Time for MFG Tours

Our first MFG tour was to Exactech –  Sarasota – Florida

A medical implant manufacturer based in Gainesville, Florida.    Exactech website


It was founded by a group of surgeons from the University Of Florida ( Go Gators !)     We were able to see how Titanium Implants were made for Hips, Knees and Shoulders.

Exac knee

The team at Exactech has been a great resource and last year they hired some of our top graduates.  2 of them , Mike & Jason, had passed NIMS level 2 CNC machining certifications.  Now they need more machinists as they are getting 4 more CNC machines and just brought another 5 axis on line. We also got to tour the clean room.  Thanks to Rick and the team at Exactech – Sarasota. I’m sure we will be able to supply them with interns this Spring.


MFG Tour # 2 – Choice Mold & Tool 


Next up was a tour this past week of Choice Mold and Tool – which is also connected to Oxtec LLC – a plastic injection molding facililty. They are also in transition from commercial molding to medical plastics with clean room for that industry that supplies large companies like Arthrex Manufacturing in Naples.  Choice Mold was brought on to build more plastic injection molds for Oxtec LLC and other customers. They want to take on Intern this coming spring.  Great news.  we also had some of our drafting students come along to see a modern manufacturing facility.


End of the year and Christmas Break 


We are winding down for our Christmas break, having the annual Xmas party/cookout  (well it is Florida?). We have been getting up to speed on other projects so that we can tackle proficiency in the coming months.

We are using our Verisurf to do some reverse engineering and also to test out measuring on NIMS projects before we send them out for MecTec inspections.

We also all machined a Titans of CNC 1M project as a CNC beginner setup and run job.

So Merry Christmas and Happy New year to all 





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Year 5 Underway – Class of 2018



Well here we are , Year # 5 and on Track to hit the 100+ mark of machinist training set by Dr Todd Bowden the SCTI director back in 2013.  Dr. Bowden is now the Sarasota county School superintendent but he checks in every now and then.


We have another great class and have completed our first semester of 10 wks.  We dig into traditional manual machining and CNC machining.  Learn how to read those blueprints , do a brush up on math and also learn technical details of all the basic processes of machining.

Now we start to add CNC programming basics and how Computer Numerical Control works.  So you have to have computer skills and hands on skills.  From basic band saw to the 4 axis CNC Haas Mill.   Later on will add to our quality control skills with digital measurement from Verisurf and the 3D gage measuring arm.


Now we set up and observe up close with our monitor and GO Pro camera setup to see up close what is going on inside that CNC machine

So we have another 30 wks to go  – and then it will be graduation before you know it.


Now we have added new projects from Titans of CNC academy – Nice…

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What do want to do in your career path?

You just graduated High school – maybe you went to college and it isn’t for you

or you want a career change?

Do you want to learn a Skilled Trade?  in less that a year ? Where you can get a job anywhere in the US?  Learn to be a machinist. A modern High Tech CNC machinist.

Be part of modern manufacturing and making important REAL things.

We have trained 85 modern CNC machinists and in the last 4 years that are all working in less than one year.

Earn national certificates from NIMS that can help you get that better job.

Work in air conditioned technology centers on aerospace, defense, motorsports, medical


you can learn to makes things that count…….

Classes start Aug 14 and they will fill fast



Suncoast Technical College 4748 Beneva Rd., Sarasota, Fl. 34243

Florida residents pay only 1/3 of what a national private school will charge.

Gene Haas Foundation will award scholarships during the school year that can be applied to your tuition


Tuition grants are available  – what are you waiting for


Do you think this is for you?  can you make things?  do you like to figure out puzzles?  can you be in a job in which you NEVER stop learning?

get in the Manufacturing World…. last June one of our top students made $20/hour after graduation

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Wrapping up Year 4 – Precision and CNC Machining Education


Wrapping it up ……………………………………….



Well we are headin’ down the home stretch, yet again.  The mad dash for job placement, internships, final tests and of course NIMS Certifications.

