Two New Tools: Our Changing Design Program

Townes Degroot watches the bit of the new CNC mill cutting a series of circles in a piece of plywood, clamped to the deck of the mill. As the router makes more and more cuts in the plywood, it becomes clear that a wooden gear about four inches across is being created. The gear is cut free and Townes shuts the machine down.

Townes explains how the program he is using works. It translates designs into a language the CNC router can understand and cut out. He picks up the gear and inspects it. He explains that he is cutting these gears out for a clock, but that he hasn’t perfected the way the gears mesh. He goes back to his laptop and starts making minute changes to the tooth design in SketchUp.

The CNC mill is one part of some big changes the design and technology program has been undergoing over the past couple of years. Dave Bazis is excited to be bringing new technologies into the school and with them new capabilities.

The first big addition was a laptop cart, but Dave says that from there, the program has been making more and more technology available to its students.

Dave says the school has always been very supportive of the design and technology program while he has been a teacher. But the rate at which new technology is being introduced to the program has really accelerated in the past couple of years. Two of the most exciting new tools are three new 3D printers and a 4’ by 4’ CNC router.

3D printing is a process of a computerized nozzle putting down layers of plastic until the desired object is created. CNC milling is the opposite, the router takes wood away until it has made the piece it was programmed to make. Dave also talked about how the new technology has prompted him to learn and grow as a teacher, moving into a more virtual design-oriented curriculum.

In tandem with all the changes within the program, the design and technology program also has taken on its biggest challenge yet in the form of the library project.

“The library is the center of our community,” Dave says. “Students in semester one identified zones in the library that could benefit from a redesign.”

“The library project is one of the most exciting yet biggest risks I’ve ever undertaken,” Dave says. “When it comes to working with wood and making wood do what I want it to do.” He says the changes the school wants to make to the layout of the library include a mobile book return to be placed in the atrium, and a coffee table and benches to be used in an “unplugged zone.”

The library redesign is giving students a unique experience, seeing a project move through the process of concept, design, and creation. For Townes Degroot, his time designing and building his clock taught him more than just how to use design software and a CNC router.

“I have a newfound confidence in myself,” Townes said. “This has taught me the importance of perseverance.”