Training the Trainers

ACE Program Success Stories

February 15, 2023 — “Our goal as we scale up ACE is that you’re getting a great quality experience no matter where you are,” says Jose Nazario, machining instructor and research support staff for America’s Cutting Edge (ACE). “I’d love to see ACE become a good, cohesive franchise-like approach to CNC training. Where we can go to California, Texas, or Florida and students still get the same enthusiasm and understanding of the material that they would get at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT).”

Supported by the Department of Defense and managed by IACMI – The Composites Institute, ACE is a national initiative to restore the prominence of the U.S. machine tools sector and is offered at no cost. It’s a program launched in Knoxville, TN and now expanding across the state and country. A mechanical engineering PhD student at UT, Jose has led 20 ACE in-person “bootcamp” training sessions, but in December, he led the first one outside the state in North Carolina.

Jose was recently hired for a position funded under the University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute (UT-ORII) workforce development agenda. He will represent UT-ORII for both machining workforce development activities and clean manufacturing research activities. He reports to Dr. Tony Schmitz, Machine Tool Research Center director, UTK MABE Professor, ORNL Joint Faculty, UT-ORII Fellow, and developer of the ACE curriculum. Jose’s role goes beyond teaching students Computer Numerical Control (CNC) fundamentals; he’s also training the trainers to be the next instructors for ACE.

“I’m preparing trainers so they can continue developing their ACE curriculum in their respective schools,” says Jose. “This is how we’re rolling out this program strategically in a cohesive way. It’s incredibly important to maintain consistency and quality for ACE. The ability to roll out a strategic approach for ACE training is key to helping new instructors expand and implement the learning in their location.”

Jose emphasizes that ACE is not meant to replace the traditional community college or undergraduate classes but rather “it gives a confidence boost that this is a skill I can pursue.” For industry, ACE serves a vital need right now. He adds, “Engineers and machinists might need to step up from their traditional roles just to maintain their jobs, and ACE helps them do that. This is great exposure to the full spectrum of manufacturing with little to no risk.”

Whether teaching students or future instructors, Jose says repetition, repetition, repetition is essential. “No matter what part you’re cutting, there’s a 9- to 10-step process that has to be followed every time. The flow of how to prepare stays the same. I teach methodology, not just button pushing.”

Future instructor Oladayo Dayo Arayoat N.C. A&T says, “I’m looking forward to getting more confident in running the machine. It’s an expensive piece of equipment, and I don’t want to break it!” Swinging a mallet to secure a block of aluminum, another future instructor Triet Phan adds,“Honestly, it’s a little scary to me, but I’ll get used to it and I won’t hesitate to do heavy tasks. Many think manufacturing is more suitable for men than women, but I think in modern society, females and males can handle the same job.”

Jose concludes, “My pure objective is to give trainers and instructors the confidence to say we can do this. As we keep teaching this, we’re only going to get better.”

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