Looks like we will end up with 95 certifications for the year bring us to 285 in 3 years.  3 of our apprentices even earned a NIMS Certificate of Special Merit for having 7 or more Credentials.  We like to excel in CNC machining but still believe that traditional machining skills just make you better overall.


We also took on some new projects. We had a tailstock on our Haas ST10 CNC lathe but had never used it. Bought a nice Royal live center 3 years ago. So one of our guys Jason attempted the NIMS Level II CNC Turning project which requires a tail stock.  It was a learning curve for all including me but in the end we won.  Jason also earned that NIMS level II credential, one of only 4 in the state.

What a year !! We toured many local manufacturing facilities including very large 5 axis boat mold machining.

We got to go to Daytona 500 care of Stewart Haas racing.

Visited by MasterCam President Meghan West to see our kick off of MasterCam training evening school plus CTE training for our county High school/middle schools using Solidworks and MasterCam to design and build Balsa Wood CO2 dragsters in Techno DaVinci CNC Routers.

But all of our students were able to excel and improve skills needed in todays world of manufacture. So hold on tight as we take this to the finish Line !!!


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Teaching Machining in Today’s world

I am just completing my 4th year of full-time instruction in Precision and CNC Machining here at Suncoast Technical College – formerly know as Sarasota County Technical Institute.  It has been more work that I thought but I do enjoy a lot of the outcomes and effect I have on our community.  I do spend too much time at work but maybe its the nature of me or being a machinist.

I did not come from a family of machinists. My dad was the fruit and vegetable guy at local supermarket.   I attended college level classes in high school but never took my SAT’s. I did ok in high school but I had no plan in 1972.  I then worked menial jobs , like forklift operator, auto parts sales and delivery, dishwasher at the mall.  Then one day I ran into someone at the auto parts store – a friend.  He said that he was not driving truck anymore. He got training to be a machinist and told me …. “you should check it out “.  Well I did.  It was called Boston Tooling and Machining Institute – a NTMA school in an industrial park.  I took a small test and passed. Plus it was a free school sponsored by Boston Tooling Association. So I left my auto parts job in 1983.


We learned some math, blueprint reading and manual machining on donated equipment, Mill and lathe. Taught the basics for 4 months and then put in the field. I ended up at a machine tool dealer – Methods Machine Tools , Sudbury, Mass. in the special projects dept. for 2 years. After that I worked at a job shop called Dyko Tool and Die in Waltham, Mass. I was thrust into the new world of machining – Computerized machining or otherwise called CNC.

Since then I have always been a machinist – it fit me like a glove.  I never knew I had the talent for it. The CNC machining was perfect for me. I learned to write code for the CNC machine and use my manual machining skills to make parts in the late 80’s.  First shop that I was lead CNC man in 1987 in Woburn, Mass. I had to figure how to run and program a converted Mill with an Allen Bradley control. I figured I needed to have a part by the end of the week and I did. No one else at that shop knew how to run those CNC machines.

I moved to NH and worked at a 5 axis CNC shop in 1990. It was cutting edge technology. 27 years ago at a place called TurboCam running Boston Digital CNC machinery. They had 2 engineers writing software to run these machines.  One of my jobs was making a prototype torpedo propeller.

I have worked at many places making brain surgery equipment, Hip implants, Race car parts, custom motorcycle equipment, Defense department pieces and some things I had no idea. Secret stuff I guess.  I worked at a large metal fabrication shop running the Mori-Seiki CNC and learning about precision sheet metal work.  Worked at a Rockwell plant in mold department running the Okuma and Milltronics CNC Mill and learned about moldmaking We were making plastic proximity switches and also did tool room work to support the plant.  Plus many more jobs.

I always worked , always had a job good times and bad. Last place I worked was at Lockheed- Martin in Orlando, Florida right next to SeaWorld. 3000 people at a secure defense facility on CNC equipment that costs $950,000. I look back to 1972 when I left high school and can’t believe I have done all this and people trusted me.  Best compliment I had was from a former boss, Bill Lobdell from Sanders Associates, Manchester, NH.   I would report to him on what I was doing as a CNC lead man.  Asking permission for changes or updates. He told me “just tell me at the end of the night as I trust you. You do a good job”.  Bill is gone now but I still remember. I worked with many great people and machinists. Learned a lot.

