With enrollment of 6,400 students, Davis Technical College has a tradition of deploying innovative pioneering programs, and one of its latest initiatives - CNC Enhanced – keeps that tradition alive by offering a technical program curriculum for visually-challenged students.
Through mutual relationships, Davis Tech’s leadership discovered a very rewarding program for the blind and visually impaired offered by the Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind.
Darin Brush, President of Davis Tech, along with members of the school’s CNC program staff and associates from Gosiger Automation, visited Lighthouse for the Blind in order to evaluate their program and determine if a complementary program would be a viable option for Davis Tech.
After the spirited experience and collaboration with Matt Winslow – a lead instructor at Davis Tech, the Davis Tech CNC Enhanced project was commissioned in support of the institution’s continuous “forward thinking” mission. With the enthusiastic backing of the leadership team, Davis Tech joined forces with their local Okuma distributor, Brian Toomey of Hartwig, Inc., and an Okuma principal engineer, Casey Croussure, to work toward developing the CNC Enhanced Program, their own manufacturing training program for the blind and visually impaired.
Finding students for this new program was easy – after visiting several local schools for the blind and visually impaired, Matt found the opportunity of having a career creating tangible items was hugely appealing to students whose other career options may be limited. “As soon as they’re able to get into your shop and create, that’s really when things become cool.”
The inaugural CNC Enhanced program at Davis Tech began with three students – Marley, Landon, and Annie – each with a range of challenges related to their vision. These students were highly motivated, acutely intelligent and above all, extremely dedicated. Each day begins with a long drive - nearly three hours of daily commuting - all with the goal of pursuing a career in machining.
There is a range of visual impairment – only about 10% of people are considered totally blind, and all three of Davis Tech’s CNC Enhanced students are partially sighted. Implementing a CNC metal cutting machining program required tools and technologies that would allow every student to work effectively within their limitations.
“On the machine accessibility side, there was new technology that would make it more forgiving and easier to implement,” Matt said. “We choose to execute the program using Okuma machine tools due to their OSP Controls and the open architecture that allowed for much needed software overlays.” Several key modifications were adopted including software that enhanced screen magnification, high contrast images and text, audio feedback, and a specialty NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) reader.
Davis Tech invested in a GENOS M560-V with custom features for their CNC Enhanced Program. Matt, who is fully sighted, said that he could not have figured out all the necessary software and machine customizations without the help of his students. “All throughout the process, they were able to make simple suggestions that made this work so much better. They made it valuable for me, because I didn’t know what I didn’t know.” According to Matt, some of the best technology was the most simple, from putting braille dots on the buttons to moving equipment in certain positions.
“As I introduced our students to the machines, all my fears dissipated,” Matt said. “I was showing them the control, and within the first five minutes, they were very in-tune with the control and adept at working it.”
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