Adventures Of A Community Education Class CAM Class: Episode 8

Hi my name is Mary Lacer and I was first introduced to woodturning in the late 70’s while taking a cabinetmaking course and left flatwork behind to pursue turning wood on the lathe. The first item I turned was a lamp.  From there I moved on to everything from tops, vases, miniatures, plates, bowls and hollow forms to huge platters turned outboard, since the maximum swing on my lathe was 12″.  After turning for 20 years or so, I started to concentrate on useful items for fun, personal care and items used in the home.
In going through the Community Education class catalog for the School District of River Falls I noticed a class titled, “Intro to CADD/CAM/CNC” and I’ve always wanted to know a little more about computer aided design programs so I signed up for the class.  The first night we met there were five people enrolled with a wide range of ideas of what the students wanted to get out of the class from doing signs, to designing pieces of furniture and learning more about programming itself.  It is amazing to realize what you can actually do with the CNC machines from designing simple projects to a full set of kitchen cabinets!  That was just amazing!
The students spent a couple class periods learning about designing a project on the Windows environment computer workstation using Aspire software.  We watched a few how-to videos to help us understand the process.  Then we went down to the shop area for a demonstration on the basic operation of the CNC (ShopBot*) machine.  Students that had designs ready were able to start cutting out projects.  The class continued to design projects on the computers there also.
A CNC machine is like having a number of different woodworking machines in a shop, but the CNC machine can do so much more all at once.  The CNC doesn’t just cut a board to length or width or perform some other single operation.  It cuts out numerous pieces, drills the holes where they need to be to line up doors or shelves and cuts out the entire project.  It can also do 3D projects like the Christmas wreath shown here.
Attached are a number of photos of projects made by the students in the class.
The CADD/CAM/CNC class is a unbelievable opportunity for Community education class as well as for high school students and I hope they realize the resources that are available to them.  While I was in high school I just missed the chance to choose between taking home ec and shop classes so it is great to see what is available to students today.  I’m sure it also helps the students gain confidence and that translates to other topics in the classroom and their lives overall after they graduate from high school.

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