In 2013 I had a chance to teach near my home in Sarasota, Florida.  We had moved to Florida in 2005.  I was to teach a brand new Precision Machining program to help workforce development for needs in manufacturing.  I met with the head of the local manufacturing association – SAMA – Jennifer Behrens Schmidt – president.  I had written a paper about teaching in the modern world of machining years before when I taught part time at another vocational school.  My thoughts were how we needed more CNC training and less high level manual traditional teaching.   She totally agreed so I knew it would be a good fit.  I became a teacher for Sarasota county at SCTI.

Now I am ending my 4th year and will have trained about 85 apprentices in a one year 1200 hour program called Precision Machining and CNC Automation – under the frameworks of Florida Dept. of Education. I had to develop the program myself with help with advisory guidance from SAMA – Sarasota and Manatee Manufacturing Association – so that what I taught aligned with what companies needed.

I also had the great pleasure of meeting Bob Skodinsky from HTEC – Haas Technical Education Centers. He actually works for this national organization to promote machining education that is based in California but lived right down the street in Sarasota.  He had saw that the SCTI school was staring up a new program after the previous one had been dumped 10 years previous. So he helped guide them with purchase of 2 Haas CNC machines (TM-1P and ST-10) and a software program called Immerse 2 Learn – I2L. I had been told about the job from HFO-Tampa salesman Dave Thomas.  So I applied and got hired.

So I showed up 3 weeks later to a class of 18. Only problem was we had no equipment yet. Just 3 books and I2L software. Machines are on order. (waiting and waiting) . We waited from August 2013 until Jan 2014.  I had to purchase more equipment also. With direction from SAMA I purchased traditional machining equipment – 2 mills – 2 lathes and 2 surface grinders and a drill press, plus saws, sanders, machinist tools, bench grinders etc.   I also added a 2 axis Hybrid CNC Trak Mill plus a Haas VF2 with 4th axis. We also setup up an inspection department with necessary gauges needed.  By Jan 2014 we had power and a load of metal donated from Sun Hydraulics.

In the mean time we did constant CNC software training,  We also had 12 Haas CNC simulators and used them to hand write G code programs – the common language used by the CNC machine. We also did field trips to visit manufacturing facilities. I tried to keep the focus away from the empty shop or as educators call it ” the Lab”.  I was happy that no students left. Well we finished the year and got 100% employment.

So in 2013 wondering whats next. I added 2 seats of MasterCam for CNC programming, Then in Jan 2015 added a 300 hr Fast Track CNC night class. Companies would send us people who needed more training. This year 2017 we added MasterCam night school for associate level certification. Finally one of our original sponsors – Career Edge Funders started an internship funding program in 2015 for apprentices. We were able to get companies to take on apprentices to learn more OJT in the field. Career Edge also sponsored Soft Skill Training for the last 2 years as well.  Furthermore we produced the most NIMS certifications in the State of Florida.  (National Institute of Metalworking Skills).

I now have even more companies calling me and I cannot fill all the jobs. Word has got out about our success plus manufacturing is just very busy.  Many machinists are also retiring. We need more trained machinists.
Now what? – Well 4 years ago I had a thought on how we should teach trainees and align it with the needs of my area.  We only had one year to do this – a Career in a year – all adults.

I would follow my model of how I learned, not like what other schools used to teach. Some guys I worked with had only traditional training and showed me projects they made like a tool makers vice , hardened 1-2-3 Blocks and more.  I didn’t think we needed to teach using the older system but I did think it was important to learn using Manual equipment along with learning about CNC , which is now the primary source of production.   The same processes applied only the CNC was faster and had much better control.  In my experience the traditional machinist as a high level job was being phased out.

But many companies still expected you to know how to run that manual equipment as needed but they would make the high production and high level stuff on CNC machines. Manual machines are now considered to be secondary equipment.  I still thought it was a good idea to learn hands on with traditional machining.  To get the feel of cutting metal,  learn good setups and techniques and then apply them when in CNC land.  I would only have them to simple projects like Bore a hole on Vertical mill and Lathe.  Single point thread using a tool they hand ground. Make a spacer using another tool they hand ground on the lathe.

