Marlana Wunderlich

We made cool stuff,” says Marlana Wunderlich, who grew up working on go-karts and bikes. “I always wanted to work with my hands.” However, it wasn’t until her 30s that she could apply these skills on the job.

Wunderlich, who is married with four children, had been a three-sport athlete who earned a track scholarship to Cowley College in Kansas. However, with a family to support, she needed to leave school. She went to work at a nursing home and a restaurant. “They were jobs, but I wasn’t going anywhere,” she adds.

Later, after enrolling at Wichita’s WSU Tech, Wunderlich discovered computer numerical control (CNC) machining, in which computers dictate the movement of factory tools. “CNC and manufacturing are big, so I knew there would be opportunities,” she says.

In fact, before earning her associate degree, she was hired by Cox Machine, which uses CNC to make aerospace parts and assemblies. Wunderlich loves the job. “Automated manufacturing challenges you,” she explains.

The SkillsUSA member credits instructor Michael Corby for guiding her into competition. Her Automated Manufacturing Technology three-person team competed at the 2018 SkillsUSA Championships. It was mind-blowing, she says. “You walk in the door to competition and are amazed.” She now wants to coach future competitors.

Corby’s advice to students is, “Never stop learning.” He says only 15 percent of his class is female and that Wunderlich, as a fantastic student, was “all in” from the start. “She was early to class, ready to work and helped other students. That’s a teacher’s dream.”