The next time you admire someone’s fashionable wood- framed sunglasses, you may be looking at a pair of stylish peeper enhancers created by teacher Mark Smith’s Industrial Technology class at Morris Community High School in Morris, Illinois. Located at the suburban edge of Chicago, Morris High attracts students looking to enter the area’s booming manufacturing job market, with many planning to continue their career pursuits at a community or four-year college. Of the sixty or so students enrolled in Industrial Technology, thirty are in Smith’s woodworking-oriented, computer integrated, advanced manufacturing program. His classroom shop has a full complement of hand and machine tools. Students design, problem solve, prototype and produce advanced products using Mastercam software and a CNC router.

Some time ago, Mr. Smith was approached by iWood Eco Design® of Louisville, Kentucky, to help them develop their wood-based sunglass frame line. Smith and his students use aircraft-quality quarter-inch reclaimed panel product, supplied by iWood Eco Design, that comes from luxury business jets and features exotic veneers such as ebony, teakwood, bamboo, and zebrawood. With toolpaths for various designs programmed with Mastercam, the selected wood is cut out and edged on their CNC router, steamed to make it pliable, and formed using wooden molds made in the class. When dry, the frames are sanded and finished. The students are expanding the line with new designs, even some wood temples to offer choices beyond their imported Italian metal temples.

After finishing, the frames are sent to Louisville to be fitted with optical-quality Carl Zeiss® lenses. “These iWood Eco Design sunglasses have become pretty famous,” says Smith, “with owners ranging from Bono to Oprah. Even New York models wear them on the runway. You can imagine how excited the students are to be involved in this creative process.”

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