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New CNC machine creates ‘cutting-edge’ learning opportunities at LP
Jan. 31, 2011

By Starrla Cray
Staff Writer

LESTER PRAIRIE, MN – When Lester Prairie High School industrial tech teacher Joe Scoblic saw a computer numerical controlled (CNC) machine in a woodworking magazine last year, he had two thoughts:

One, that the precision machine would be a valuable learning tool for his students; and two, that the school probably couldn’t afford to buy one.

However, through a Perkins Grant (which is federally funded for the advancement of career and technical education), the school was able to receive the $5,000 device.

“It ended up showing up here in July,” Scoblic said. “I was like, ‘wow, we got it.’”

So far, the CNC machine has lived up to Scoblic’s expectations.

“Without a doubt, it’s the most amazing machine I’ve ever used,” he said. “It has the ability to outline or carve. The sky’s absolutely the limit.”

Students who use the CNC machine first create their designs using AutoCAD software. The computer-aided design is then programmed into the machine via a laptop.

The laptop screen gives a preview of the drawing as it will appear on the wood. The detailed image shows the type of wood, the thickness of the cuts, and other useful information.

Once it’s programmed, the design is cut automatically. The only real “manual” aspect is fastening the wood to the machine.

“I’ve made every student in all my classes use it for something, just to get exposure to it,” Scoblic said.

CNC machines have revolutionized the manufacturing process, according to an online article from CNC Concepts (www.cncci.com). Different types of CNC machines are utilized in woodworking, electrical discharge machining, metal fabrication, metal removal, and more.

People who are skilled at using CNC machines are in demand, according to CNC Concepts. Job opportunities range from operators and tool setters to system programmers and maintenance personnel.

Scoblic said the machine isn’t too difficult to use, and he’s surprised how fast students learn the process.

“If you’ve had CAD, it’s very similar,” Scoblic said.

In previous years, students simply created drawings on AutoCAD, but never had a finished project to show for it.

“This gives it 10 times more power,” Scoblic said.

Many students are creating motorcycle or truck signs that they can later paint. Senior Brandon Bebo is also plans to make a box for his subwoofer speakers, with a logo etched on top.

“It’s a good experience,” Bebo said.

The ninth-graders who elected to take introduction to technology/tech ed 9 are making hope chests, with a variety of creative etchings such as branches, names, or words about finding a cure for cancer.

Future possibilities
In the future, Scoblic hopes to make the CNC machine an even more integral part of his classes.

He’d also like to offer a community education course to teach adults how to use the machine.

If someone from the community would like Scoblic to create a project with the machine, he would be happy to do that, in exchange for a donation to the school.

Scoblic said he’s excited about the limitless possibilities the CNC machine offers, such as making awards, park signs, and one-of-a-kind gifts.

“It really personalizes it,” he said.

For more information, call Lester Prairie High School at (320) 395-2521 or e-mail Scoblic at jscoblic@lp.k12.mn.us.

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