A Day Without “Bells”


Whether it is woodworking or robotics, one of the challenges of teaching in a public high school is that the bell rings for the next class just as the students/teachers have really settled into their projects. So it was a privilege to have 3 students from Kelvin Hasch’s woodworking program at Greely High School in Cumberland, Maine, work with their ShopBot™ CNC machine for an entire day: 8:45 to 2:15.  The contrast became evident when most of the students from the first period class had to leave for the next class just as they were beginning to grasp the possibilities of their ShopBot.

moving the ShopBot with the computermachining the first parts

The morning started with explaining how the ShopBot was set up, and having the students give the computer commands to move the cutting head to the next X, Y and Z location (Quote: “How cool is that!”)  Using the V Carve Pro™ CAD/CAM software, they designed new files, placed them on the material where they wanted to cut them out, created toolpaths to cut them out how they wanted them, and machined the parts.  By the end of the day, the team of students was working independently, only relying on Mr. Hasch or me when they couldn’t come up with the answer themselves. The students represented three classes: Senior, Junior, and Sophomore, so the knowledge they acquired doesn’t have to be lost when a single student graduates. Rather, it can be sustained as the rising students mentor younger students.adjusting the Dust Skirt machining a part machining duck and panda puzzleparts post tuneup

working together

If you measure success by smiles and enthusiasm, everyone got an A. If you want to assess tangible outcomes, you can measure math skills, reading technical documents, perhaps writing technical documentation, entrepreneurship. One student said he had missed a quiz in math, but he was going to tell his teacher that he had been doing math all day when running the machine. More global skills such as design thinking, problem solving and working together as a team are not as easy to quantify but can have a huge impact on a student’s future.

The Program: Kelvin Hasch runs a traditional woodworking program, with all of the standard power tools. He runs an afterschool program where kids in traditional classrooms and those with special needs work together to create crafts. They donate the money they earn from selling the crafts to a charity that they have decided is worthy.

the shop 2 the shop 1 carfts for sale 1 crafts for sale 2

The tool: Mr. Hasch’s ShopBot PRT is a “legacy” tool, built in the early 2000’s, and once swamped by a leaking roof.  With a bit of tuning, it will be in fine working shape for years to come.  Problems with “step down” in the cut parts were fixed by securing the router more firmly to its bracket, and the plate that allows you to automatically Zero the Z was wired into the Control Box.  ShopBot has sent a replacement for the cable that had dry-rotten after sitting in a bag for 10 years. The Porter Cable™ router will be replaced with a more powerful and precise spindle (already purchased.)  While the CAD/CAM (Computer-Aided Design/Computer-Aided Machining) software has been updated, upgrading to Aspire™ could allow the kids to design in 3D, or take models designed for 3D printing and machine them on the ShopBot.

pre-troubleshooting_edges of parts not square_bad cable other students regular class town of Cumberland maintenance department

The Future: Mr. Hasch’s operating budget has been decreased over the years, so he relies on donations of wood and other materials to provide supplies for his students.  He often does in-kind exchanges to supplement the program. For example, the maintenance crew from the town of Cumberland visited while we were working, and came away with a whole host of ideas of how they could make use of the ShopBot in their work.  The gym recently replaced its bleachers, and Mr. Hasch and his students are planning on creating products from the wood recycled from the old bleachers to sell and purchase a laser cutter for the program. With a bit of communication, students interested in robotics and engineering (STEM), and those interested in art, will learn that they have an incredible digital fabrication resource hanging out in the wood shop.


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