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The Force Is Strong with These High School Machinists

High schoolers in a Computer Integrated Manufacturing class learned how to design a part for turning, calculate feeds and speeds, program a CNC lathe, and become Jedi knights.
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If you’re not aware of the hype and fanfare over "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" blanketing the Internet, TV screens and supermarkets everywhere—then you must be working too hard.

Take a minute to appreciate how Star Wars may be contributing to the future of manufacturing.

In anticipation of the new film’s release, WGN TV out of Chicago, Illinois, aired a story about a class of high school machining students who, as the reporter introduces it, “are learning about engineering and design with a little help from the force.”

Benjamin Brzezinski of Niles West High School’s Computer Integrated Manufacturing class drew on his love for the sci-fi films to help his students learn about designing a part for turning.

In an interview with Project Lead the Way, he explains that he came up with the idea for the students’ turning project after talking with a colleague: “[H]e mentioned the new Star Wars movie, knowing I was a fan, and said, ‘Too bad you couldn’t do a project for that.’ And then it hit me: The lightsaber hilt is essentially a cylindrical object! I could turn a lightsaber hilt on the lathe and add rapid-prototyped attachments later on after machining was done.”

Needless to say, the force is strong with this one. The students, too.

After working out an original lightsaber hilt design using Autodesk’s Inventor CAD software, each student had to calculate speeds and feeds for the tool and material, and then set up and program the Haas CNC lathe. Once finished, he or she went back and calculated how much money was wasted by material loss as part of the assignment.

“It’s about finding something to engage the students that’s interesting to them but still making sure they learn the important facts about machining,” says Mr. Brzezinski, who looks like he enjoyed the project every bit as much as his students did, if the video above is any indication.

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