School Shop Program Makes a Difference
How a High-School Metal Shop Program Helped Launch an Astronaut’s Career.
Story and photos by C. H. Bush, editor
Dennis Walters and students discuss the pedal assembly for the SAE replica car Esperanza built. Students used the school’s Omax Maxiem 0707 waterjet machining system to cut almost all the parts for the car built for their UCI performance engineering project. The Esperanza manufacturing class also used the Maxiem to cut parts for Cal State Fullerton’s contest entry.
There are approximately 28,000 public high schools in the United States. Many of those produced graduates famous in numerous fields. But how many of those schools can say, “We produced a NASA astronaut?”
Well, if each of the astronauts ever trained by NASA graduated from a different high school, that number would be no more than 540, because, to date, that’s about how many NASA has trained.
Now how many high school metal shop programs can say, “We influenced a young man to follow a career that led to him becoming an Astronaut currently doing duty on the International Space Station?”
That probably narrows the choice down to just one school—Anaheim, CA’s Esperanza High School.
“The astronaut we’re talking about is Joseph Acaba, who graduated with honors from Esperanza in 1985,” says Dennis Walters, 36-year veteran Esperanza manufacturing instructor. “Joseph took metal shop at our school, and when he was selected to be an astronaut, he told the press that our shop class made a big difference in influencing him to follow the career he did. Joseph went on to obtain an M.S. in geology.”
If Esperanza’s metal shop class influenced Acaba, Acaba’s remarks to the press about Esperanza had an even greater influence on the future direction of that school’s industrial arts program. It changed things forever.
“When Joseph mentioned the metal shop, the newspapers came to us and said, ‘Hey do you still have a metal shop?’” recalls Walters. “And so, because of that exposure and the fact that he said it made a big difference in him becoming an engineer, we got inquiries from Cal State Fullerton and U.C. Irvine. They wanted to know if we still had a metal shop. We said, ‘Yes, of course.’ That happened just as we were beginning to redo our manufacturing and engineering facilities.”
Engineering instructor Larry Eynon and Dennis Walters examine the center piece for the rim made by their students. The piece had to fit the outer part of the rim to the center part of the lug pattern. The part was one of many cut on the school’s Maxiem 0707 waterjet. Eynon teaches CAD/CAM and other engineering subjects. Walters teaches hands-on manufacturing.
A Program Transformed
Because of the publicity, a lot of people took notice of the Esperanza program. One such person was Alisa McCord from the Orange County, CA, Department of Education.(OCDE).
“Alisa is the CTE and STEM coordinator from OCDE,” Walters says. “She has been very helpful to us in transforming our program into one that is a model for the whole country. Our District Advisory Committee also has played a key role in making recommendations to the school district to help us achieve what we have.”
One result of the program transformation has been that the Esperanza manufacturing-engineering program has been nominated for the SME PRIME school program.
“Kathy Looman from SME has been very instrumental in getting us nominated for the PRIME program,” Walters says. “Larry Eynon, our engineering instructor and I have been helped by so many people to lift this program to its current level of excellence, it’s almost impossible to name them all.”
The SME Education Foundation’s PRIME (Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education) is committed to changing the future of manufacturing education and addressing the shortage of manufacturing and technical talent in the United States. The SME initiative builds on its five-year, $5.2 million investment in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)-based education programs supporting workplace development.
To be nominated as a PRIME school, the school must offer an exemplary manufacturing curriculum, have skilled and energetic instructors, have engaged and active students, must have strong administrative support from the district and school, have the potential for support from the manufacturing community and have SME member involvement including SME local chapters.
“We’ve met all those criteria and some,” says Walters. “We’ve had fantastic help from the community, from companies like Omax, who gave us a great deal on a Maxiem 0707 waterjet, from Haas to get a Tool Room Mill, and Barton Mining, who has supplied additional garnet for the waterjet. I’ve been here 36 years, and I’m just amazed at the transformation that has taken place in the past six years.”
Instructor Dennis Walters and students discuss the pedal assembly for the SAE replica car Esperanza built for their UCI performance engineering project. The finished car is shown on the right. Goal was to see how far the car could go on $1 of gasoline.
The Manufacturing-Engineering Program
The Esperanza program offers students two quite different pathways.
One is the UC/CSU Engineering pathway for college-bound students. This program is taught by engineering-CAD/CAM instructor Larry Eynon. The second is the Industry and Certificate pathway, taught by instructor Dennis Walters. This pathway is designed for students more interested in going directly into jobs in the private sector.
“Students following the certificate pathway first learn the principles of engineering and design and manufacturing applications,” Walters says. “They take drafting and CAD/CAM from Larry Eynon for a semester, and then they’ll come to me and take basic manufacturing. Or they can start with me and then go to Larry’s classes.”
Over a 4-year period, students learn the basics needed to obtain entry level jobs in the metalworking industry.
“The manufacturing course introduces students to working with a variety of metals like steel and aluminum,” Walters explains. “In addition to the basic apprentice-type skills like filing, etc, they learn proper safe work habits used in industry. We place major emphasis on teamwork, being on time, and fulfilling promises. Our students learn a lot of manufacturing technology, such as machining, casting, forging, arc welding, gas welding, bench iron and sheet metal. Mainly we do this through having them build and complete projects like the two-year UCI SAE replica car built for their UCI performance engineering project. This project had a very tight deadline and taught them teamwork, the need to rely on each other and to deliver on time. It was a great training experience.”
Omax Helped Meet Deadline
Esperanza was able to add the Omax Maxiem 0707 waterjet to its training arsenal in November 2011.
“Omax gave us a really good deal on the machine,” Walters says, “and they offered us two years to pay for it. But that wasn’t necessary. Our district was committed to the project and put up half the money. Alisa McCord wrote a grant and was able to give us a large portion of the money to complete the purchase. The bottom line for us is that the Maxiem is the capstone of our program. Our students love to work with it, and the fact is, without the Maxiem, we couldn’t have built the SAE car on time. The kids designed the parts, then sent them to the Maxiem for fabrication. They love the machine.”
The school has about 200 hours on the machine, and so far it has been extremely reliable.
“The students can be very disappointed if they push a button and the equipment doesn’t work,” Walters says. “But so far, we’ve had nothing go wrong with the Maxiem. It’s been very reliable and Omax’s service and support has been great. Usually, all I do is make a quick call to Omax tech support, and they can tell me what to do over the phone. What’s amazing about that machine is that they say it can cut through up to a seven-inch slab of titanium. We don’t do that, of course, but it amazes me and my students to know it.”
Larry Eynon, engineering and CAD/CAM instructor (standing) points to a large projection on the front wall of the content from his computer. His computer is echoed on those of his students, as well. His lectures are broadcast via microphone. In this photo Eynon explains several aspects of SolidWorks, which he teaches along with Mastercam to more advanced students. Both college-bound and work-bound student spend time in this classroom.
Walters says he plans to retire at the end of 2013, but when he does, it will be with great satisfaction.
“We’ve seen a lot of great students come through this program,” he says, “and now that we’ve been nominated for SME’S PRIME, that will crown a long and satisfying career for all of us in the program.”
Becoming a PRIME program will yield $10,000 for new equipment, $5,000 in funding for Gateway Academy summer camp, scholarships and other benefits.
“I may be an optimist,” Walters says, “but I think we’ve done it!