Belton TX Students Design & Build Independence Day Float Using a ShopBot


One year ago (2012) our school bought a Shopbot Buddy, this year we progressed and learned a lot about more about Vectric software and the ShopBot machine. Because of the outstanding results our student’s were producing, our district then gave us permission to purchase 2 more Shopbots, a Shopbot Alpha and a Shopbot Desktop. Our instructor, Craig Sullivan, brought in an instructor named Brett Dickinson, who trained us on the Aspire software, and use of the Shopbot machine.


After doing multiple projects this year, our district decided to hire us, the students, as the team to build a float our local Independence Day parade. We were building it for the Belton Independent School District, and since the theme was symbols of freedom, we decided to create a 3D model of the head of the Statue of Liberty. What we used to do this, we used 4 foot long sections of 2×12, which were then glued together with a rabbet joint, for each layer. Each layer was 48 by 31 inches before being machined. We then used a 1/4 inch end mill to do our roughing for our 3D cut file. After this, we had decided on using a 1/4 inch ballnose for our finishing toolpaths, as it would still give a nice finish, but the bit would be more robust, and the cut would be finished quicker than with an 1/8th inch ballnose. We calculated the toolpaths from a 3D model, using PartWorks 3D and a program called Blender which we used to crop our 3D head off the statues body.


We then used the slice layers feature in the PartWorks 3D program, which ended up creating 10 different thinner models for us to do our toolpath calculations. The project was a fun and challenging experience, overall. To add to the floats details we carved two 28X24 inch Declarations of Independence, with the original text, which we cut using a V-Carve bit, designed in Aspire. We also made 3 Bald Eagles for decoration, roughly being 1 and a half feet square, all were the same size only different in thickness. We used a roughing tool path in Aspire using a quarter inch end mill bit and a finishing tool path in the same program using an quarter inch ballnose to do our finer 3D details on the eagle. The last of our milling was our BISD letters, which we cut out using the quarter inch end mill. Together, all of these pieces completed our float nicely. We were all happy with the results and had a blast working on this float!

This post was originally written by a student of Belton I.S.D. 

See the news article from Temple Daily Telegram ( by Jeff Osborne,
A 21st century woodshop class at Belton High: Students Use ShopBot to Create Masterpieces

Belton I.S.D. does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability, or age in its programs, activities or employment practices.

For inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies, contact: Executive Director of Human Resources at (254) 215-2015, or Director of Special Education at (254) 215-2110, 400 N. Wall St., Belton, Texas 76513.

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