From “Math, science lessons propel camp” — Gina Filkins figured it would be fun to build a race car, so she signed up for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Race Camp, which took place this week at Chippewa Valley Technical College.

Filkins, of River Falls, was among 19 high school participants at the camp, but one of only four girls.

“I think more girls should do camps like this,” Filkins, 14, said. “I’ve always been into science and math, so this has been really fun.”

Throughout this week, race camp participants learned about career opportunities in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in a hands on environment, camp director John Wagner said.

Campers focused on powering race cars using three different petroleum-independent technologies: wind, solar and hydrogen. Participants were divided into teams to modify the cars before a race Thursday afternoon.

Along with making the vehicles run with an alternative fuel source, participants learned to adjust the cars’ alignment, gears and tires to optimize their performance, Wagner said.

Elliot Voelker, 15, who will be a sophomore at Regis High School next school year, said he enjoyed racing cars while getting to know other camp participants.

The camp is part of a nationwide effort to expose students to opportunities in STEM-related professions. The event, funded by grants, was started by CVTC staff. Grants provide scholarships to help qualifying students afford the camp.

Tucker Manderscheid, 14, who will be a freshman at Chippewa Falls High School, enjoys modifying cars. His team powered their vehicles with solar power, which he thought was the easiest of the three alternative power sources to use.

Chicagoria Yang, 15, who will be a sophomore at North High School, was part of a team using wind to power its car. Team members adjusted the car’s gears and experimented with different wheels in an effort to enable it to drive more efficiently.

Wagner said some camp participants showed up early to spend extra time working on their cars.

“The kids are so exceptional,” Wagner said.

From “Conversation: Apprenticeship program needs business partners” — By Rich RymanPress-Gazette Media talks to business leaders in its weekly conversation feature. This week, Lisa Schmelzer of the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce discusses the chamber’s Youth Apprenticeship Program.

The program is in its 20th year in Brown County.

Q. What is the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce’s Youth Apprenticeship program?

A. The Youth Apprenticeship program is a statewide school-to-work initiative offered by the state Department of Workforce Development designed specifically for high school students. It integrates academic and technical instruction with paid, mentored work experience at an area business. The program is facilitated for 10 area school districts in and around Brown County by the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce.

Q. How many youth are participating?

A. Of the 94 students we have participating in the program, we secured training site placements for 46, with many more students eagerly waiting to begin their on-the job training.

The breakdown of participants by school district is:

Ashwaubenon, 10; Howard-Suamico, 12; De Pere, eight; Denmark, eight; Green Bay, 26; Luxemburg-Casco, six; Pulaski, 11; Seymour, six; West De Pere, five, and Wrightstown, two.

Q. In which jobs are apprenticeships available? What determines availability?

A. The Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce Youth Apprenticeship program offers nine high-demand career areas with more than 40 career pathways.

Program areas, identified as high demand by the state Department of Workforce Development include:

• Agriculture, Food, & Natural Resources, Animal Basics, Large Animal/Herd, Vet Assistant, Plant Basics, Crops, Greenhouse, Landscaping, Water Resources

• Arts, A/V Technology & Communications – Printing, Graphics

• Financial Services – Accounting, Banking, Insurance

• Health Science – Nursing Assistant, Medical Assistant, Pharmacy, Ambulatory/Support Services (dietary, laboratory, imaging, optometry or physical therapy), Medical

•  OfficeHospitality, Lodging, & Tourism – Dining, Kitchen, Front Desk, Housekeeping, Travel/Tours, Grounds & Maintenance, Meetings & Events, Marketing & Sales, Management

• Information Technology – IT General, Hardware, Software

• Manufacturing – Assembly & Packaging, Manufacturing Processes, Machining, Operations Management, Welding, Equipment Maintenance

• STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) – Engineering Drafting, Mechanical Design, Electrical Engineering, Civil Engineering

• Transportation, Distribution & Logistics – Auto Collision, Auto Technology, Logistics/Supply Chain Management

Q. What are the programs greatest needs?

A. The program is in immediate need of more Brown County area businesses tfor on-the-job training in many of the program areas, especially health, auto tech/collision, STEM, finance and welding areas

Q. Have you had to turn students away because of a lack of employers?

A. The program doesn’t turn students away; students start their industry-related classes at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in anticipation of the job placement. However, students who are not placed in an on-the-job training position are missing the most important and crucial components of the program: the opportunity to start building valuable employability and industry skills.

