The Transylvania Times -

By Lee Mc Minn
Everyday Education 

CTE IX – Keeping Up With Technology

 


Very little gets an entrepreneur as excited as when technology and opportunity coincide. Such a confluence is happening right now in Transylvania County Schools, Blue Ridge Community College, and the field of niche manufacturing.

For years, TCS Career and Technical Education courses have emphasized entrepreneurship, which is little more than recognizing an opportunity and lining up the resources to take advantage. The technology comes in the form of computer advancements in design and drafting and the emergence of additive manufacturing, known in the consumer market as 3-D printing. Opportunity presents itself in the form of a trained workforce, thanks to the foresight of Transylvania County Schools and close ties to Blue Ridge Community College.

Of course, entrepreneurs must have a product that is in demand. In the field of niche manufacturing, such a demand exists for one-off items and manufactured items required in small quantities. A high-tech example is the new Advanced Joint Strike Fighter, which currently has more than 9,000 parts suitable for additive manufacturing processes. Imagine the increased readiness and shortened supply times if all F-35 squadrons were equipped with this technology and staffed with technicians to operate it. Now expand your imagination to the entire aerospace industry. General Electric has just put an engine plant in Buncombe County. What is the opportunity there?

Additive manufacturing uses a variety of materials from polymers (plastics) to metals to print 3-dimensional objects by adding layer upon layer to build the desired object according to design specifications provided by an engineer, architect, artist, or technician. The “printed” product is usually ready for further use. The printer itself looks like a box with a moveable platform and print heads that resemble those found in inkjet printers for polymer applications or laser read/write heads for metal work.

This technology is right out of the original Star Trek and offers promise for prototype and niche manufacturing in the future, just the sort of low-impact, non-polluting manufacturing that fits our vision for Transylvania County. All that is needed is high-speed Internet, 3D-printers capable of creating in a desired medium, technicians to operate the software and equipment, and an entrepreneur with a creative talent to run the business. Start-up costs could be relatively modest, making venture capital easier to come by if the business plan (a topic covered in some CTE and BRCC classrooms) is good.

Dr. Scott Elliot is leading the program for TCS. The goal is to build a workforce of technicians, designers, and entrepreneurs who will lead the county into the future of additive manufacturing. Introductory, elective classes in design software begin in middle school and build proficiency and complexity through high school. Dan Mraz, a consultant at Blue Ridge Community College, and Glenda McCarson, dean for Transylvania Programs, are helping develop courses and curriculum to expand this promising business opportunity for BRCC students. This type of vertical integration from middle school through community college is characteristic of the way our CTE community works to our advantage in Transylvania County.

Lucas Myers, a senior at Brevard High School who is doing his engineering class project in a related field of manufacturing, is excited about new possibilities open to him since 3-D capability was introduced in his Advanced Studies class. He has made replacement parts for older cars, replacement gears for washing machines, and trophies for a dodge ball tournament sponsored by the Art Guild.

“Three-D printing expands what we can do. Modeling on the computer is particularly exciting and I can see immediate results from original design work,” he said. “I am always looking for new projects and welcome the opportunities and challenges of design and replication.”

Angela Patane (apatane@tcsnc.org), in her 24th year of teaching technology courses, says that the introduction of 3-D printing has created an enthusiasm among her students, including Myers.

Support for the program is very good but the students need to be challenged with new design projects and she welcomes the opportunity to assist community members when projects fit learning objectives. She also believes this technology is a good fit for economic development because of its small footprint, low environmental impact, and relatively low entry cost. Her goal is to raise awareness among her students and to create a workforce trained in the basics of design and modeling software.

As with all educational and workforce development programs, a strong public-sector partner is needed and the school board has been up to the task. Ultimately, according to Dr. Jeff McDaris, superintendent of TCS, the goal is to have a 3-D printer at each high school for drafting, engineering, architecture, and art program students to learn new technologies and to enhance skills in the design and customization of products that add value and quality to peoples’ lives. The inclusion of additive manufacturing in the CTE curriculum is just another example of the visionary approach that epitomizes our schools.

 
 

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