By Elyana Schosek
Even though Springville-Griffith Institute is a small-town school district, the high school’s Technology Department has some unique and innovative equipment for students to use, including a CNC (computer numerical control) laser, a CNC router and a 3D printer.
The laser is capable of cutting materials anywhere from paper to plastic, cardboard to plywood and even foam. It can also engrave on those materials in addition to glass. The router is capable of cutting and engraving on all sorts of materials depending on the cutter head with wood being the main material.
The 3D printer uses PLA filament which is a plant based plastic and can be used to make anything within reason, mainly 8-inches-cubed or smaller. They can all be used for nearly any project, or at the very least a part of it, as long as it is reasonable although some machines are more appropriate at certain times than others.
These machines provide endless opportunities for students to be creative! It allows them to design and create projects using what they have learned.
“Part of the challenge at our level is students having great ideas but not being able to build or create projects that meet those expectations to function properly,” said Jonathan Shelley, technology teacher at the school. “These tools are helping to bridge those gaps.”
Many students have taken advantage of what is available to them by working on other projects outside of their classes.
For instance, Jared Hecht has made a Connect 4 board using the router and laser. He has also used the 3D printer to make a phone speaker and small parts for other projects.
“I’ve learned how to use different computer programs and also how to problem solve to use the different machines to make projects,” he said. “It has been a good experience because it has helped me to learn skills for in the future and has made certain types of tech projects easier to make.”
Josh Beres said that he has used the laser and the router to “make precision cuts and create pieces for exact fits.” He said he enjoyed “learning how to use all of the electronics and being able to design and proceed to cutting the pieces out.”
Ben Sullivan has used the 3D printer and the laser mainly to make small parts for other larger projects.
“They are useful to make very accurate sized parts that you may need to use in a project,” he said.
Ethan Fisher has also used the laser and the 3D printer for the same reasons because “it’s easy to get exact products with them.”
Michael Spagnola said that he mainly just uses the 3D printer and the laser.
“I began using the 3D printer as a sophomore just creating simple prototypes and whatnot,” he noted. “But the laser I started using only last year because that’s when we got it.”
Michael said he recently made an iPad fence mount for filming his tennis matches. He had to design a frame on the laser and then I attached 3D printed parts to allow it to be attached to the fence.
“I have learned how to take an image or an idea and create something personalized,” he continued. “For example, the fence mount that I made was created using Inventor where I had to individually make each part before being able to assemble it into a final project.”
Michael said the iPad fence mount was his favorite project because he brainstormed an idea and then began creating it using the technology available at school. He used Inventor, one of the main softwares used by the students, to “make his idea come to life.”
“I was impressed with myself that my idea and design worked perfectly as I expected it to. I was impressed with the fact that it only took me a couple of days to design and create,” he said. “That’s what I enjoy about tech and how there are no limits.”
As a member of the Tech Club at the high school, which is new as of this year, Michael has used the laser to engrave glasses for fundraising.
“We have to accommodate orders that are placed by an individual or group of people that want a specific design on the glasses,” he explained. “We take this design and engrave it on all of the glasses in order to raise money for Tech Club.”
Daniel Gernatt said using the equipment has been a good experience for him because “getting to learn this stuff is really fun and it makes things so much quicker and easier.”
Will Guilmain has used the laser, the router and the 3D printer. He said he has used the laser to make gears, the router when helping a friend on part of his project and he made a whistle on the 3D printer.
“It mainly teaches you to know the limits of your material and the machine,” Will said. “It gives me a new perspective on making parts and projects.”
Personally, I have used the laser to make a series of small lamps to get used to the machine. Recently, I made an actual lamp shade. It took a lot of trial and error and knowing what would and wouldn’t work
Overall, it has been a great learning experience for me. I have a definite sense of accomplishment as I’m sure many of us do when we finish a project.