High school CNC programs expand beyond NWTC’s mobile lab

August 5, 2013

From greenbaypressgazette.com: “High school CNC programs expand beyond NWTC’s mobile lab” — One of two local school districts at the forefront of bringing a mobile computer numerical control (CNC) lab into existence has decided to purchase its own in-house machines.

In August and September 2011, the $360,000, 44-foot CNC mobile lab was rolled out amid much fanfare. The lab contains a full complement of computerized tools that are used for cutting precision parts. The original plan was for the state-of-the-art lab to be used by school districts, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College and local business as an educational and/or training tool.

The lab also allows high school students to train and earn credits toward certification in machine tool and later he or she can earn a CNC certificate, said Jerry Bronkhorst, mobile lab technician and driver. The creation of the lab was a collaborative effort among local school districts, NWTC, local businesses and the Door County Economic Development Corp. The idea originated at Southern Door School District when technical education teacher Dave LeBrun looked into updating the high school’s CNC equipment.

The Bay Area Workforce Development Board and the Wisconsin Job Center funded $250,000 of the lab. Teachers from Southern Door and Sturgeon Bay also went through training to become certified to teach CNC related courses.

Of the four mainland Door County school districts, only Sturgeon Bay and Southern Door regularly used the lab since its unveiling.

During its July meeting the Sturgeon Bay School Board approved purchasing the district’s own CNC equipment. One machine will be purchased using money from a $50,000 grant, and up to an additional $36,000 of the second machine is slated to come from the district’s fund balance. Technical education teachers Brian Pahl and Seth Wilson, who are both certified to teach CNC-related courses, are looking into grants to raise an additional $10,000 for the purchase of the machines.

Students will be able to take CNC classes and have those credits count toward certification if they go on to NWTC or another technical college.

According to Bronkhorst, it costs $5,000 a semester or $10,000 a year to use the mobile lab.

Sturgeon Bay High School Principal Bob Nickel said having CNC the machines on campus will allow the district to use the equipment for more classes on a regular basis.

“I would say that (the mobile lab) was a great idea, but in reality it did not work out well (for Sturgeon Bay),” Nickel said. The lab was always meant to be shared, and that restricted what the district could do with its students to a couple of hours during the week.

Several school districts in other counties plan to continue using the lab next year, including Bonduel, Bronkhorst said.

According to Superintendent Joe Stutting, another plus to purchasing the machines is that even if there are budget cuts in the future, Sturgeon Bay will not have to decide whether to cut its CNC program because it now owns the equipment.

This past spring the Southern Door School District was faced with that very dilemma when it decided to cut the mobile lab fee from the 2013-14 school year budget. At the time the district was working to close a budget deficit of approximately $700,000. Southern Door does own some CNC equipment.

“Since (the cuts were) unveiled in May, we have been having talks with a community donor who has stepped forward and agrees that this is a very important experience,” Superintendent Patti Vickman said. The $10,000 donation only covers the coming school year. The donor has chosen to stay anonymous.

Even with districts moving toward not taking part in the lab or purchasing their own equipment, the lab is not “fizzling out,” said Tara LeClair, manager for the Door Kewaunee Business and Education Partnership.

“Actually, I’m still excited about it,” LeClair said.

She admits that the lab is “a very expensive expenditure” but one of the reasons school districts have moved toward purchasing their own equipment is because the lab has educated them about the importance of CNC technology.

Bronkhorst said he has seen an uptick in students go on to attend NWTC to finish up their certification after working in the mobile lab. Six students out of a recent class of 10 chose to move on to become certified.

“It’s an exciting program. We’ve touched a lot of students and brought a lot of exposure to the program since (the labs) conception,” he said.



One Response to “High school CNC programs expand beyond NWTC’s mobile lab”

  1. Dan Joseph Says:

    I think this is a good opportunity for all the students of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College to experience the used of the CNC machines and earn a certification in machine tool. So that in the future they can easily manage CNC machine. Thanks for this program! ASIMachineTool.com

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