David Adkins Published

W.Va. Students Train With Computer Controlled Machines


A group of students recently got a taste of how to create metal equipment with computer-controlled machines.

The Robert C. Byrd Institute is offering free CNC Machining Bootcamps to attract new people to the field of machine manufacturing. CNC stands for Computer Numerical Controlled, meaning that the machines are operated through computer inputs.

Rick Smoot is an instructor for the inaugural bootcamp. He says that the bootcamp works as an introduction to working with CNC metal mills and lathes.

“It introduces people to manufacturing, specifically machining; how to set coordinates; operate the machines to produce good parts,” he said.

Carol Howerton is the senior strategic advisor for Workforce Development at RCBI. She says the bootcamps are accessible for anyone, regardless of their familiarity with manufacturing.

“We may have someone fresh out of high school, a 17 year old up to a 60 year old,” Howerton said. “It’s a great skill to have, whether it’s for a hobby; you want to do something around the house, or you want a full time career.”

The bootcamps are offered through the U.S. Department of Defense-funded America’s Cutting Edge, or ACE initiative, and in partnership with the National Composites Institute.

“We have guys that maybe have been displaced. We also have people that through workman’s comp, can’t do the normal job they used to do and are being retrained,” Smoot said. “A lot of veterans! Generally all it takes is a really genuine interest in it.”

According to Michael Gomez, a Senior Innovation Research and Development Engineer at MSC Industrial Supply Company, ACE aims to improve American manufacturing by developing new technology and using it to train people in manufacturing.

“We’re going to help show people with CNC Machining early on and understand machine dynamics early on, so that when those students and those people go out into industry, they understand what it is,” Gomez said.

Gomez gave a presentation at the bootcamp on the CNC program Mill Max.

The program works by tapping the metal mill’s tool-tip with a hammer, and measuring the tip’s vibrations. This measurement can be used to optimize the mill’s speed, which affects its cutting efficiency.

Noah Smith is both a student with RCBI’s associates program for CNC Machining and their bootcamp. He works at a machine shop and says he applied to the bootcamp to expand his skills.

“There’s a lot of machine shops around here that deal with RCBI and looking to employ students that come straight out of here,” Smith said.

RCBI plans to offer the bootcamps monthly starting in January, with more programs available in Charleston and Huntington.