Looking into Candor Central High School’s technology education shop now, you wouldn’t believe that 15 years ago it held only an old manual lathe to serve all of its tech students.  Stephen Lindridge, the instructor for the general high school technology programs, has worked tirelessly to outfit his students with the best equipment available.

Based in Candor, New York, Candor’s technology programs include Design Drawing for Production, Manufacturing, Applied Physics, Architecture, and Computer-Aided Drafting and Design, which cater to students who want to enter the STEM field. Graduates often continue their education at trade schools or colleges, but many find jobs right out of high school. Design Drawing, Architecture, and Computer-Aided Drafting and Design are even college-accredited. Lindridge said he feels strongly that part of setting his students up for success is introducing them to the equipment and software that they will be using in their future careers.

Years ago, Lindridge took it upon himself to lobby his administration, write to local industries, and explore grants until he could create a state-of-the-art technology woodworking and metalworking shop of which he could be proud. Very quickly, he was able to bring on additional manual machines, including: a Bridgeport milling machine, a Van Norman milling machine, a small desktop milling machine, and a Standard Modern lathe. Lindridge said he knew that the future of manufacturing was based in CNC, and kept fighting until his shop had two Smithy-Granite 1324 milling-lathe combination machines, which he outfitted to be CNC machines. Also in use is a Zenbot CNC router.

He then started looking for software. After trying a couple, Lindridge decided on Mastercam CAD/CAM software, (CNC Software Inc.), which he obtained through a grant. Candor’s certified Mastercam Reseller, Allegheny Educational Systems, Inc. was there to help Lindridge set up the software and teach him how to integrate it into his shop. The school also received assistance and practical software training from Incodema Inc., a local prototyping company.

As the shop grew, so did its projects, and Lindridge once again gained support from the local community. Stork H&E Turbo Blading USA donated Cat 42 tool holders, endmills, carbide insert cutters, extra carbide, and a used OKK VM4 machine, and Incodema owner Sean Whittaker also donated a Milltronics VM4 machine. “Stork and Incodema have recognized this huge need for machinists, so I’m training kids as quickly as I can to get students into the field right out of high school,” said Lindridge.

The technology education shop enables students to undertake projects they never imagined. “One of the first things I do with my manufacturing class as freshmen is use CAM software to do a cutting board,” said Lindridge. The 14- and 15-year-old students can program the Zenbot CNC router to engrave their names or messages into wooden cutting boards, as well as programming a channel along the outside. As proud as his freshmen are of their cutting boards, Lindridge said, their projects only get more exciting as their skills grow.

Working with CAD/CAM programs, students produce projects from a variety of media, including a maze made from aluminum and Plexiglas. "We do a holiday decoration, too. Students machine a dome into a 7-inch x 7-inch x 2-inch thick piece of wood. On the periphery of the dome, we machine little snowflakes.” The bottom is covered by 1/2-inch Plexiglas into which the students have machined a design of their choosing. An LED light is placed in a machined slot at the very bottom, and when it shines it illuminates the details of the decoration.

One of the projects closest to Lindridge’s heart is a toy vehicle manufacturing assignment. There are a dozen different versions of the toy that students can create, but when the project was first introduced the design was very specific. That first year, students recreated a wooden toy truck that Lindridge’s great grandfather made for his grandmother when she was four. The truck is over 100 years old now and sitting safely on his mantle at home.

Lindridge assigns the programming aspect of the project to his CAD class. Students design and map out each part, like the drive wheels of a locomotive toy, inside the software. Then, the manufacturing class makes the parts on the machines. As the years go by, the designs change to accommodate more and more student ingenuity. Lindridge noted the Mastercam software offers practically limitless design opportunities.

“It doesn’t limit us at all,” he said, “Other programming software packages that we’ve used in the past have had a ceiling, if you will. We get to a point where we’re challenging the program and we can’t do what we want to do. We have never been able to challenge Mastercam. The limiting factor now is what my students dream up, which is a great limiting factor.”

By freeing his students to tap into their own creativity, Lindridge said he can focus more on developing their confidence in their skills and in themselves. He is also developing a skilled workforce for the manufacturing industry. "My goal is to at least get a kid up-to-speed so they can understand the process, and the process goes all the way from designing to programming to actually making it.”

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