Jeff Roberts, community coach at Fort Wayne Community Schools’ Amp Lab, has a long track record of incorporating the community into his classroom instruction, inspiring and equipping students to pursue their dreams in the process. And with 22 years of classroom teaching experience, Roberts is no stranger to his current role.


It was Roberts’ community engagement and collaborative focus that caught the attention of Riley Johnson, principal of the Amp Lab, which creates opportunities for students to enhance their educational experience by solving real-world challenges as part of their 11th and 12th grade experiences.


Roberts’ role at Amp Lab comes down to two primary focuses: 1) help kids discover how their passions can become careers and 2) get them in a position to see what that career might look like.


It’s an approach he adapted for his presentation to 40 area middle school youth who enrolled in Northeast Indiana Works’ Manufacturing Experience 2023 at the Amp Lab at Electric Works, Fort Wayne. The free day camp, held March 11, was the second in a series of events designed to enhance the talent pool for the manufacturing industry, the largest-employing sector in northeast Indiana.


“We wanted to kick off the event with a way to help kids connect their passions, dreams, and skills,” said Roberts. “We wanted to offer something interesting and fun to start the morning, but also to give them an interactive activity to start dreaming big.”


To accomplish that goal, Roberts introduced students to the image of a lightbulb, with each part of the lightbulb representing an area he wanted them to consider. The inside represented skills, the wiring leading up to the skills represented passions, and  light radiating from the bulb represented their dreams.


“The goal was to help kids brainstorm how they can turn what they like to do into how that interest can benefit others,” said Roberts. “We wanted to give them questions they wouldn’t be afraid to answer – something  they continue to think about as they moved to their stations on electrical and 3D modeling.”


Whether kids settled on interests in gaming, You Tube creation, or cosmetology, each discovered how to link their skills and passions to a dream. It’s this kind of “design thinking” that Roberts believes will help kids with any career.


The day’s activities were made possible through a collaboration involving Northeast Indiana Works, the Don Wood Foundation, Fort Wayne Community Schools’ Career Academy, and the Amp Lab. The camps are part of a larger manufacturing awareness campaign aimed at raising middle schoolers’ awareness of the opportunities available to them in the region and anchored by a website that can be accessed at