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Machining an industry-ready education

One of SAIT’s Computer Numerical Control machines in the Gene Haas Foundation CNC Labs. Multiple tools enable operators to cut and shape metals to different sizes.

When Clarence Hollingworth, SAIT's oldest known alumnus and former instructor in the School of Manufacturing and Automation turned 103 earlier this year, SAIT presented him with a cribbage board — but it wasn't just any crib board. It was tooled here at SAIT by Ben Kohlen, Manufacturing and Automation instructor in the new Gene Haas Foundation CNC Labs. Crib board tooled in SAIT's new Gene Haas Foundation CNC labs

Kohlen's task was made much easier thanks to SAIT's new Computer Numerical Control (CNC) equipment. The CNC Labs are housed in the Thomas Riley Building, a building that was renovated as part of the Trades and Technology Complex project through the Promising Futures™ Campaign.

Labs mirror industry standards

Kohlen knows first-hand how valuable the new labs are to students. In 2005, before the renovations, he earned his Machinist Technician Certificate at SAIT and went on to complete his Machinist Apprenticeship in 2008. Ben returned to SAIT five years ago as an instructor — just in time for the Thomas Riley Building renovations and to help establish the CNC Labs.

"The three dedicated labs house the newest CNC machining technology and mirror the equipment that students will operate when they enter industry," Kohlen says.

After opening in late 2017, the labs have become a unique education hub that specializes in machining education. The state-of-the-art facility provides programming for a variety of SAIT students including apprentices, machinist technicians and mechanical engineering technology students. The three labs provide dedicated space for milling, lathe and computer simulation. Approximately 100 machinist apprenticeship students and 28 fulltime machinist technician students have trained on the equipment.

Steve Wooldridge, Academic Chair in the School of Manufacturing and Automation says, "The old space was very confined and labs were spread out across campus. With the new space and equipment, students operate within a dedicated CNC environment and can access the CNC machines for all their labs because all the labs are now adjacent to one another."

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