HANNOVER MESSE: U.S. students display their innovation for their German peers

Students from Lower Dauphin High School, in Hummelstown, Pa., bring their cell phone-driven energy management system for schools, businesses to TecToYou pavilion at Hannover Messe’s conference


The language of innovation is spoken at Hannover Messe’s TecToYou pavilion, where young people come together to show what they’ve learned about manufacturing and to find out what they can learn from others.

The students from Lower Dauphin High School in Hummelstown, Pa., don’t speak any German. Their trip to Hannover Messe this year, won through their own innovation, is their first trip to the country. They have little trouble getting their German peers to understand what they’ve built, and they are just as excited to see what others are working on.

“We’re in a little culture shock,” said Kellen Michalowski as he showed off the energy management project he and his fellow students created using Phoenix Contact equipment. Phoenix Contact annually stages a contest in Germany for high school students, with the winners coming to Hannover for the show. This year that contest was expanded to include U.S. students, and the group from Lower Dauphin won the contest and the trip to Hannover Messe.

TecToYou is a Hannover Messe event designed to bring young people more closely in touch with manufacturing. Being able to attract and retain young people in manufacturing in the United States is a major issue. Plant Engineering readers cite it each year as their top concern for the future. In Germany, programs such as TecToYou bring students and manufacturers together in large numbers. Each day of Hannover Messe, hundreds of German students swarm the fairgrounds, and are welcomed enthusiastically by vendors.

The sound of innovation in most of the other halls at Hannover Messe is the dull roar of business. In the TecToYou pavilion, the sound of innovation is higher-pitched, decidedly more excited, but no less businesslike. Michalowski and classmates Patrick Vares and Bryce Detweiler discussed their project, which uses Phoenix Contact I/O devices to create a cell phone-driven energy management system for schools and businesses. They demonstrated how with just a phone call, they could turn lights on and off. The application includes the ability to turn on other devices, including heat and external lights, and to monitor and create reports on power usage. The units can be mounted anywhere in the school or in the home. Text messages back to the phone verify the tasks were performed.

The group from Lower Dauphin included Michalowski, Vares, Detweiler, classmates Matt Melly, Tim Torres, Josh “Santa” Miller and Ronnie Myers and teacher Nancy Kiscadden. They began work on the project last fall after being introduced to it by Phoenix Contact officials who are based in nearby Middletown, PA.

“We thought, ‘This is a cool contest. Let’s do it,” said Vares. “It was definitely a lot of fun. It’s not like we were being dragged into this. We even asked our teacher if we could come in during Christmas break to work on it.”

If the students didn’t understand the direct connection between the contest and manufacturing before this week, the experience at Hannover Messe and at TecToYou changed that. “This is a massive convention,” Vares said. “We’ve been to most of the booths here, and we’re going to see other halls.” The students also have taken plant tours in the area and seen the cultural sites in the area.

That includes a few they hadn’t expected to see. “We were driving along and one of the people shouted, ‘It's a windmill! It's a REAL windmill!’,” Vares said.

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