Skip to main content

The City Journals

AAI adds new equipment to expand engineering lab to include metal work

Oct 04, 2021 03:24PM ● By Julie Slama

AAI junior Kannon Crosby loads material into the engineering lab’s new laser cutter. (Photo courtesy of AAI.)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

This school year, American Academy of Innovation students will be able to work with metal, thanks to new equipment that was purchased for the school’s engineering lab.

The school acquired a tabletop five-axis CNC, full three-axis metal mill, articulated bandsaw, full metal lathe, a drill press, laser cutting for etching and several hand tools.

“It’s the equivalent of small machine shop, but through working with the equipment, students will learn how things are built or made,” AAI Director of Technology Robert Warren said. “It will give our young people the opportunity to look and understand the complexity of things differently, and that’s a win.” 

In the lab, students will have the ability to machine complex parts, cut gears, and make items that may reduce costs or save time.

Warren can envision the school’s robotics team using the engineering lab machinery to help build an engine or math and science students appreciating the complexity of engineering parts.

AAI has 3D printers they have used in the past, but Warren said that with the metal engineering equipment, “they can look at a chunk of metal, see its potential and realize that they can create something that will come out of it. It’s just a whole different way of thinking and that’s another way our students can learn, understand and appreciate.” 

Before high school students can use the equipment, Warren said they will be trained so they understand what to do and how the machinery works. They also will be watched as they work on projects during the school hours or afterschool, if arranged with a supervisor.

The first projects using the equipment will be simple, Warren said.

“Students may make their own ruler, so they’ll learn to look at the metal and its thickness to learning how to cut and shape it to being able to etch it,” he said. “In time, we hope to have more structure projects.”

For example, last year he said that one senior rebuilt his car from the engine to the body to the upholstery.

“If we had the equipment last year, maybe he would have sat down and designed an even better part for his engine instead of just ordering one off Amazon,” Warren said. “Then, he could have made his own part with this equipment. It really opens up possibilities.” 

The equipment cost about $30,000 and was purchased with both state funding and land trust funds, Warren said.

While there has been some delay in receiving the equipment as the supply chain was impacted by delays or shutdowns during COVID-19, some machinery arrived and was being set up as of press deadline.