Real Products, Real Learning

Like many metalworking companies, Cardinal Manufacturing promotes its special capabilities at trade shows and other industry events. In this case, however, the company is a machine shop run by high school students.


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Travis Egan (far left), publisher of Modern Machine Shop, and Rick Kline (far right), president and CEO of Gardner Business Media, flank students and Tech Ed Instructor Craig Cegielski.


One of the exhibitors at the recent Amerimold trade show in Rosemont, Illinois, was rather unusual. Nestled among a diverse group of influential exhibitors that represent the lifecycle of plastic injection mold processes—Dassualt (design), Absolute Machine Tools (mold machining), One Source (mold maintenance and repair) and several mold builders—was Cardinal Manufacturing’s 10 by 10 booth. What makes Cardinal Manufacturing different is that it is a student-run machine shop and a training program an Eleva-Strum Central High School in west central Wisconsin. This innovative program seeks to impart valuable machining and welding experience, along with the skills it takes to run a business.

So, like any job shop, Cardinal Manufacturing must promote its capabilities to attract work it can do for paying customers. Revenue from these jobs supports the school shop. A percentage of the profit is also paid to the students. Cardinal Manufacturing’s exhibit at Amerimold included some of the many jobs it has completed. These workpieces demonstrated the level of skills applied by the students, who work with a variety of manual and CNC machines. The shop is looking for small runs of simple to moderately complex workpieces that other companies have reasons to farm out.

Displays also included information about the program, which is being studied as a model for other schools and training institutes around the country. Four students currently enrolled in the program were there to answer questions, describe the work projects and visit other exhibitors at the show to learn about new products and processes.

Exhibiting at events such as Amerimold to build awareness of the program serves another purpose. It attracts donors. The school relies on generous donations of new and used equipment, tooling, supplies, consulting and financial support. Gardner Business Media, publishers of Modern Machine Shop and sponsor of Amerimold, helps promote the program in several ways. In fact, it used this occasion to present students enrolled in the program with fleece pullovers decorated with the new MMS logo, as a gesture of approval and support.