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Monroeville technical school to add 3-D printer into curriculum

| Thursday, April 10, 2014, 12:30 a.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Brandon Weltz, 16, of Penn Hills, uses a mill during the Machine Tool Technology class on Monday, April 7, 2014, in Forbes Road Career and Technology Center in Monroeville.

Students in machine tool technology classes at Forbes Road Career and Technology Center in Monroeville expect to have more career choices when engineering is incorporated into the curriculum this fall.

They will use a 3-D printer to produce plastic or metal objects that are drafted using computer-aided design and manufacturing software.

A scanner will be used to take apart the objects for inspection. Then, students can use the printer to build the fine-tuned version of the product.

Students in the classes make objects manually using lathes, drill pieces and other machine-shop equipment, said Paul Balint, Forbes Road administrative director. Many go on to work for tool and die shops.

With the new technology, students will be trained to work as process-control programmers and tool and machine operators in robotics, orthotics and other fields.

“They're using this process to make candy,” Balint said, referring to food companies.

“The scanner, along with the 3-D printer, allows students to maintain a competitive edge in manufacturing technologies,” machine tool technology instructor Keith Rhodes said.

The school, which provides vocational training to students in grades 9 to 12 from nine school districts, will gradually phase out machining, said Balint, noting that state grants helped pay for the printer and scanner. There are 27 students in tenth through 12th grade who take machine tool technology classes.

“A lot of kids find manufacturing jobs dirty and repetitive,” East Allegheny School District Superintendent Roger D'Emidio said. “This may change their minds.”

Phyllis Miller, human resources manager at the Hamill Manufacturing Co. in Penn Township, Westmoreland County, said the curriculum will make students more attractive to potential employers.

“It's wonderful and exactly what you want to do,” she said.

“What they'll learn is definitely up and coming,” said Glenn Skena, a Hamill employee and a member of the Forbes Road occupational advisory board.

Forbes Road assistant director Georgiana Gamberoni said she thinks the curriculum will make students more productive.

“Programs (like these) turn students into makers who are driven by curiosity, creativity and completion of projects,” she said.

Multimedia design instructor Eric Pino expects the students' work to become more exact.

“With the 3-D printer, (students will) see their projects differently,” he said. “Students will be forced to design properties of the models, such as dimensions, within the software accurately.

“Students will need to learn to work with multiple types of digital files to be literate when working across different software platforms.”

Wesley Lewis, 18, of Monroeville, a computer networking and security student who will graduate this year, said he's sorry he will miss the curriculum.

Lewis said a 3-D printer would have been helpful in producing buttons and other parts for a virtual pinball machine he and fellow student Kahlil Johnson made.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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