GlobalFoundries' cafeteria nearly overflowed Friday morning with 350 students from around the Capital Region who learned, up close, what modern manufacturing looks like.
Most were high school or middle school students who already have shown some interest in technology careers.
But even some kindergartners from the Clifton Park-Halfmoon area were in on Fab 8's demonstrations about how computer chips are made and some of the scientific principles behind the work.
"We like to plant the seed early and show them how exciting things can be," said Gwen Bluemich, Fab 8's director of strategic education and workforce development.
The event brought students from eleven schools or training programs to hear U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, Fab 8 General Manager Tom Caulfield and others talk about modern manufacturing as part of "Manufacturing Month," a national initiative.
GlobalFoundries employs nearly 3,000 and is recruiting more technicians to work in its "clean room," where blank silicon wafers are turned into the chips that enable smartphones, laptop computers and other electronic devices.
Tonko said the image of manufacturing needs to change to reflect the modern reality.
"It's not dirty, dumb and dangerous," said Tonko, D-Amsterdam, a trained engineer who sits on the House Energy and Commerce and Science, Space and Technology committees. "It's smart and clean and innovative. You could eat off the floor."
Caulfield said there are only four companies in the world that make today’s most advanced computer chips, and GlobalFoundries is one of them. The chips are made in the Luther Forest facility.
Some students participated out of simple curiosity, others because they have a genuine interest.
"I think this is really informational for me," said Jacob Rafferty, 15, of South Glens Falls. "I'm learning about (electric) circuitry. It really interests me -- drawing and making circuits."
Demonstrations, including using the electrical properties of Play-Doh to conduct current and light a tiny light, making "slime," and trying on the white full-body "bunny suits" worn in clean rooms to protect the computer chips from skin oils and other contaminants.
John Veitch, of Saratoga Springs, teaches electronics at SUNY-Adirondack. He said the opening of GlobalFoundries in 2012 has spurred new interest in electronics careers.
"I've had three students come down and apply and get hired," he said. "They're very happy. They're a good employer."
A trade group, The Manufacturing Institute, estimated that 3.5 million new manufacturing jobs could be created in the United States over the next few years, but two million could go unfilled due to lack of the right skills and training.
"The idea here is that they go home and say, 'This is so cool,' and maybe take a physics class or calculus," said GlobalFoundries spokesman Steven Grasso.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.