Users of all ages learn additive and subtractive at STEM education

After 33 years as a technical educator, Glen Stevenson, says he’s still excited about what he sees his students do every day. Glen is currently overseeing the development and implementation of a rapid prototyping curriculum as department chair of the Advanced Manufacturing program at Saddleback College, a community college located in Mission Viejo, California. “It’s been great to see the growth that a rapid prototyping curriculum can foster both in the students and in our program overall,” he said.

Stevenson’s work has helped the college bring state-of-the-art equipment to their expanding facility, including Roland’s MDX-40 CNC mill and ARM-10 rapid prototyping 3D printer.

“Though CAD/CAM technology has been around a long time, recently it has become much more widespread, and easier to use. In addition, the milling and 3D printing systems have gotten cheaper, smaller and better,” he said. “Roland’s equipment is extremely high quality and durable – it’s a perfect fit for our program.”

Stevenson’s Advanced Manufacturing program caters to a range of students, from teenagers just out of high school to older adults who have been in the workforce and need training or re-training in cutting-edge technology. Classes typically have 15-18 students, and are taught by Stevenson and three other adjunct faculty. “Some of our students have never used a CAD/CAM machine or 3D printer before, while others come with a specific idea that they’d like to prototype,” said Stevenson.

Students begin their CNC coursework with a simple engraving project on the Roland MDX-40.

“We have several types of 3D printers, but all of our students start on the Roland ARM-10,” said Stevenson. “Roland’s wizards are great – they help make the technology easy to understand.”

CAD/CAM programming and 3D printing are also taught at the college.

In addition to in-class projects, students who have completed the coursework are permitted to use the machines for outside work, provided they pay for the materials. Recently a student and entrepreneur used the ARM-10 to complete a prototype for a small medical device and used the prototype to apply for a grant. “Our location in South Orange County is home to several biotech companies, and we are pleased to see our students diving into this important work,” said Stevenson.

Saddleback students also participate each year in the Orange County Maker Challenge, or OC Maker Challenge. One project that was well received was a hand cover designed to ensure that painters do not get paint on their hands or fingers when pouring or carrying paint cans.

Removing prototyped parts after 3D printing

Students begin their CNC coursework with a simple engraving project on the Roland MDX-40. They engrave a flat piece of plastic with their names; a project which provides experience in designing, jigging, fixturing and milling. “The Roland MDX-40 is easy to use and holds its accuracy really well. It lets all of our students feel successful with CNC milling from their first project on up,” said Stevenson.

Stevenson has used the MDX-40’s 4th axis to demonstrate more advanced projects such as milling a bottle. He’s looking forward to incorporating projects requiring the use of the 4th axis as he expands the program’s curriculum in the coming semesters.

With the Roland equipment up and running, Stevenson is fielding requests for interesting collaboration opportunities. This year, his department will be starting a new program in medical illustration, working with Saddleback’s graphics department on illustrations and marketing materials for prosthetics. Also, over the next two years his group is converting a donated BMW into a racecar, including developing auto parts, graphics and electronics.

In addition to teaching his own students, Stevenson provides tours of the facility to neighboring high school and college groups and their instructors. “We always demo the Rolands and our visitors are blown away by how easy it is to use the Roland equipment,” said Stevenson.

Stevenson reports that with the Rolands installed and the courses that he’s been able to develop around their capabilities, he’s seen rising enrollment in the Advanced Manufacturing Program.

“What excites me as an instructor is the potential Roland’s technology offers to help our students create things that can make a difference in people’s lives,” said Stevenson.

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