Located in the Southwestern corner of Indiana, the small town of Vincennes has produced a number of ‘firsts.’ Indiana’s first newspaper was founded in Vincennes in 1799; its first university opened (Vincennes University) in 1801, and its first bank was established in 1814. Another first soon came in January 2011. Working in partnership with the Midwest Haas Factory Outlet and the Haas Technical Education Center (HTEC) Program, Vincennes University launched the world’s first HTEC instructor training program at the Indiana Center for Applied Technology. Providing a high level of technical training for those that will lead Haas Technical Centers throughout the United States was the goal.
For those familiar with Vincennes University, this newest development is not surprising. The University’s Precision Manufacturing Technology program has supplied Indiana businesses with a steady stream of well-trained machinists since 1965. “By 1990, we had hundreds of manual machines and offered Associates degree programs in Tool & Die and Mold Making,” says Doug Bowman, director of Vincennes University's Haas Technical Education Center and former Associate Professor of Precision Manufacturing Technology. “In 1990, I became convinced that CNC technology was clearly the path of the future and voiced my desire to then Program Coordinator and mentor John Ludlow to add CNC classes to our curriculum.”
Shortly thereafter the CNC classes were established with Mr. Bowman as the lead instructor. The program proved popular and timely, soon becoming a strong pillar in the manufacturing curriculum. Yet, the university faculty recognized that the ongoing success of the program necessitated a commitment to secure new technology as it became available to the manufacturing industry. Pleased with his experiences with the Midwest Haas Factory Outlet, Mr. Bowman approached them with the idea to form a Haas Technical Education Center (HTEC) at Vincennes. A logical choice, Haas was already a proven technology partner and had a formalized structure to support the needs of educational institutions.
“We welcomed with great excitement the opportunity to work with Vincennes University to create a training ground for the next generation of machinists. Students would benefit by acquiring the skills necessary for a respectable, well rewarded and clean career path, while local companies would benefit from a steady stream of skilled labor,” explains Dave Tucker, President of the Midwest Haas Factory Outlet.
With funding from a Lilly Foundation Intellectual Capital grant, the Vincennes University HTEC opened its doors in 2005 with thirteen Haas CNC machine tools, twelve of which were new. Seven new machines entrusted by Haas Automation and five machines purchased from the Midwest Haas Factory Outlet were added to the one already owned by the university.
Today, students receive an intensive machining education on many of Vincennes 26 Haas machines. Bowman is quick to point out that partnerships like that which it enjoys with Haas Automation and the Midwest Haas Factory Outlet are extremely important. “Companies like Sandvik, SGS Tool, Mastercam, Immersive Engineering, Chick Workholding and others have been critical to the success of our program.”
Responding to manufacturer requirements for a more educated workforce, Vincennes University added third and fourth year components to its curriculum. “The third year adds another 800 hours of machining time to the 1800 required in the first two years,” says Bowman. “Fourth year students receive an Associates of Science degree in Tool & Die, or Injection Mold Tooling, Advanced Manufacturing, and a Bachelor’s degree in Technology.” This focus on hands-on training is a key reason that its HTEC graduates enjoy a placement rate near 100%.
As the Vincennes HTEC developed into a world-class educational center, Bowman and Bob Skodzinsky, Manager of Haas’ North American HTEC program, realized that they could apply their experience to improve HTEC curriculums throughout North America. “Historically, high school instructors have struggled to stay current,” says Mr. Skodzinsky. Funding for the latest CNC technology, manufacturing software and training for teachers is typically in short supply. “If instructors are not able to keep up to date with the latest technology, students do not get the maximum advantage out of their education,” explains Tucker. “By helping to improve the knowledge base of the teachers, it is hoped that more students will be better readied for the challenges of a manufacturing engineering career when they graduate.”
There are over 1000 HTEC programs in schools throughout North America. Bowman, who served as the North American HTEC President last year, conducted a survey at the national HTEC conference in Greensboro NC and found there was a definite need within the network for teacher training. Working with the University, Bowman, Skodzinsky and Tucker created a plan to launch the world’s first HTEC instructor-training program in the University’s planned Indiana Center for Applied Technology (ICAT). Ultimately it took several years to arrange for the funding required to launch the new curriculum. In the end, it would not have happened had not local businessman and philanthropist, Frank Ladner, stepped forward with a donation of $1.5 million. Mr. Ladner commented in a university press release that his “… interest is to have something worthwhile in the area to develop income and employment growth. I am glad to support projects that achieve that.” His donation enabled the university to spend $618,000 to purchase an additional seven Haas CNC machines.1 “We are extremely grateful for Mr. Ladner’s support of our mission,” explains Bowman. In addition, Haas will entrust 6 more CNC machines for a total of 13 in the new HEC lab.
Launched by Vincennes University in partnership with the State of Indiana, the ICAT opened in March 2009 as a public resource for training and retraining. In addition to advanced manufacturing, a full menu of work and supervisory skills training courses are offered, including mine safety, robotics, commercial drivers' licensing, and certification courses for nursing assistants. “Nearly one-third of Hoosiers are employed in manufacturing,” explains David Tucker, Vincennes University's vice president for workforce development. “The skills required for a career in manufacturing are becoming much more high tech. What we will do is provide high school and community college instructors with the resources to prepare students for tomorrow's careers in manufacturing.”
The Haas Technical Education Center instructor-training program launched in January of 2011. Highly focused CNC classes include as many as 40 hours of preliminary online training and simulation instruction before the student classes begin. The hands-on portion has been condensed into eight-hour sessions running three to four days. Beginner, intermediate and advanced classes are offered to address the needs of all experience levels and give attendees the ability to progress through the instructor education program. Manual CNC milling and turning, and Mastercam programming classes are offered. “Vincennes excellent academic track record makes it an ideal place to host a program like this,” says Skodzinsky.
The Vincennes University HTEC instructor-training program at the Indiana Center for Applied Technology is a truly unique resource for the manufacturing community. By raising the competency of HTEC instructors, students ultimately will receive more complete educations. Manufacturers, the ultimate customers of the HTEC program, will benefit from an increasing stream of better-educated, more capable workers. This will, in turn, strengthen American manufacturing.
(All photos courtesy of Vincennes University)
1 Vincennes University release – Ladner donates $1.5 million to VU’s Haas CNC Training Center – March 29, 2010