Society of Manufacturing Engineers is back

Erika Ward

 Years ago, Western Illinois University dissolved its chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers due to budget cuts and a dwindling interest.

 “Little by little, we started going down in numbers,” said Professor Rafael Obregon the SME advisor. “The department was shifting into other things.  We kind of separated ourselves from manufacturing as a department.”

 Obregon recalled a time when a rumor was being spread that manufacturing was decreasing as one of the various reasons for the previous chapter’s decrease in membership.  

 “It’s not necessarily that manufacturing was falling,” Obregon said. “We, as educators all across the country, were not doing enough to push it.  People don’t generally get interested in programs that are not promoted.”

 “The group is led by students,” Obregon said.  “I just listen to their plans, whatever they may be, give them my two cents and they carry the ball.  I don’t do anything except for support them.  They do all of the heavy lifting.”

 Colter Smith, a senior engineering technology major, said he believes in the bystander effect. 

“If you don’t do anything, then nobody will and nothing will change,” Smith said.  “So I took the initiative to step up.”

Due to a recent spike in interest, engineering technology students banded together to revive Western’s chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME).

It’s a national organization dedicated to furthering the education of its members and the manufacturing technology industry and creating networking opportunities with those who are already established in the industry.  

“The goal, or mission, of SME is to develop skills in a professional, personal and social manner,” Smith said.  “We want to be a bridge from an educational environment to a workforce environment.”

Marcial Anthony, a junior engineer technology major, was recently elected vice president of SME.  

“This is a club,” Anthony said.  “We don’t walk in every single day in a business suit.  Everybody is basically bringing in ideas for cool, engineering related things to do.  If we don’t have something serious going on, we’re going to be tinkering.  People bring all sorts of different things from their backgrounds and we all get to share it.”

Smith, the newly elected president of Western’s chapter of the SME, knew that reviving this organization would not be an easy task. 

 “I knew that it wasn’t up to the faculty to start this program; it had to be us, the students,” Smith said.  “There was a lot of discussion with other students in this department.  I took the initiative to step up, get the paperwork in order and made it a real thing rather than just a discussion.”

In the early days of SME, before this revival, the society was well known for its achievements.  

On Nov. 1, 1983, Robert Anstine, the previous Mayor of the City of Macomb, proclaimed Nov. 8, 1983 as Society of Manufacturing Engineers Day.  

The third paragraph of the proclamation reads as follows:

“WHEREAS, west-central Illinois will be honored by Western Illinois University receiving an official charter for its SME student chapter.  The Macomb area will benefit from WIU’s student chapter of SME by having a source of new, up-to-date information on important manufacturing issues and techniques.”

Along with having a day dedicated to Western’s student chapter of SME, the organization is known to win awards at different competitions including an award for professional development “in recognition for outstanding professional development programming during the 1990-99 academic year” from the national branch of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.  

This award and many others are displayed in various locations in Knoblauch Hall.

Smith was one of the students who approached Obregon for help in starting an organization for the engineering technology students.  

“Originally, I went to a junior college and then went into the workforce,” Smith said.  “I decided that I needed to better my career options, so I went back to school.  I wanted to give back to the school that helped me further my education.”

SME is also taking sign ups for an upcoming ski outing. 

 “It’s really exciting, actually,” Smith said. “We learned that when SME was an organization before, they had a ski outing.  It’s an hour and a half away.  It also involves ski and snowboard lessons for those who’ve never been before.  We advertise it for anyone to participate, you don’t have to be a part of the group.”

To become a member of SME, students can email or talk to other engineering technology students.  

Smith will be visiting various classes with a list to sign for an email blast list, and flyers are located on the engineering technology bulletin board located in Knoblauch Hall.  

Meetings are  held in Knoblauch Hall at 4 p.m. every Thursday, subject to change.