CNC reaches junior high

Colina Middle School in Thousand Oaks, Calif., is one of the few middle schools in the country that provides students with the opportunity to design and build complex objects using CNC machinery.

Gary Norwalt, a teacher at the school, spearheaded the program by soliciting donations of material and services that were used to build a three-axis CNC gantry milling machine from scratch.

Norwalt is planning to upgrade the machine by adding a rotary table. This will make it possible to produce parts with complex curved surfaces such as the streamlined body of a CO2 racing car. "We ended up spending only $4,000 for a machine that is worth at least $15,000," Norwalt says.

Donated ArtCAM software will be used in the Advanced Computers class that is offered to seventh- and eighth-grade students. CNC is just part of the class that also includes Web page design, animation and other subjects.

"The amount of time that we spend on CNC will depend upon the students' level of interest," Norwalt says. "Some years we might spend six months on CNC and other years only three. This year the kids have seen what they can do with ArtCAM and they are anxious to get started. They are particularly interested in making signs."

This article originally appeared in the March 2010 issue.