They learned quickly about tooling and relief angles etc.  When you talk about an inserted tool to a student they don’t get why it cuts, it just does. When they made their own cutting tool they got it. So manual machining became a way to teach machining in its pure form.  We also had tool and die and Plastic injection mold-makers companies and they wanted students to know surface grinding as well.


On to the CNC machine.  We start here setting up jobs that are proven CNC G code programs. Setup tools, offsets and get it running safely and efficiently. Then measure the final result and read them blue prints to make sure its precise.  We also use the latest technology using wireless probing  for setting up tool coordinates but we also teach old school methods as 50% of the companies still do it that way. I want them to be employable in many situations. Some shops have a mixture of old and new CNC.  Knowing old school methods of setup will also make you more valuable (edge finder and tool touch off with gage blocks ).

Then we progress to hand writing a couple of simple programs plus setup and run like before. We also use the 2 axis Trak Mill as a bridge to full CNC. Its a conversational machine that does not require G Code knowledge and gets the student thinking about how to cut in a CNC world.  So we eventually have students able to take a part from A-Z. Plan the process, write the CNC program, set the job up, machine a complete part, measure the finished product.

We are earning NIMS certifications along the way. They must make a part that passes a third party inspection.  Using various methods.  Some tests are on CNC operation, setup and maintenance.  The final tests are hand written CNC programs for lathe and mill per NIMS requirements.  I believe the people on the shop floor should understand G code so they can make adjustments on the fly to keep quality and production going.  No need to go reprogram all the time with Cad/Cam, even though most shops use the Cad/Cam system like MasterCam to program all. What if the boss wants to move a job to another machine?  Our guys can edit quickly what is needed because they can think in G code. They know how to calculate proper feeds and speeds. They get used to trouble shooting problems and helping the new people. Problem solving is a big deal in the real world.

When they get in the programming room and become CaM programmers they know what good code is by a quick scan. We all know they have simulation software that helps keep them crashes down but some smaller shops run on a tight budget so you work with what you have.  Its a constant learning experience. Even for me at age 62.

We also teach an evening course in MasterCam – Cad/Cam programming plus our district is teaching middle schoolers MasterCam to machine balsa wood Co2 Dragsters after they design it in Solidworks. They machine them with DaVinci Techno CNC routers.  Its not just a 3d printing world for these kids.

So here I am….. I ask our local shops and advisory is there any direction I need to change in what we teach?  No way. They are very happy and now I get too many calls looking for a good machinist.  I hope we can turn the tide with parents and counselors to show them that working in the trades is very rewarding. We need to fill the pipeline for skilled trades.


In my home town of Burlington Mass I went to school with Roger Cook. You may see him on a TV show called “This Old House”.  In my old town everyone knows that the skilled trades make a good living so the vocational schools have a waiting list like Worcester Technical High School.  I just wish everywhere in the US it was the same. We just about fill the class room a week before first day.

We host an annual event called National MFG Day in October. We also use a great program from a story teller Jeremy Bout from EDU Factor during the MFG Day event. He tells and shows great stories of just people like us – people who make things. This is one way of getting the right people.  Titan Gilroy – He has a great TV show on MAV TV called Titans of CNC. he is always out there telling his story of success and helping others through inspiration and lessons on CNC.

I also belong to a great group – HTEC. Haas Technical Education Centers. The only group totally dedicated to machining education. I have now been to 3 national conferences and our school hosted the first State of Florida HTEC conference. We get to meet other instructors and discuss different methods of teaching and help each other. Bob Skodinsky nominated me for the HTEC Council at my firs conference in Minn. to represent one year schools.


I have learned many things about the education world. Some schools are high school, some are 2 yr community college, some are training built into 4 yr universities and connected to engineering programs.  And we have schools like us who teach in one year. To retrain workers or take high schoolers who have wandered and now need career direction. Workforce development is my goal. I have to line up jobs , build relationships, internships and more.  I hope at some point we get high school graduates who comes here right after graduation on a mission.