Q. Anything you’d like to add that we did not cover?

A. With the projected workforce shrinkage due to the anticipated “Silver Tsunami,” — the large number of Baby Boomers reaching retirement — the Youth Apprenticeship program can be part of the solution. We bring goal-oriented youth into workplaces and industry paths and create highly skilled workers to fill businesses’ employment pipeline. Students in the program now may be the full-time employees businesses hire down the road.

If you’d like to learn how participating in Youth Apprenticeship may serve as a pipeline to your future work force, please contact Lisa Schmelzer, Youth Apprenticeship program manager, at (920) 593-3411 or More information on the program is available at

From “Local high school girls learn about male-dominated fields” — More than 50 girls from nine central Wisconsin highschools learned Friday what it would be like to be welders, mechanical designers, machinists and other professionals in the manufacturing and technical fields.

They were taking part in a program called Females in Technology & Trades at Northcentral Technical College. The idea was to expose the girls to professions that are in what have been traditionally male-dominated fields to ensure that they know of all the career opportunities available to them.

The program was organized by Laurie Schulz, a mechanical design instructor at NTC. Schulz worked as a designer for years and said she had no problems working in a male-dominated field, but not all young women know that such careers are even possible.

The F.I.T.T. program, Schulz said, was meant to change that by both exposing the girls to all of the programs NTC has to offer and giving them a chance to do some hands-on activities, such as welding.

Maddy Krueger and Katherine Russell, both juniors at Tomahawk High School, participated in the program to find out what they might do after graduation.

“I think this is really interesting,” Krueger said. “I’m in a shop class at school, and I’m interested in mechanical comprehension and design. So I thought that would interesting to learn.”

Russell wants to become a materials sciences engineer, designing materials that can do new things.

“There’s a need for more women in engineering fields, so I wanted to learn more about that. And I’ve never welded before, so I’m really nervous,” Russell said. “I really learned a lot today about what NTC had to offer. I didn’t know we had an engineering and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) school so close as Wausau.”

The program was beneficial for female students, Schulz said, so that “they can see what types of options are out there for them that are nontraditional, compared to what they may normally do.”


From “CVTC’s NASCAR-themed camp shows youth the technical side of racing” — EAU CLAIRE — Sam Strecker’s car got off to a fast start, but started to spin a bit, tilted up on one side, then veered off and crashed in the grass.

“It’s not just going fast, it’s staying on the road,” said Sam, who will be an 8th grader at Chippewa Falls Middle School in the fall.

That fundamental of racing summed up his immediate problem, but there are more technical ways to look at it, and Sam learned about those, too, this past week.

He was one of 25 students in grades 8 through 11 taking part in the Ten80 Student Racing Challenge: NASCAR STEM Initiative, a five-day camp at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire. The racing helped show youth the fun side of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The camp culminated in a day of racing and awards recognitions Friday.

“There’s a national shortage of people going into STEM-related fields, and a lot of STEM jobs are in manufacturing,” said Mark Hendrickson, special projects manager in the manufacturing area at CVTC. “We want to stimulate interest in these fields among young people, who may not realize how exciting and challenging STEM careers can be.“

The participants were divided into teams, with each given a radio-controlled one-tenth size NASCAR stock car replica. Through a week of activities, students learned about concepts such as how might a car be geared differently if the race is a short, straightaway drag race, compared to a longer race on a circular or oval track. They discovered which tires are for different courses, and how different batteries affect performance.

Of course, aerodynamics will affect the car’s performance. So will the surface of the track. Cory Haas, an Eau Claire Memorial sophomore, found that out in being the “driver” in a morning drag race, not long after a rain.

“We had the best car, but not the best terrain,” he said. “We had a pretty clear lead, then spun out into the grass.“

“I had a blast this week,” said Leo Plewa, a 9th grader attending the Wildlands School in Augusta. “I hadn’t worked with radio-controlled cars before. I’m amazed at how fast they can go, and at the science behind the cars.“

Faith Bowe, a Chippewa Falls 8th grader, was the only girl on the teams on race day. She said she learned a lot during the week, and likes science class. But she was on the same page as many of the boys as the class wrapped up and participants got a little crazy with some cars they brought from home. “Watching the cars crash together is pretty funny,” she said.

CVTC instructor John Wagner, one of the camp leaders, said some of the participants had a background in radio-controlled vehicles, and they mixed them with people with no background in forming the teams. He said students not only enjoyed racing, but also the modifications to the vehicles. Some wanted to take it a step further.

“Some of the more advanced students wanted to do more in car building,” Wagner said.

