VIRTUAL TRAINING HELPS HIGH SCHOOLS TEACH REAL-WORLD CNC SKILLS
Incorporating CNC technology training into the curriculum can be difficult for high schools that can't afford the expense of the liability associated with live equipment, but one company claims to have found a better way. Leveraging software adapted from a German apprenticeship system, Machining Training Solutions (MTS) of Longwood, Florida, says its online Honors Program uses virtual simulation to provide an experience that's more engaging, less costly and less risky than traditional approaches while meeting the skills demands of modern manufacturers.
The online program, which is instructor-led, covers more than just CNC technology. It also provides an introduction to CAD/CAM via a student version of an integrated software package incorporating Solidworks 3D design software and CAMWorks CNC manufacturing software. With CAMWorks running inside SolidWorks and making full use of the design information available, students are able to experience the most modern design-though-manufacturing environment available.
Raymond Mark, a veteran instructor and MTS’ director of education, and the team of training specialists at MTS developed the curricula for the 100- hour online honors program using a combination of SolidWorks, CAMWorks, MTS virtual simulation software, and MTS Interactive software. The simulation software provides students with a virtual CNC machine right on their desktops, where they can test virtual reality boundaries without fear of crashing a machine and destroying the material being produced. In contrast, MTS says that traditional CNC training involving a journeyman and an apprentice can be a costly one-on-one endeavor that lowers a company’s productivity and puts machinery and the student at risk. The company adds that providing the course online and after school hours allows students to get this advanced training with no impact on their normal class work.
Because the MTS Training Center is adjacent to a precision machine shop, Mr. Mark can incorporate a shadowing technique into the training to give the online program a hands-on feel. Via a live video feed, he takes the students out to the manufacturing floor to shadow a CNC operator and showcase various machines and tooling. Students are able to ask questions during the shadowing process. “They are at an age where their minds are ripe for the learning process," Mr. Mark says. "Across the board, they are really engaged and really understand the subject matter easily. I think this taps right into something the industry is really missing–that youthful enthusiasm.”
Nicole Gislason, director of IT at the University of West Florida in Pensacola and a member of the Northwest Florida Manufacturing Council, was instrumental in getting the pilot project implemented in Northwest Florida, the company says. The first class comprised gifted students from five high schools and a Career Tech Center in Northwest Florida. More than 90 percent of the students completing the pilot honors program passed the test for the IHK-1 CNC production specialist certification. The certification is issued by the German Chamber of Commerce and is recognized worldwide as the gold standard for CNC certifications.“This is an advanced technical program. University engineering students could also benefit from this type of training,” Ms. Gislason said.
MTS was launched by Manufacturers Association of Florida President Al Stimac, who is also on the board of the National Association of Manufacturers. Mr. Stimac spent two years adapting software that was the backbone of the German apprenticeship training to fit what U.S. companies needed. For several years now, Florida’s manufacturing sector has benefited from partnerships between CareerSource Florida and postsecondary institutions using MTS Advanced Manufacturing training programs.