Over 50 high-school and junior-college manufacturing-technology teachers spent three days in July at the California Polytechnic State University campus at San Luis Obispo, for the fifth Manufacturing Technology Teachers Assn./California Drafting Technology Consortium Joint Summer Conference to improve their teaching skills and expand their technical understanding of the subjects.

The conference included CNC workshops that allowed teachers to learn machining skills on the latest CNC equipment from Haas Automation. Cal Poly SLO has the West’s largest Haas Technical Education Center – a dedicated learning facility outfitted with Haas VMCs, turning centers, and CNC control simulators. Instructor Mark McCollough, of the Paton Group, and Haas representatives Bob Cardona and Bob Aikins, led conference workshops on speeds and feeds optimization and contemporary machine setup techniques using the Haas machinery.

Martin Koch, Cal Poly SLO Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering Instructor and Lab Manager, established the summer conference more than 10 years ago to strengthen high-school technical programs by encouraging cooperation between regional teachers, their schools and local industries.

Koch notes that many high schools are actively expanding (or reestablishing) their technical programs, but that often the schools are hindered by “vocational gaps.”

“Teachers may be assigned to instruct sheet-metal fabrication, but lack even basic expertise in other areas, like casting or machining,” Koch explains. “Or, they may be CAD experts, but have little experience in the actual fabrication that follows their design work.

Koch says the consortium conference addresses such vocational gaps. “In addition to presenting general-interest seminars and breakout classes with industry representatives, we give teachers the opportunity to participate in practical hands-on workshops in several specific technical areas,” he explains.

He continued that many schools are adopting CNC machines as a logical extension to their CAD/CAM programs, so teachers are interested in learning CNC techniques.

“Administrators are beginning to understand that up-to-date high-school shop classes not only teach vocational training, they also teach pre-engineering,” according to Koch. “Besides improving teaching skills with this summer conference, we hope to pass along to high school administrators the idea that many of today’s college-bound students need a multi-disciplinary introduction to technical skills – especially machining.”