A summer camp has to include fun, and the participants had plenty of that. This camp also served to stimulate interest in science and technology. Cody Funk, a freshman from Owen-Withee High School, said his favorite part was actually the tour of CVTC’s Manufacturing Education Center and seeing the high tech machines there.

Leo was totally in his element at the camp. “I love science,” he said. “It’s probably my favorite subject.“


From “Steering their own course – Innovation drives Mercury Marine’s growth” — Sitting back and relaxing on the water this summer, chances are you’ll see the name “Mercury Marine” zip by.

Headquartered in Fond du Lac, Mercury Marine is the world’s largest developer and manufacturer of marine propulsion systems – the technical name for the motors powering the fishing boats, speed boats and pontoons seen on bodies around the world.

While Mercury Marine is now moving in the right direction, the company – Fond du Lac County’s largest employer with more than 2,000 workers – was admittedly hit hard by the recession. “What’s more discretionary spending than a boat?” says Mercury Marine President Mark Schwabero.

But today, as Mercury Marine engines power boats everywhere from Lake Winnebago and the Great Lakes to the Amazon River and expanding markets in China, its sales are increasing and the company is in expansion mode, building a $20 million testing facility visible to people driving by its massive manufacturing facility along U.S. 41. The new facility will allow the company to test a wider variety of engines, allowing it to develop new products more quickly.

“The expansion going on now is directly related from overall market growth,” Schwabero says. “In the U.S. market, we are seeing a recovery in some segments, such as engines for fishing boats and pontoons.”

With nearly $2 billion in sales, Mercury Marine is not only Fond du Lac’s largest manufacturer with more than 1 million square feet of space, it’s also a global manufacturing powerhouse.

“Their presence in our community is almost immeasurable,” says Joe Reitemeier, president of the Fond du Lac Association of Commerce. “Not only do they have a large employment base, there are several hundred companies that provide services or supplies to Mercury. They’re also active in the community and looking for ways to make a difference.”

Innovation drives growth

Although Mercury Marine plans to celebrate its 75th anniversary next year, there was a time not so long ago that some wondered if the engine maker would maintain its significant Wisconsin footprint.

In 2009 as sales fell, the company decided to consolidate its engine making in either Fond du Lac or Stillwater, Okla., to help save money and right the company’s financial ship. Stillwater leaders brought considerable incentives to the table. It wasn’t until the company’s union agreed to concessions and the city, county and state brought their own incentives to the table that Mercury Marine decided to stay in Fond du Lac. Mercury Marine’s financial package included $70 million from the state in refundable tax credits, a $50 million loan from the county paid for by a 0.5 percent sales tax, and $3 million in financial aid from the city.

At the time, the saga dominated state headlines, especially after union workers voted initially to reject any changes. There was a lot of intensive negotiation before the second vote and the company reversed its decision to consolidate operations in Oklahoma.

Schwabero admits it was a difficult time, “but just as when you have emotional decisions in your personal life, they bring you closer to those around you. The experience left us with closer relationships with the city, county and state. I can’t forget about our employees either. Their hard work has allowed us to get where we are today. They are really great and have a passion for what we’re all about.”

Today, that difficult time is past and the company is adding jobs.

In the past three years, Mercury Marine officials estimate the company has brought an additional 950 jobs to the community – many of them by bringing work from Stillwater to the Fond du Lac plants. Other hiring has come from company growth. Most of the positions created and filled are related to engineering and product development.

“Innovation is an essential component to our company’s growth,” says Schwabero, who has been Mercury’s president since 2008. “We have a lot of technical capabilities that set us apart. Innovation is a fundamental strength.”

In the past few years, Mercury Marine’s greatest success was with its 150-horsepower engine. “It’s been a home run for us. There’s been a lot of acceptance for it in the market,” Schwabero says. “The downturn allowed us to put some focus on it so it hit the market just at the right time as things were starting to come back.”

The new $20 million testing facility will be finished by the end of the year, but engineers and technicians will start some testing this summer, says David Foulkes, vice president of engineering. The facility complements existing on site testing facilities as well as outdoor sites in Oshkosh along the Fox River and in Florida.

“There are several testing stages you go through when developing a new product and this new facility will allow us to do a wider variety of testing, which will help us increase our product development,” he says.

Foulkes says the company needs to keep innovating and developing new products to stay ahead of its competition, namely Yamaha in Asia and Volvo in Europe. “We offer such a broad range of products, including diesel and gasoline engines as well as outboards and stern drives. We need to keep up in all of those areas,” he says. “Engines are also getting more powerful.”

