As you walk through the lobby of the new Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy in Springfield, MA you’re struck by how much it reminds you of a clean, modern mall. A two-level atrium – lined with a retail store, credit union, beauty parlor, restaurant, and other shops run by some of the 1,600 students – greets you as you weave your way back to the Machine Technology Department.
There, you’ll meet department chair Art Howe, fellow instructors Theodore Hanks, Richard Mongeau, and a flock of 40 or so – depending on the day – energetic students working on 77 machines, such as CNC and manual lathes and milling machines, 3D printers, and all kinds of other shop equipment. There’s even a computer-aided design software lab for training in SOLIDWORKS®, Mastercam, and AutoCAD®.
Much of the equipment and supplies were donated when the school was being built several years ago. Area businesses, including Smith & Wesson, L.S. Starrett Company, American Saw, Atlantic Fasteners, and Lindco stepped up to help. Through grants, Howe purchases additional equipment. This year he’ll be getting a new bandsaw blade welder, heat treat furnace, and a ProtoTRAK lathe.
Of course, consumable supplies like fasteners need replenishment. With only a $10,000 annual budget for such items, Howe relies on support from the business community.
Atlantic Fasteners had made a large fastener donation, initially, and as part of the firm’s ongoing support, recently sent back their account manager Ed Breck to refill the bins with donated product, said company spokesman, Tony Peterson.
He continued, noting, “The day we arrived, several senior class students were busy machining parts for their class project, an aluminum, hand-operated air pump with a brass piston. Success for each promising student machinist – and a perfect score – would be measured by whether the finished pump could blow up a balloon. According to Howe that’s no easy task.”
Howe’s freshman through senior classes number about 80 students. Some of the most promising are invited into a co-op program with area machine shops. Currently, eight students work in five shops and attend Putnam part time for academics. If they work hard, graduate, and there are openings, many will receive offers for permanent employment with their mentoring shops.
“Hearing that and witnessing the dedication of the Machine Technology staff and students is why Atlantic plans on providing help to Putnam Vocational’s program for years to come,” concluded Peterson.