Innovative Students Master CAD/CAM and Find Jobs

Butler Tech in Colerain Township, Ohio, trains high school students for skilled professions while they complete academic courses. Boasting a 95-percent job placement rate, the Cincinnati area school’s precision machining program covers manual and CNC machining, milling, gaging, and surface grinding.

Thanks to government grant money and donations from area manufacturers, Butler Tech renovated its entire shop, which is now a big draw for local high schoolers. David Fox, Butler Tech instructor, heads the popular program at the Colerain High School Career Center.

“Companies are excited to help out,” he said. “Employers were saying, ‘Let’s get some grant money for this program—we are in dire need of machinists.’”

That dire need is a direct result of the “silver tsunami” that is taking manufacturing and a slew of other American industries by storm. As the nation’s workforce reaches retirement age, companies must find ways to attract, train, and retain the next generation. Butler Tech is doing its part by preparing students for manufacturing careers. To support its design and CNC machining curriculum, the school chose to purchase seats of Mastercam.

As an introduction to CAD/CAM, students drew boxes then learned to set grids and ribbon bars. They studied toolpaths and used Mastercam Backplot and Verify utilities to check tool motion. For an initial assignment, they designed and machined key chains shaped in the likeness of their school mascot. The eager students learned quickly, and their instructor picked up a few things along the way.

“I am fluent in Mastercam, but every semester a student will teach me something new,” said Fox. “They’re so computer literate—it’s amazing what the kids can do.”

At Butler Tech, students learn designing, machining, and how to apply manufacturing solutions to real-life situations. One group summoned its creativity and skills to improve the life of a fellow student. The young woman, who has the use of one arm, worked in a hospital. She could not make up hospital beds because she was unable to put on her required latex gloves.

Butler Tech project in Mastercam

After some brainstorming, Butler students designed and manufactured a pronged part that can be carried in a pocket and snapped onto a linen cart. A latex glove is draped over the part prongs, allowing a hand to be easily inserted into the open glove. Now that latex gloves are not an obstacle for the student, she can complete her job tasks. Aptly named the Glove Aid, the Mastercam-designed product is featured on the YouTube channel and continues to draw attention.

“We’re getting calls from a lot of people, including people with cerebral palsy, that need a Glove Aid,” said Fox. “So, we’re actually remanufacturing it right now.”

In addition to gaining design and problem-solving skills, Butler Tech students learn all-around machining skills, including boring, drilling, tapping, grinding, and programming Dynamic Milling toolpaths.

As a program instructor, Fox’s goal is to help his students qualify for and find employment. Many local manufacturers offer Butler students apprenticeships and others offer direct employment or co-op positions. Every year, the school holds an open house and invites potential employers to meet with juniors and discuss employment opportunities. At a recent open house, every junior was hired.

The national shortage of skilled machinists and programmers fuels the push to attract young workers to the manufacturing sector. To help offset the wave of retirees, Butler Tech will keep preparing students for promising CAD/CAM and machining careers.