Construction on the 16,000-square-foot facility began last year and includes two 18,000-gallon tanks where engines can be tested, says Dave Kahlow, who is heading up the engineering construction project. “They’re very imposing,” he says.
The building also includes special air exchange systems since the engines emit exhaust during the testing process.

Mercury Marine’s engineering and product development center has about 450 engineers on staff. With so many high-tech employees, Mercury Marine is active with other Fond du Lac County businesses seeking to attract and retain talent in the area. The company has robust co-op programs in place with engineering programs and is a strong supporter of programs at Moraine Park Technical College.

Dropping its focus a bit younger, Mercury Marine is also a sponsor of the Fond du Lac STEM Academy, which currently serves students in grades 3 to 5 this year, but will expand next fall to grades 3 to 8. The students study a full range of subjects, but there’s an extra focus on science and technology. In addition, students do a lot of hands-on, project-based assignments.

Mercury Marine provides the school with technical expertise and technological resources as well as having employees serve as role models, who can talk about real-world science applications of what they’re learning in school.

“We employ a lot of engineers and people with technical expertise, so it’s great we can share some of that knowledge with the community,” Schwabero says.

Students also have access to some of the company’s technical equipment. For example, they were able to use an expensive electron microscope that few schools can afford.

“We really helped the local school district bring that program to reality,” Schwabero says. “We have such a significant product development presence here and anything we can do to help students realize the career opportunities related to the sciences, the better.”

Before the recession hit and Mercury Marine was posting big sales numbers, Schwabero says it was common to “just write a check, but now it’s not as easy to do that. Instead, we’ve become more personally involved with various community organizations and programs through our employees’ time and talent. Today, we have a much more personal relationship with the community.”

That’s something that Reitemeier from the Association of Commerce echoes. “They have senior leader executives involved and active in multiple organizations. They are in there and getting involved with an organization, whether it’s the United Way or the local Red Cross, he says.

Schwabero says that one of the company’s pillars of success outlined in its sustainability report is its relationship with the community. Twenty-five percent of the company’s employees in Fond du Lac volunteer 20 hours or more each year with a local organization, whether it’s a business organization, a non-profit like the United Way or local schools.

Global scale, local impact

Mercury Marine, a division of Illinois-based Brunswick Corp., is truly a global company. With 43 percent of its sales coming from outside of the United States, Schwabero jokes he puts on too many miles to count each year visiting the company’s facilities around the world as well as meeting with salespeople and distributors.

The company is the world’s largest developer and manufacturer of marine propulsion systems for both commercial and residential activities. While Mercury’s main business in the United States is related to engines built for recreational boats, in other places the engines are more focused on the commercial sector, such as engines for water taxis.

While Mercury Marine’s overall market share in Asia is small compared to other regions, that segment is growing, Schwabero says. With people and plants around the world, the company can react more quickly to what’s happening in local markets, he adds. “Those locations help us better meet the needs of our customers.”

In addition to the manufacturing facilities in Fond du Lac, there are facilities in St. Cloud, Fla.; Juarez, Mexico; Belgium; and China. The company has a joint venture in Komagane, Japan.

At all of its locations around the world, sustainability remains a core value – not only being a responsible consumer of energy and caring for the environment, but also quality of life and product stewardship initiatives.

“Much of our marine-engine business is reliant on clean water and a healthy environment,” Schwabero says. “Mercury Marine has been and will remain a leader in the development of marine technologies that minimize the effects on the environment. Sustainable growth is our mission.”

And with Mercury engines powering boats around the globe, it’s something the company is committed to.

“We are cautiously optimistic about Mercury Marine’s future growth,” Schwabero says. “For so many people, being on the water – whether it’s fishing or other recreational activities – is a part of their life and you want to get out there and enjoy it, no matter what.”


A boat engine is a boat engine, right? Wrong. Just as there are multiple engine types for vehicles, the same goes for marine vessels. The two main categories are outboards and stern drives – both of which are made by Mercury Marine.

Outboard engines are the most common way to power small watercraft vessels such as pontoon boats and fishing boats. Outboard engines consist of a self-contained unit that includes the engine, gear box and propeller and is affixed to the outside of the vessel.

Stern drives consist of an engine and drive connected to one another through the transom, or the flat area at the back of a boat. Stern drives are designed so that the engine is inside and enclosed by the boat, while the propulsion system (out drive) is outside of the boat and in the water.

Mercury designs and manufactures engines that run on gas and diesel. The engines also vary in speed from 2 horsepower to 300 horsepower.




