wage "parts changers." The other big secrets are the soft skills that every employee needs, which is why we have a unit in resume and cover letter creation.

Q. What's the greatest myth about students in industrial technology courses?

A. The biggest myth is that they are dumb, not smart, and that they will not be able to make a decent living or decent wages. Nothing could be further from the truth. The television show "Dirty Jobs" helped to show that working with your hands along with using your brain is not a bad thing. Many people make really good money every day because they have the knowledge and know-how to go along with their hands-on skills. The skilled trades are constantly looking for new apprentices. In fact, many employers today are so worried about finding new employees that they are willing to pay for technical training or even an associate degree.

Q. You can work at any manufacturing facility in the world. Where do you want to go and what do you want to do?

A. Wow, that is a tough one! I don't think that I would be able to limit to just one, so here's my top three. First would be for Huntington-Ingalls, who are building the new class of super aircraft carriers for the Navy. With all of the machining, welding, and fabricating, and not to mention the massive amounts of engineering going into them, every day is something new. The second would be for SpaceX with the design and manufacture of their rockets. Space has always fascinated me and they are on the cutting edge of technology, including reusable rockets! Finally, an emerging technology that is being developed is Laser Metal Deposition Welding. This manufacturing process uses a powdered metal material that is deposited and then instantly laser welded to build up piece of material, instead of cutting material away as is done now. Its works just like a 3-D printer, but by using metal it can produce parts that are ready to be used, especially those that have extremely complicated designs. Imagine just printing yourself a ready to use water pump, pressure cylinder, or manifold!

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