Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs introduces teens to manufacturing

Teenage campers learned, practiced and put to use newly-acquired manufacturing skills during a summer manufacturing camp staged at Anoka Technical College the week of June 24.

Josh Talusan of Blaine sifts moist black dirt through the riddle into the flask as he learns a hands-on lesson in casting.
Josh Talusan of Blaine sifts moist black dirt through the riddle into the flask as he learns a hands-on lesson in casting.Photo by Sue Austreng

Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs gave the 13-15-year-old campers hands-on experience with a variety of manufacturing skills, including metal fabrication, welding, metal casting and metal finishing.

With the elimination of manufacturing courses in today’s K-12 schools, Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs Camp was designed to expose and engage middle school students in learning about manufacturing skills and career opportunities.

“Back when I was in school, industrial arts was required. We learned this stuff. But now with the bad economy, budget cuts had to be made and – sure enough – shop class got cut,” said Jon Olson, co-organizer of the camp at Anoka Technical College.

According to Olson, the Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs Camp is important because “people in manufacturing are crying out for a pipeline of people who can do this work.”

Nick Graff, director of the advanced technology center at the technical college, seconded that. “Minnesota has a chronic need for workers to fill skilled manufacturing jobs, which pay well and will help the state maintain its competitive edge in the global economy,” he said.

Since the response of metro-area students was so strong, 21 camp participants were selected based on essays they had written describing why they wanted to attend.

“I just love this stuff and I know I’d be good at it,” said Ian Scheele of North Branch, describing his desire to attend the camp.

Other campers expressed similar interest, some noting that one or both of their parents worked in manufacturing and they wanted to get in on it, too.

In addition to metal casting and finishing, Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs campers also learned about 3D drawing and printing, machine tools and welding, and manufactured a variety of products they could take home and use.

Campers used the same 3D CAD software the professionals use to create their own designs and used a 3D printer to create a prototype of CAD designs.

A visit to the Bakken Museum and a tour of the manufacturing plant at Pentair were also part of the week-long camp experience.

Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs (offered for just the second time at Anoka Technical College) is part of the I AM the Future Summer Manufacturing Camp series, made possible by funding and donations from the Foundation of the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International, Anoka Technical College Foundation, Anoka Technical College/Anoka-Ramsey Community College-Professional and Workforce Training, Anoka-Ramsey Community College-Biomedical Technology Program, Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association Education Foundation, Pentair and Minnesota Center or Engineering and Manufacturing Excellence.

Campers attended at a cost of $50 each.

For more information, contact Graff at [email protected] or 763-576-4788, or visit

Sue Austreng is at
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