From “Scholarship for motor-minded Two Harbors High School senior” — Russell Nelson missed his lunch hour on Thursday. Instead, the Two Harbors High School senior spent those 40 minutes checking out AMSOIL’s latest snocross racing technology, on display behind the mechanics shop at the high school.

There was pizza available, but he was too busy hobnobbing with the AMSOIL snocross team’s owner Steve Scheuring, mechanic Tony Clement and Air Force Staff Sergeant Dave Overstreet to grab a bite. He finally slipped away to have a snack but returned quickly for the grand finale of the afternoon–receiving a $200 scholarship from the AMSOIL team.

“I chose him based on the fact that he’s a good student and a good worker,” said Mike Fitzpatrick, who made the call as to which of his students would receive the scholarship.

Nelson plans to attend Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College for mechanics and says he hopes to be a millwright after graduation.

“He has a plan and we want to support him. We’re all about success,” said Staff Sgt. Overstreet. The Air Force is a sponsor of the AMSOIL team and part of their outreach work is getting kids excited about science, technology, engineering and mathematics—STEM subjects. They’ve found that showing off the snocross machines at high schools is an effective way of doing so.

Nelson has already proved his dedication to technology and engineering. He spent most of his high school career in the shop classrooms at the high school, evidenced by the impressive number of advanced mechanics classes he has under his belt. In fact, he’s taken many of the classes twice; not because he failed them, but because he enjoys spending his days in the shop, he said.

“I just always knew I wanted to work with my hands,” he said.

Overstreet said Nelson is exactly the type of student they’re looking to support. Although Overstreet is a recruiter and Nelson isn’t joining the Air Force, he’s still impressed with Nelson’s drive and focus on the future.

“Our country needs guys that are thinking ahead,” he said, whether they are in the armed forces or not. Nelson fit the bill.

From “Group hammers out plan to invigorate technology education – and Wisconsin’s economy” — A group of business and education leaders from across Wisconsin has hammered out a plan to spur educational growth in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), which include concepts such as removing barriers to related career exploration and forging more public-private partnerships in this tech-driven area.

The group, Wisconsin STEM, recently released its report, “Navigators to the future,” a sweeping look at the current condition of STEM education in the state today and as well as efforts needed to overcome a drop in the number of youth choosing STEM education and careers in related areas.

Five success markers were established in the report. They are:

  • Eliminate barriers that prevent learners from exploring STEM careers
  • Increase emphasis on acquiring STEM knowledge and skills for all learners
  • Increase public/private partnerships with a focus on STEM skills
  • Establish a statewide awareness campaign for STEM careers
  • Invest in pre- and post-professional developmental for educators to fully understand and integrate STEM throughout the curriculum.

The report was spurred by the critical need for highly educated and skilled workforce to invigorate Wisconsin’s economy.  Skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics drive innovation and opportunity for Wisconsin workers and employers.

“The number and diversity of organizations represented in the development of this report clearly shows that Wisconsin is ready for a statewide strategy to improve STEM education and training,” said Bryan Albrecht, president of Gateway Technical College. “STEM careers provide some of our state’s best and highest paying jobs and we need to embrace the opportunity to build a STEM talent pipeline from kindergarten through college.”

More than 700 Wisconsin business and education leaders from the public and private sector worked the past six months to forge an agenda outlining the changes and practices needed to build stronger support systems for STEM education and prepare students for in STEM-related career fields.

“Employers increasingly say they are searching for soft skills as much as technical knowledge, meaning they want workers who can pull together as a team, communicate internally and externally adjust to changing conditions and function as lifelong learners,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council.

As outlined by the Wisconsin Technology Council, STEM talent underscores the necessity of competing in the global economy. It implies high-technology, problem-solving teaching and learning, and creates an opportunity to bring the classrooms of our state to life through business and industry partnerships.

“STEM education is an imperative to secure our state’s viability in global economy,” said Mark Tyler, president, OEM Fabricators Inc., located in the Wisconsin communities of Neillsville and Woodville.

For further media inquiries, please contact Bryan Albrecht at (262) 564-3610.

What is STEM?

STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math. STEM teaching and learning is an innovative approach to unlock creativity and problem solving in learners of all ages. Through discovery, modeling and contextual learning students realize their potential and excel in active learning environments. STEM partnerships throughout the state have demonstrated the potential to unlock growth in education and workforce training by integrating the knowledge and skills of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in ways that expand college and career choices for students.

Where can I find this report?

The complete STEM Navigators to the Future report can be found at

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