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Lincoln Academy’s new CNC machine, a precise, computer-driven cutter, in the ATEC woodshop.

As Lincoln Academy students return to school this week, many of them will be heading to classes and clubs in the new Cable-Burns Applied Technology and Engineering Center, known on the LA campus as ATEC. This state-of-the-art building was completed in March of 2015, and though some classes met there in the spring, the building’s resources were not fully up and running until now.

Maya Crosby, a long time LA teacher and Technology Coordinator who recently took on the role of Program Director of ATEC said, “Over the summer students from the LA Innovation and Technology team (LA IT) as well as teachers and maintenance staff put in many hours getting the building ready to operate at full capacity… It is very exciting to see these new spaces coming to life.”

The ATEC building will house media and film classes, Computer-Aided Design (CAD), computer science and robotics, engineering, wood and metal working, digital fabrication on the 3-D printers and new CNC machine, and small engine repair. “This building is designed to have flexible and modular spaces that will grow to meet the changing needs of Lincoln Academy and the local community,” Crosby continued. “An important aspect of all the classes we teach in ATEC is the concept that design is part of everything we build. This building offers us the chance to start with an idea, a sketch on a napkin, or a CAD drawing, and then use state-of-the-art tools to make that idea a physical reality.”

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A stool and a LA logo that were cut on Lincoln Academy’s new CNC machine.

One of the biggest additions to ATEC since last spring is a CNC machine, which arrived in mid-August from ShopBot Tools, a North Carolina based company that supplies these machines to businesses and educational institutions all over the country. CNC stands for “Computer Numeric Control.” What the machine actually does is cut any flat material, including wood, plastic, and soft metal, into precise shapes that can be used for many purposes including furniture building, sign making, auto parts, and other commercial, artistic, and educational projects. With the Lincoln Academy CNC machine, students will be able to design projects on a computer, send them to be cut on the machine, and then assemble the projects in the wood and metal shops that are right in the next room.

“There is a huge demand for the skill set of a CNC operator,” said Stephen Lee, the ShopBot technician who traveled from North Carolina to install the new CNC machine and train the Lincoln Academy staff to run it. CNC machines are used worldwide (and locally, for example, at Masters Machine in Bristol) for a broad spectrum of applications, from small, delicate operations like guitar making, to larger, more industrial uses in auto manufacturing, to high tech jobs like building circuit boards.

ATEC is buzzing with other projects as well. Theater and film teacher Griff Braley has set up his film studio and editing room in the new building, and visual art teacher Nina Sylvia will teach digital photography in the computer lab. Applied technology teacher Shawn St. Cyr will be teaching woodworking, CAD, and World of Work. Newly hired engineering teacher Bob Topper will teach metal fabrication and engineering. New visual art teacher Kirsten Campbell will also teach a course in metal working. Classes open to the community are planned, including a fall course in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and map design.

“The workplace is changing rapidly,” says Crosby. “Students need to be prepared with a diversity of skills that must now include creativity, independent thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and comfort with technology in general. We hope that the ATEC facility and its programs will help set students up for success in a changing world.”