Walker Valley High School’s engineering students will be able to use a new piece of equipment in class next semester and see their work come to life in a new way.
W.J. O’Neil Company, a Chattanooga engineering company, recently donated money to help the school purchase a 3D printer.
Alan Bivens, an engineering instructor at Walker Valley, said the purchase will allow students to gain another practical skill before they graduate.
A 3D printer is a computer-driven device that molds melted plastics into objects based on design drawings created on a computer. Objects made this way are often used to create prototypes for objects before manufacturing them for the first time, saving the company money in the process.
Bivens said his students will soon begin using a drawing software to design 3D printing projects, and they will get to see their drawings “in real life,” instead of just on a screen.
“It will help them develop a working knowledge of 3D printing before they graduate,” he said.
With more and more companies like Volkswagen, Wacker Chemie and Cleveland Tubing using the printers in their design processes to save time and money when designing new products, Bivens said students would be even more prepared to begin jobs at such companies. In addition, 3D printers are used in other fields like architecture.
Jeff Brown and Mike McSpadden of W.J. O’Neil Company recently visited Cleveland to present the check to the school.
Bivens said some of the company’s employees use 3D printers in their work, and the representatives told him they wanted to help students learn how to use a 3D printer so they could possibly have the skills they need to seek employment at a company like theirs in the future.
“Being able to offer students the latest in manufacturing technologies can only be done with our industry partners,” Bivens said. “W.J. O'Neil has shown their commitment to our young people with this donation.”
Brown and McSpadden could not be reached for comment.
Bivens said he had just ordered the 3D printer and he was already planning ways to teach students how to use it. Students will likely start out with easy-to-make projects like cellphone cases before moving onto other things.
Another local school, Cleveland High, has used a 3D printer to allow students to practice making objects like a prosthetic arm, and he added he would eventually like see his students take on projects with that level of difficulty.
Walker Valley’s engineering program is just one career and technical education program offered by the school. Programs like health science, agriculture, business, marketing and criminal justice are also offered.
“We want our students to be able to transition to the next level of education, the workforce or whatever they choose, feeling confident about their skills,” said
Chris Green, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) administrator at Walker Valley. “We also want our local industries to look to our community first when seeking qualified employees.”