So in July you will see me in Dallas, TX at my 4th HTEC conference. Meet new people and see some friends. My life has been a journey but I didn’t plan life like this (but not too bad.)  In 1972 I could have never imagined this path.

Yeah that’s me on the dragbike, too.  Something else I didn’t know I was good at.






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Youtube – CNC Machinist Education

We have a YOUTUBE channel with some of our own videos plus a collection of many videos related to CNC and traditional machining education.  Enjoy !!

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STC Precision CNC Machining – VIP guests of Haas CNC Nascar at Daytona 500- #41 Kurt Busch

What a weekend for Suncoast Technical CNC !!!
VIP Guests at the Daytona 500

We had quite a weekend !! Haas CNC Racing team offered our class 4 tickets to the Daytona 500. The education wing of Haas Automation HTEC (non profit) contacted us about this great offer. Suncoast Technical College had hosted the first State of Florida HTEC educators conference for CNC machining education. In appreciation of that we were given free tickets to the BIG race. Not just any old tickets.

They were Pit Pass Gold Access VIP tickets.


We were met by Martha and Charlotte from Haas racing team and brought to the back of #41 Kurt Busch trailer. We would be with that team all day.  We got to tour the garages, tech inspection and then we went as a group to the drivers meeting. In attendance was Mario Andretti, Keanu Reaves, Owen Wilson and many other guests.

Then we had lunch with the Haas racing crew of the 4 race cars –

Kurt Busch – Danica Patrick – Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick.

Next up was a visit to the starting line where all the qualified cars were lined up in order along with the new Series sponsor – Monster Energy and the Monster Energy Gals. We all got various photos including one with Kurt Busch and his #41 Haas race car.

After that we were wisked away to the #41 Kurt Busch Pit crew station and the Pit cart where we would be all day.

What a day , with lug nuts flying , gas cans, and cars flying by and the occasional crash.

Getting near the end – we realized how well our team was doing. I was up behind crew chief Gibson when I could see Kurt pushing for the lead in the last lap. Everyone was hooting and hollering.  KURT WINS !! – Now we all run to the winners circle where we where included with the Stewart – Haas racing team. What a day. We all had a great time.


Can’t say enough about the VIP treatment from Haas racing especially Martha and Charlotte. They even sent the whole class die cast Kurt Busch cars as a remembrance of a great day.  Something we will always remember.


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STC Sweeps Skills USA region 6 CNC Mill




The winners

Skills Florida Region 6 Competition at Manatee Tech  Bradenton, Florida

Cody Winegard  – Matt Olsen – Arek Mylnarski

Suncoast Technical College – Precision and CNC Machining program swept the region 6 Skills Florida CNC Milling competition for the second year in a row.  We pride our selves on current modern training especially in the CNC machining arena.  We are past the halfway point with our Class of 2017 – our 4th class since a retooling of the machining program. Our goal to produce 100 machinist in 5 years – we are on track.

The older Haas VF-E is now at Manatee Tech in Bradenton where the competition was held and is still running. It used to be a machine at the old SCTI facility in 2005.  I also saw my old mentor from Manatee Tech – Dave Grenier who was a judge for Skills. Dave is now retired but I had worked at MTC in 2007 as a part time instructor under Dave. So I blame Dave for getting me started in teaching. We all had a laugh.

Back at Suncoast Tech we are hard at work pumping out projects and learning new skills

Well now we are getting ready for State Skills and Job Internships






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Gene Haas Foundation Donation

Gene Haas Foundation Scholarship Donation


Precision and CNC Machining Program  Suncoast Technical College – Florida



We were very happy to receive help from the Gene Haas Foundation so that we can continue our work training machinists for the Modern CNC Machining World. This will be put towards any deserving apprentice who may need financial help to attend our award winning program. I was very happy to get a photo with Dave Thomas from Haas factory Outlet- HFO Tampa as he gave me the info on the need for an instructor at what was Sarasota County Technical Institute in July 2013.

