New program at OJC is enjoying a successful first year

La Junta High School Students Parker Bickel and Braxton Oquist work on design projects using the software program Solidworks. La Junta High School students have been able to enroll in Otero Junior College’s Mechanical Graphics and Design program and take the design portion of their coursework at La Junta High School.

LA JUNTAOtero Junior College launched its new Mechanical Graphics and Design program at the start of Fall Semester 2010. The new Career and Technical Education program was offered not only on the OJC campus, but also on the campuses of La Junta and Crowley County High Schools. Students enrolled in the program have included traditional college-age students, employees from area industries and high school students from La Junta, Crowley County, Cheraw and Rocky Ford.

Kim Grimsley, chair of the OJC Business Technologies Dept., explains that the Mechanical Graphics and Design program utilizes a software program called Solidworks, which is a 3-D CADD program used widely by industry.

“The SolidWorks program emphasis is the design and development of products and machines. To help students achieve those skills, the curriculum begins with the student learning to master the core concepts of using the software to draw and design in 3-D. The next step is to begin creating 3-D CAAD models from those drawing known as prototypes. The prototypes are then taken one step further to becoming functioning products or parts as the student learns to operate a 3-D printer, CNC mill and CNC router,” explained Grimsley.

According to Ralph Newby, lead instructor on the OJC campus, students enrolled in the program have learned how to develop strong analytical and problem-solving skills by applying the principles learned in class to hands-on projects and real world applications.

“I’ve been very pleased with how well our students have learned the 3-D CADD program. Several students have already passed the Certified SolidWorks Associate exam,” said Newby.

OJC’s collaboration with La Junta and Crowley County High Schools allowed the two schools the ability to offer the first course of the SolidWorks program at their campus. Instructors, Sam Grimsley, at LJHS and Vicki Powell, at CCHS, were given some initial training in the SolidWorks software program, thus allowing their students to learn the program and design small projects at their schools. Students from the two school districts then traveled to OJC throughout the year to learn how to operate the 3-D printer to print their projects. High school students from Cheraw and Rocky Ford have also traveled to the OJC campus to take both the in-class portion and the lab portion of the SolidWorks courses.

SolidWorks instructors Ralph Newby, Sam Grimsley and Vicki Powell all attended the SolidWorks World 2011 convention held recently in San Antonio, Texas to learn more about utilizing the program and its possibilities. Ralph Newby said that the convention created even more excitement for him about what could be designed with a little bit of creativity.

“I got to see how engineers approach their drawing and now I am able to pass some of those thoughts on to my students. I learned about using design tables to create multiple parts with different dimensions from a single drawing. The vendor booths were informative about what kinds of prototyping we could do beyond the equipment we have. Listening to what people are able to do with designing products without having to actually make the product first and being able to test it makes me believe that we are on the edge of an engineering boom like what we saw in the 60’s with the space race,” said Newby.

Vicki Powell, CCHS instructor, said that her experience with the SolidWorks had only included three days of training at Colorado School of Mines prior to the start of the school year. Beyond that her knowledge of the program came from her own hands-on experience with the program as she and her students learned the program together.

“The convention in San Antonio was fascinating as I got to see all of the applications of SolidWorks as well as some of the prototypes and products being made with the program. The general sessions were amazing with guest speakers such as Gene Kranz and Jim Lovell from the Apollo 13 Mission. We also met people in the industry who are doing incredible research and development involving SolidWorks and some of the additional applications associated with it. The convention was extremely beneficial in exposing us to things we had not realized, as well as the opportunity to listen to presenters that are experts in the use of SolidWorks. Overall, it was one of the most beneficial and educational conventions I have ever attended and I know my students will benefit from my newfound knowledge,” said Powell.

Sam Grimsley, LJHS instructor, said that even though the convention was designed for the engineering industry, there were several breakout sessions specifically for educators.

“We were shown how SolidWorks is being used in the chemistry lab for molecule and DNA modeling, in the physics lab for various stress analysis projects, and was even used by one student to draw a 3D map of Africa and another used it to draw a model of a local landmark. I can clearly see how this can be used in conjunction with the science fair as well as various design competitions,” said Grimsley.

The instructors were amazed to learn that SolidWorks had played a major role in the rescue of the miners in Chili, from actually finding and locating the miners, to designing the drill bit, to recovering and rebuilding the drill bit after it broke off in the middle of drilling.

“The sunglasses the miners wore as they came out of the rescue tube were Oakley glasses designed using Solidworks to prevent retinal damage. We saw so many examples of machines and products that were first designed by SolidWorks and are now in production and being used in everyday life,” said Ralph Newby.

The instructors are not the only people excited about this new program. Students are also finding the possibilities an inviting challenge and local employers are happy to see the program offered for their future workforce.

“I love this program,” said Brandon Reeves from Crowley County High School. “You can design pretty cool stuff.”

Tim Austin, an engineer with Lewis Bolt and Nut Company stated, “The Mechanical Graphics and Design programs will give students skills to work in today’s industry. We’re very pleased to see this kind of program being offered at OJC.”

A new cohort of students in Mechanical Graphics and Design will begin with the start of Fall Semester on August 22. For more information about the program, contact Ralph Newby at 719-384-6853 or Registration for Fall Semester is now underway. Stop by the OJC Student Services office or call 719-384-6831 for more information.

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