The Road to Skills – Exclusive Interview

Every year, Skills competitions across the country challenge students of all academic levels in categories ranging from video production to autobody repair. With the ultimate goal of fostering passion and excitement for the skilled trades, Skills Canada hosts provincial competitions across the country which give students the chance to apply what they’ve been learning in a competitive environment.

We had the chance to hear about Skills firsthand from Wendell Straker (WS), a manufacturing technology teacher at Etobicoke Collegiate Institute who was the advisor to last year’s Ontario CAM gold medalist, and his student, Manu Cherthedath (MC), who will be competing in this year’s CAM competition in a month’s time.

Exclusive Interview: The Road to SkillsHow do you see Skills Competitions helping your students?
WS: Skills give our students the opportunity to create, design, use the type of machinery that mirrors the industry, use their minds and hands to build projects, and feel a sense of accomplishment.

Why do you think it’s important for students to have opportunities to participate in competitions like this?
WS: The Skills Competitions mirror real-life situations where our students would have to compete on an international scale to secure our future. This competition encourages them to rise to the standard that’s needed in our industry.

How do you get your students motivated and excited to learn about CAD/CAM software?
WS: When we secured a CNC Mill and Router, the students were ecstatic. It brought their designs to life and using Mastercam became simple to them once they learned to establish the geometry of the tool. Parametric Modeling is what we offer in CAD at our school, and because of this, CAD students enjoy designing and using Mastercam.

How did you first become interested in the Skills competition and working with CAD/CAM software?
MC: I first became interested in CAD software when I saw Autodesk Inventor being used to design FRC (First Robotics Competition) team 2185’s 2014 robot. I became interested in CAM software during the 2015 FRC build season, during which I made programs for some robot parts. My interest in CAM software was further increased upon visiting a CNC machine shop, and having the opportunity to observe large CNC machines in operation. I became interested in the skills competition when I represented my school at the TDSB skills competition in Robotics and Control Systems in 2015.

What do you like most about working with CAD/CAM software?
MC: What I like most about CAD software is that it allows one to make adjustments easily prior to manufacturing the part and it allows one to observe how one part will interact with the rest of the system. This reduces the probability that parts would have to be remanufactured with adjustments which saves time and resources. CAM software provides a simulation of the machining process, and while it is not a perfect simulation, critical mistakes can often be caught prior to machining.

How has participating in Skills benefited you so far?
MC: Participating in Skills has increased my proficiency level in Mastercam. During the competition and in the preparation period leading up to the competition, I made programs significantly more complex than the ones I had previously made as a CNC programmer of FRC Team 2185. It has also provided me an opportunity to compare my skill level to that of my peers, and learn which areas I should focus on improving.

This year’s Skills Ontario competition will take place from May 2nd to 4th in Waterloo. More information can be found here.