Best and brightest

NEWMA’s K-12 education awards honor manufacturing, school partnerships

Posted on Sep 15, 2017 :: Feature
Posted by , Insight on Manufacturing Staff Writer

Anyone who’s attended Manufacturing First knows the event provides companies with opportunities to grow their business, and if one issue affecting growth unites nearly all employers, it’s the need for talent.

The NEW Manufacturing Alliance sees looking to the next generation as a prime way to fill that need. If this year’s crop of nominees for the organization’s Excellence in Manufacturing/K-12 Partnerships Awards is any indication, the future looks bright.

NEWMA received a record number of nominations for its awards recognizing outstanding partnerships between the manufacturing and K-12 education communities. The organization will hold its sixth annual dinner at the KI Convention Center on Oct. 25.

“There’s so many wonderful partnerships between schools and manufacturers that people don’t know about,” says Ann Franz, director of NEWMA.

The awards recognize manufacturers as well as schools and educators, but this year’s accolades include something a bit out of the ordinary. Education awards often go to high schools in the New North, but Brillion Elementary School will receive the Education Innovation Award for its new STEM Exploration Station.

Completed last spring, the two-story, 5,000-square-foot center provides a flexible and creative learning environment for the youngest minds to collaborate, work on projects and build problem-solving skills. Dominick Madison, superintendent of Brillion Public Schools, says it offers a means to personalize education for each child.

“It’s just better education,” he says. “More kids will learn, and more kids will engage in learning.”

The center came to fruition thanks to overwhelming public and private support of the project. Voters approved $350,000 for the project in a 2014 referendum, and the Ariens Foundation and Endries Family Foundation of Brillion each contributed $400,000, with the remaining $355,000 coming from company and individual donors.

In addition to Brillion Elementary School receiving the award, Dan Ariens, president and CEO of Ariens Co., will receive an award recognizing his, and his company’s, dedication to educational partnerships. “Dan Ariens really has been a visionary,” Franz says.

Madison praises what he calls a progressive manufacturing environment in Brillion, citing major players Ariens Co., Endries International Inc. and Professional Planting Inc. He says he hopes to incorporate elements of these companies’ business models into the center.

While it’s common to find lab spaces dedicated to technology education in middle and high schools, most elementary schools don’t offer these, Madison says. In incorporating this type of learning for its youngest pupils, Brillion sets itself apart.

As the school begins its first full year with the center open, Madison says he hopes it will give students a chance to apply STEM skills across all disciplines as well as get them thinking about a career in manufacturing.

“It has to start as young as possible so kids learn being in manufacturing is as exciting as being a veterinarian or firefighter,” Madison says.

If you go

NEWMA Excellence in Manufacturing/
K–12 Partnerships Awards

Wednesday, Oct. 25

4:30 to 8:30 p.m.

KI Convention Center

Tickets: $60 per person

To register for the awards dinner or Manufacturing First, visit