February 23, 2011 - The Precision Machining field was once confined to manually operated greased tool cutting equipment like lathes, milling machines, drilling and boring machines, and grinders. But over the past two decades, the occupation has steadily evolved into a sophisticated high precision manufacturing field that must meet some of the most stringent levels of precision, tolerances, and performance that are demanded by industries like aerospace and military defense. Over the past four years, the Precision Machining shop at North Technical High school has been steadily retooling and modernizing its program to stay current with present machining industry technologies. Four years ago, the program received its first high-performance computer numerical control (CNC) machining system, the Haas Automation TM-1 Toolroom Mill. A year later, another CNC System, the Haas Automation TL-1 Lathe was also delivered. These two CNC Systems utilize computer aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) software to significantly boost the output production for students learning how to be a skilled machinist. The program later acquired a Dimension 1200es 3D printer system which fabricates a physical plastic prototype from a three dimensional computer aided drawing. This year’s newest acquisition is a set of 5 Haas Control Simulators which teach students Mill and Lathe programming and operations using a Haas control panel and keypad. According to North Technical Precision Machining instructor Brett Smith, these newest tools have not only vaulted his machining program into the 21st century, but they have also given his students a significant and decisive advantage in learning the precision machining trade. Probably nothing highlighted the newly acquired skill set of his Precision Machining students more than the overwhelming success they experienced at the 2011 SkillsUSA Missouri East District Championships. Smith had nine students attending the East District SkillsUSA competition in mid- February, all eager to use their technical skills to garner a lion’s share of medals, and they did not leave disappointed. Eight of the nine North Technical Precision Machining students received second place medals or better, and will be participating at the State SkillsUSA Competition held at Linn State Technical College in late March. The eight medals (two first place medals and six second place medals) represented the largest number of medals collected by a single North Technical Program taking part in the 2011 competition. Charles Rowey, 1st place winner of the CNC Turning contest, indicated that the Haas Automation TL-1 Lathe was instrumental in preparing him for his SkillsUSA competition. Paul Kelley, 1st place winner of the CNC Milling contest, also attributed his success to the time he spent studying and operating the Haas Automation TM-1 Toolroom Mill. No doubt the highly technical field of precision machining will continue to advance, and North Technical’s machining program will modernize with it, not only to ensure student success in competition, but also to ensure success in their future endeavors. Congratulations to Instructor Brett Smith and his machining students on their victories at the 2011 SkillsUSA Missouri East District Championships!