Spring 2000
Vol 8 Issue 2


Database of Dreams?

Maricopa Learning eXchange (MLX)

Who's Doing What

Student Learning Through Career Exploration

High and Low Technology Have Roles in Today's Complex Machining Industry


Invisible Lines of Connection

The Forum



Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction

The Labyrinth... Sharing Information on Learning Technologies

High and Low Technology Have Roles in Today's Complex Machining Industry
Barbara Lacy, Maricopa Skill Center

"Making high-tech computer-aided design satellite parts and refurbishing children's bikes helps machine trades students understand that skill excellence can lead to job fulfillment," said Maricopa Skill Center Machine Trades Instructor Tom Lowe, who has taken an entry-level training program beyond the expectations of a beginning-level machining class.

The satellite parts were made for ASUSat1, a student-designed and built satellite initiated by Dr. Helen Reed, director, Aerospace Research Center and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Arizona State University in partnership with over 100 educational institutions and businesses. In addition to making complex satellite parts, the students tested other components of the rocket and followed the progress of the program.

"This was one of the most complex jobs we've done, and it involved a level of accuracy common in manufacturing but not often achieved in entry-level training," Lowe said. "Yet our parts passed the test!"

The satellite launch, January 28, 2000, was watched by millions on the evening news. For the next two years, it will beam information for ongoing studies back to earth. Meanwhile, Dr. Reed and her ASU students, are planning another student-designed project (maybe an electric car), and Lowe is making sure that MSC Machine Trades students will be part of the team.

So why bother with simple bicycle repairs?

For the basic skill training.

"Experience is still the best teacher," Lowe said. "In fact, hands-on training is the heart of the Maricopa Skill Center experience. When you take a bike apart, you have to rebuild it in the proper sequence and torque the bolts to a set tension. Only by trying to rebuild a bike and turning the bolts yourself can you understand the work involved.

"If you know basic machining well, you can learn advanced machining much easier. We want students to understand that there is value in mastering low as well as high-tech skills in this technology-driven world. But, more importantly, we believe that learning how to master all the skills related to your trade and being able to use them in real world settings will not only bring a sense of accomplishment but also a steady paycheck."

The goal for most MSC graduates is a good job that will lead to a successful career. Thus, students in the open-entry, open-exit Skill Center program work through increasingly advanced training modules to reach the first levels of the national machining skills standards (NIMS). Multiple exit points in the Machine Trades curriculum allow beginning students who cannot complete the full program to graduate with employable skills. Some graduates continue at a community college, and take advanced machining classes at GWCC or MCC. Others will learn on the job and may never return to school.

Lowe works to give all of his students not only the basic skills, but also the art and philosophy of good business and personal relationships that will help them wherever they go.

The satellite and bike projects, while demonstrating specific machining skills, have additional values in the SCANS skills set which is used throughout the Maricopa Skill Center. As he has structured the networking and community service activities, they give additional practice in the SCANS thinking skills: creative thinking to generate new ideas, decision making to evaluate and choose the best solution; problem-solving to generate an action plan; seeing things in the mind's eye to design a part; knowing how to learn, to acquire and apply new skills; and reasoning, to discover a rule or principle underlying the relationship between two or more objects.

The projects also enhance the students' SCANS personal qualities: responsibility, self-esteem, sociability, self-management and integrity/honesty.

This is the academic explanation. Lowe works on a more basic level.

"I emphasize that we are able to participate in these extra projects because of the networking I do with area businesses and agencies. I show my students that one can enrich his/her personal and work-life through teamwork... both in the classroom and across the boundaries of school, business and home.

"Life is [made up of] relationships and we need to let our students know that, without being able to use all their skills in the real world, they have only learned part of the lesson."