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Thanks to local firm, students learn to virtually design car parts

Kent Career Tech Center student Nathan Schaner learned about designing car components virtually by using professional tool and die stamping software on a classroom computer.

He was participating in a three-day training session on the software offered by Kevin Vorac, senior applications engineer for the firm AutoForm. The program exposed a dozen engineering students in the second year of the Tech Center’s Engineering & Architectural Design program to industry-level design.

The goal was to help prepare students for the local pool of engineering jobs, many at firms that use the expensive software, as well as for apprenticeships or college programs.

Kent Career Tech Center student Nathan Schaner listens to instructions on virtual stamping design

“Learning it here at (the Tech Center) is definitely beneficial,” said Nathan, who plans to major in mechanical engineering at Ferris State University. “I feel like I have a head start amongst all the other kids.”

The software eliminates the need for material or shop space and allows tweaking and tinkering. “We want for them to have some exposure to the software so when they do go out and look for a job they can put it on their resume,” Vorac said.

Nathan said he sees the value in learning digital design now. “This seems a lot more applicable and it’s easier for us to manipulate and do the correct things we need to do.”

Program instructor Larry Ridley said AutoForm is allowing the class to download the software onto 12 computer stations for use through the end of the school year.

Virtual design saves time and money, Ridley said, and has become standard in the industry. “It can do what they used to do by hand, that would take them four, five, six months,” he said. “Here, they can do their preliminary design in just a couple of weeks.”

Ridley regularly has students working in engineering while still enrolled at the Tech Center.  Many start as apprenticeships after graduation or go to college to pursue degrees. Engineers can earn more than $100,000 after eight or nine years in the industry, he said.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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