The group formerly known as the Society of Manufacturing Engineers is giving toys that promote manufacturing to Detroit-area children this Christmas.

“We need to engage children sooner and in more robust ways. We cannot count on school alone,” said Dennis Bray, SME 2013 president. “Playtime, in fact, offers an ideal opportunity to encourage kids to have fun with concepts related to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Promoting early connections is vital to later educational and vocational interest in the manufacturing field.”

The donation of 600 toys is designed to increase interest among all students, but especially girls, SME officials said. Women make up less than 25 percent of those with manufacturing jobs and only 2 percent of chief manufacturing company executives.

“Toys, including those we are donating from educational toy leader Fat Brain Toys, make science-based learning exciting and entertaining for both boys and girls,” Bray said. “Opportunities, including in the area of high-tech manufacturing, are only growing.  From teachers and students, to parents and organizations such as SME, we all need to put maximum effort toward developing a pipeline of 21st-century workers who know how to make things.”

SME is one of the co-sponsors of Fabtech, the annual construction trade show.