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An online publication from Purdue University’s College of Engineering.

The Catalyst for Manufacturing

Through an ambitious program, Purdue Engineering and the Purdue Polytechnic Institute are nurturing a thriving ecosystem for one of Indiana’s biggest employment sectors.

by Poornima Apte

At first glance, the high school teams racing their electric karts on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway might seem like part of just another routine science competition. But Michael Ursem sees something more ambitious at play in this hugely popular annual event. Events such as these, where teens apply their learned concepts of science and technology, are seeds for what Ursem hopes will become a full-fledged passion for STEM.

Ursem is managing director of the Indiana Manufacturing Competitiveness Center (IN-MaC), Purdue University’s initiative to advance the manufacturing ecosystem for the Hoosier State. Indiana continues to be a hotbed for the manufacturing industry, housing more than 8,500 related facilities and employing a fifth of the workforce. The problem, says Ursem, is that the rapidly evolving manufacturing industry has ushered in a new technological revolution — Industry 4.0 — without an attendant ecosystem that nurtures it.

Industry 4.0 integrates future-forward technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics and machine learning throughout an enterprise to make companies more efficient, adaptive and resilient. Unfortunately, there is a disconnect on multiple levels: a dearth of skilled talent for the manufacturing jobs of tomorrow and slow adoption of new technologies by existing companies. IN-MaC, which is a collaboration between Purdue Engineering and Purdue Polytechnic, is working on a multi-pronged solution to the problem. The center’s approach targets three areas: technology transfer and adoption; education and workforce development; and research for future competitiveness.

The Education Angle

In addition to seeding STEM-driven events for students across the state, IN-MaC partners with schools, communities, higher education institutions and manufacturers to augment education and workforce development pathways by helping students and incumbent workers develop the technical skills and literacies industry demands. For example, IN-MaC partnered with Ivy Tech Community College to develop an associate’s degree program in 3D printing that transfers toward a 4-year Purdue degree, and with Vincennes University on an advanced manufacturing apprenticeship program.

Ursem is keen to emphasize that it’s not just college access that is the golden ideal to aim for. “We recognize that a lot of the population will not go to college or complete a degree. We strive to create opportunities for people from all walks of life and all circumstances to become introduced to technologies that will help get them a higher-paying job while supplying manufacturers with critical talent,” he says.

With this same goal in mind, IN-MaC has funded technology tools for Indianapolis-based RUCKUS, part of a national “Maker” movement toward entrepreneurship, technology and startup manufacturing. IN-MaC provides access to on-site, high-tech equipment and testing both in Indianapolis and at Purdue’s main campus in West Lafayette, Indiana.

“Our education and workforce development programs involve many other activities as well,” Ursem says. An example is MakerMinded, a program that connects students and schools to market-leading STEM and manufacturing learning experiences and teaches educators advanced manufacturing skills that they can adopt in their classrooms, learning and discovery labs.

Ursem is well aware that it takes more than access for communities to embrace technology and to move their way up to better-paying jobs. “We don’t try to pick winners or losers,” he says. “Our goal is to create more opportunities to introduce technologies, build competencies and help schools, communities and manufacturers develop capabilities to keep Indiana competitive.”

Embracing Tech

Purdue continues to be a hotbed for related research, Ursem points out, and 2019 will see the launch of a new digital manufacturing testbed — a center devoted to the latest in Industry 4.0. The proposed testbed will provide a facility for researchers to discover, validate and demonstrate next-generation smart manufacturing technologies, to showcase and disseminate new Industry 4.0 methods, and to lead in the development of the smart manufacturing workforce. “The manufacturing testbed will be at the nexus of Industry 4.0 research and education for the region,” Ursem says.

IN-MaC also funds a technology adoption program that connects manufacturers with faculty experts to help companies adopt advanced manufacturing technologies. “A spillover effect for manufacturers that engage in technology adoption projects or use the testbed facility will be the ability to learn new methodologies and skills that will equip companies to better leverage the capabilities of technology in order to become more competitive,” Ursem says.

Given how quickly manufacturing itself is changing, IN-MaC is committed to help prepare industry and Indiana’s workforce to remain competitive now and into the future.


