Big Ideas by John Deere!

Big Ideas was featured in John Deere‘s November issue of The Furrow! Check it out to see how we’re partnering with passionate students to change minds about careers in skilled trades. Read the full article here:

Lighting a Virtual Spark


High school students learn about trade careers through simulators.

“I don’t need to take a foreign language to get into college. I’m not going to college,” Michael Stangler, of St. Charles, Minn., said to his parents and guidance counselor as a freshman. What does this high school student seem destined for? If you thought to yourself, ‘sounds like he already knows what he wants to do and how to do it,’ you would be correct. Stangler has known he wants to be a welder for a while and knows he does not need a four-year university degree (nor the prerequisite classes) to do that. That is not the norm for his peers who also may be best suited for something other than the college track. But unlike Michael, many students with the potential for successful skilled trade careers haven’t even been exposed to them or may view them with a negative stigma. Sparking an idea. A non-profit based in New Ulm, Minn., is trying to change this and spark a big idea, quite literally, in high school students. Mary Ann Christensen and Rebecca Fliszar founded Big Ideas, Inc., after similar experiences when their children were in high school. “Despite having family members in the trades, their kids didn’t really think trades were even an option when graduating high school, so the two moms thought about how they could encourage people to see the breadth of options,” says Joe Schotzko, an instructor for the organization. What started as long-form seminars in 2017 pivoted into a retrofitted semi-trailer brought to schools and events around the state. The trailer is full of simulators so students can get a hands-on feel for the techniques needed and many opportunities available in the skilled trades before they get dirty in the workshop. Students rotate through each augmented reality station—welding, spray painting, and excavating—and then also have the chance to pick from 23 other simulations using a standard virtual reality headset and controllers.