We are now in year 4 and after this year we will have produced 88 machinists with training in Day class and advanced Fast Track CNC Evening school. This year we have just started a MasterCam University Certification course. This will be a stand alone night course but it is also available to our day students who train with us for a year. STC has produced 23% of all the NIMS credentials for the State of Florida.  Furthermore STC hosted the first HTEC CNC machining educators conference in 2016.


We are very pleased to have chosen the best equipment and educational support from Haas Automation and we will continue to help the needs of Florida with more trained and skilled CNC Machinists.  We have many industries like aerospace, Defense, Medical implant and surgical tooling, Mold making and even Disney world has CNC machining.


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STC Visits Lockheed Martin – Orlando



The Suncoast Technical College Class of 2017 – Precision and CNC Machining took a tour of the very large Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Manufacturing Center on Sand Lake Rd in Orlando. The plant was originally built in 1957 and has over 4000 employees working today. Lockheed Martin is one of the largest US defense contractors with over 100,000 employees. They have a commitment to excellence as many of our apprentice machinists witnessed today.

This facility has built many defense systems dating back to the Pershing missile to todays Hell Fire missile system. The other systems this facility is know for is Fire Control. That’s means targeting and hitting that target with pin point accuracy in all systems – whether it is the shoulder held Javelin to PAC-3 (Patriot) missile defense system. They work in the tightest tolerances in temperature controlled rooms with the absolute most accurate tooling and CNC equipment. This makes the difference between hitting or missing a target by 1 feet at 5 miles with a Hellfire. The Pac-3 is known as a defense device that is used like shooting a bullet and hitting the other bullet shot at us.  They also make the EOTS targeting system for the new F-35 JSF Fighter  plus many other systems.

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         We were welcomed by the manufacturing operations staff and they asked each student who they were and what their career path may be. We also have 3 Veterans as students and they were honored for service. The staff gave us a video presentation of the work they do. How they not only do machining with 5 axis CNC machines but Flexible manufacturing cells with Mazak CNC Machines with 100 pallets and jobs that can be called up as needed.

        They have an ultra precision room in which the temperature and even the coolants are kept 68 deg. (20c) Plus or minus 1 deg.  This is to ensure accuracy with Mitsui Seiki CNC Machines to less than .000050 – all day long.  And they are expanding that room and bringing in more equipment, because they have more programs coming on line and will need more mechanical assemblers and machinists.  They will also need more metrology quality control personnel that can operate Zeiss CMM measuring machines

Mitsui Seiki 5 Axis CNC Milling center   – Zeiss CMM measuring system

       Like many companies in the US there is a skills gap in many fields. As Lockheed Martin (LMCO)  has retirements coming and more business coming on line they will need more trained personnel.

The HR staff talked about how they will be seeking more personnel and are welcoming Entry level trained machinist – especially from accredited Vocational Technical schools. The benefit packages are very good plus the pay rate is competitive with good raises. All represented by UAW Local 788 union. A great place to work plus they will pay for your engineering degree if you want to eventually move in another path. You can even transfer to another facility if you desire.

     We also got to see the Fire control Factory where these targeting devices are assembled and tested. Very organized and clean

sxl%20500%20website_1 Optics CNC Center

Finally we ended the tour in the optics machining department. This is where lens are machined and CNC polished to crazy tolerances. They even produce the sapphire crystal glass panels that protect the targeting systems from debris on a fighter jet at Mach 2 and it must be perfectly clear or it will deflect the targeting image.


That’s why our skilled tradesmen of today can work with greatest engineers and design teams to come up with US national defense systems that will protect our warfighters and protect us. They need to work the first time and every time.  No second chance. So the motto at LMCO is “We never forget who we work for”.   I am a former employee of this great facility and saw many old friends and great machinists on this tour. I was involved in a running (2) large $950,000 Mazak Intergrex 1060 5 axis CNC Mill-Turn centers in the Sniper ATP Department.  I teach what I learned over my 30 years of modern machining and that includes the 10 years I have worked at (2) Lockheed Martin Facilities.


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