  • Provided an advanced manufacturing program that trained 58 high school educators, who have influenced more than 3,000 students.
  • Serviced 58 manufacturing sites across Indiana, with a cumulative benefit of $21,250,000 from an investment of $1.76M (12x benefit) and 98 jobs added or retained.
  • Connected 67 students with manufacturers across Indiana through a new work-based learning internship and apprenticeship program.
  • Supported membership in four Manufacturing USA Institutes, resulting in 12 awards totaling $11,210,000from a $2M investment (5.6x benefit).
  • Invested in five industry consortia with 26 paying industry members that have received $750,000 in-gifts (5.1x benefit).

Education and Workforce Development

IN-MaC provides programs and services to enhance the talents and capabilities of Indiana’s present and future workforce by facilitating connections between educators and industry to catalyze the formation of near-term and longterm skills in a highly accessible manner. IN-MaC supports a variety of STEM-type, skilled trades, degree (associate’s and undergraduate) and certificate programs.

IN-MaC leverages its resources, networks and partnerships with industry, local communities, educators and interested stakeholders to provide formal courses and informal activities that embolden pathways to meet the talent needs of the present and future manufacturing workforce.

K-12 Achievement Initiative

Provides formal and informal opportunities for K-12 educators, schools and students to discover new ways to explore design-thinking, problem solving, technology and creative skill sets.

  • M-STEM3 programs: Motorsports STEM for Manufacturing and Medicine (evGrand Prix)
  • Wonder Design Lab: Provides technology-based maker tools to schools and communities.
  • Purdue College of Education: Career and Technical Education provides educators with advanced manufacturing skills to incorporate into their curricula “Advanced Manufacturing Leadership Development Program.”
  • Manufacturing Day: Opening doors and minds to inspire the next generation of manufacturers.
  • MakerMinded (sponsored by LIFT): Bridges the gap between manufacturing leadership and the future workforce through a rich portfolio of activities and STEM-based learning experiences.
  • Innovate WithIN: A regional business pitch competition for Indiana high school students, sponsored by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) and Ball State University. Young innovators are invited to submit their ideas for a chance to win scholarships and prizes.

Projects Awarded

  • Additive Manufacturing Capacity Development (Ivy Tech Community College)

    • Investment to supplement Ivy Tech funding for three Stratasys Polyjet 3D printers, 3D Printing curriculum development, and faculty training to support the launch of additive manufacturing labs within the Ivy Tech system. The 2-year associate’s degree is fully transferrable toward a 4-year undergraduate degree, which increases flexibility and access to more Hoosiers to develop advanced manufacturing skills.
  • Advanced Manufacturing and Workforce Development (Vincennes University)

    • 5 Axis CNC Programming: Certificate-based training; incumbent workforce focus.
    • IN-MaC grant supported “Advanced Manufacturing Machinery Technician Now Program” for curriculum development, industrial maintenance and returning veterans.
    • Jasper Automated Manufacturing Technology Degree Program: Industry-based associate’s degree. A work-based program in automated manufacturing technology.
  • Meeting Workforce Needs for Mechatronics Technicians (Purdue University, Calumet)

    • DOL Grant: K-12 Pathways, associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, credentialing / certification for incumbent and underemployed and on-site employee training.
    • IN-MaC Add-in: Flipped/distance curriculum, lecture capture.
  • Advanced Manufacturing Leadership Development Program (College of Education, Purdue University)

    • Develop curriculum for CTE teacher professional development. Manufacturing career awareness preparation, career pathways and program participation.
    • Program improvement plan for high school and middle school CTE educators in advanced manufacturing education.
  • RUCKUS Makerspace

    • Part of the national “maker” movement toward entrepreneurship, technology and startup manufacturing.
    • Local can be global and RUCKUS increases access to high-tech equipment such as 3D printers, CNC machines, laser cutters and other prototyping and fabrication equipment.
    • RUCKUS expands the range of locally developed and built products by increasing access to designers, fabricators and entrepreneurs.


Photo At Top:

Gary Bertoline

“Collaboration between colleges in higher education has never been more important than in today’s era of rapid innovation and change, where the most significant opportunities for innovation often occur at the intersection of disciplines. The complementary fields of study found in the College of Engineering and the Polytechnic Institute provide Purdue with unique opportunities to address critical challenges as we collaborate in the advancement of engineering and technology.”

Gary Bertoline, Purdue Polytechnic Institute Dean