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Van Buren Technology Center

Teaching the Next Generation of Manufacturers

Gabe Kooyers is an advanced manufacturing instructor at Van Buren Technology Center, located in Lawrence, Michigan. He is constantly looking for ways to best prepare his students to be valuable manufacturing employees. He does this with a combination of soft skills training and hard skills training with tools his students will see in the real world, like Mastercam.

Quick Facts

  • Product Used: Mill, Lathe, Educational Suite, Quick Part Series
  • Industry: Education

Project Details

  • The Challenge: Preparing students for rewarding careers in manufacturing in an area with high demand for skilled workers.
  • The Solution: Mastercam, the most widely used CNC software for CAD/CAM operations.
  • Benefits:
    • Easy to learn and use.
    • Expert support and advice from local Reseller.
    • Most commonly used CAD/CAM software in region.
    • Quick Part Interface simplifies the screen so students are not overwhelmed.
    • Quick Part Series provides step-by-step tutorials to teach the basics of CAM.

More than 1,000 students come through Van Buren Tech’s doors every day: approximately 500 in the morning and 500 in the afternoon. Instructor Gabe Kooyers explained that the center’s four STEM programs—Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering & Architectural Design, Welding, and Polymer Technologies—cater to a diverse group of high school graduates. Van Buren Tech invites students from 15 partnering school districts throughout Southwest Michigan, as well as adults who want skills training, to explore their programs.

The Advanced Manufacturing program’s shop, from its white epoxy floors to its high-tech equipment, is the picture of next generation innovation. Students learn on the shop’s Haas VF1, Hurco VM1, nine manual mills, and nine manual lathes. The school’s seats of Mastercam are kept up to date by Mastercam Reseller, Axsys Incorporated, in Wixom, Michigan.

Kooyers knows that he can rely on Axsys anytime he or his students run into a problem. “My individual rep from Axsys, Mike Stevens, is an unbelievably awesome, amazing support person. I can text him and he’ll be there within a day or two, willing to help out and teach me. He knows the software inside and out,” he shared. Axsys also helps Kooyers stay up to date with new software developments, like the Quick Part Series and Quick Part Interface.

The Mastercam Quick Part Series is a free collection of project-based learning tutorials. Paired with the Quick Part Interface, which reduces the number of functions shown on-screen, the Quick Part Series teaches students CAM fundamentals by allowing them to take a project from start to finish.

Last year, students made a chocolate mold, one of the first curriculum sets to be released. “They were able to step right through it all on their own,” said Kooyers. Student and instructor guides point out concepts to cover, possible problem areas, and quiz questions. He continued, “Next year, I’m going to use the tutorials immediately. I’m really excited about the new ones coming out.”

The result is a group of students who are confident in their CAM abilities and ready to take on the next challenge. After graduation, students have their pick of schools and careers. Some colleges and universities will even pay for the engineering degrees of Van Buren Tech graduates.

According to Kooyers, “All the industries in this area are just screaming for people to get into manufacturing, because in Michigan, over the course of the last 15 years, students have been pushed to go to a four-year school. Well, in the meantime, huge blocks of people were not going into the trades.”

Students who want to enter the workforce immediately can go to any of the local plastic injection molding shops, auto suppliers, medical suppliers, or job shops. One shop even promises to pay gas money for any employee who lives more than 20 miles away.


Customer Quote

“They were able to step right through it all on their own. Next year, I’m going to use the tutorials immediately. I’m really excited about the new ones coming out.”

—Gabe Kooyers, Advanced Manufacturing Instructor at Van Buren Technology Center, on the Mastercam Quick Part Series