Teacher to Teacher: Stephen Lindridge
The following is a guest blog written by Stephen Lindridge, a fantastic instructor and advocate for manufacturing education. He shares ideas about how to get students motivated and how to help them overcome the fear of failure to embrace iterative project and skills development.
My name is Stephen Lindridge, and I am the Technology Education Department chair at Candor Central High School in Candor, New York. My program is comprised of five totally different classes. Three are directly related to the manufacturing field—Design and Drawing for Production, Manufacturing, and CAD.
Design and Drawing for Production is a freshman year college-accredited program that teaches students the language of a manufacturing engineer. It is a design-and-build course that focuses on the creation of manufacturing drawings using ASME and ANSI standards. Students use SOLIDWORKS® to create designs, and then we use Mastercam to program our machines.
Manufacturing is a class that focuses on building. I supply all the design drawings, and students learn how to set up and operate both manual and CNC machines consisting of lathes, mills, plasma cutters, and routers. Students are expected to use documentation to mass-produce items—first for themselves, then items that will be sold to the public. In addition to learning about metalworking equipment, students are expected to become proficient on a wide array of woodworking machines as well.
CAD is a college-accredited design program and machining course. Students are expected to use both SOLIDWORKS and Mastercam to design, program, and machine project parts. This class focuses heavily on the programming aspect of Mastercam.
In any of these three classes, engaging my students is incredibly important. I’ve found success through having them reach beyond their comfort zone. Once students embrace the fact that they are going to fail, and that failure is part of the process, they then can start learning. I do this by giving them problems that require multiple iterations.
Change and modifications are a way of life in manufacturing. Today, companies are looking for employees that are flexible and willing to learn new material all the time. Having the ability to grow and adapt with a company and with new technologies makes employees valuable. It is our job as educators to prepare students for careers and not necessarily more schooling. It is my belief that all education should be focused on getting a job.
Any project that gets students to design, program, machine, and assemble prepares them for the real world. Students need to walk out of my room holding whatever they’ve designed and machined. When a student takes a finished project or machined part home, they are proud of their hard work. Hard work is the key to success, and that pride gives them the motivation to keep trying.
As we prepare our students, though, we all inevitably encounter snags. One struggle I often find myself facing is getting students to overcome their fear of failure. I have found that students are expected to pass everything in school, that we as educators focus on having them succeed above all else. I want my students to succeed, but they need to know that it is alright to take risks and fail.
Failure is part of learning. Consider a toddler trying to walk. We don’t expect them to succeed the first time; they learn by failing and falling over and over again. The challenge is how do we get students to be like toddlers again and have them fail, get up, and fail again?
The tricks I use to teach Mastercam often fix this very problem. I come up with a sequence of simple assignments that gives students success early on, but that they repeat multiple times. This will allow for experimentation and risk-taking with the program and their designs. Remember, failure is a great way to learn. Years ago, I read that learning through experience is hard because the test comes first and then you learn your lesson. The results are impressive and self-evident.