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Physics and astronomy debuts machine shop course

By Contributing Writer on September 9, 2013
Carrie Burgess '14 shows the monkey wrench that she made herself

Carrie Burgess ’14 shows the monkey wrench that she made herself, using skills learned in the machining course.

During the fall of 2012 and spring of 2013 eight physics & astronomy students completed a machine shop course introducing them to the basic concepts and techniques of conventional machining. The content of the course included:

  • Safety, safety, safety!
  • Demo: What is hardened vs. soft steel, and why does it matter?
  • Measuring tools, and what is a thousandth of an inch?
  • Cutting metal (bandsaws, hacksaws)
  • Filing
  • Drilling
  • Screws, screw-systems, identification
  • Taps
  • Grinding and sharpening lathe bits

This non-credit course was designed and taught by our department technician, Shannon Zachow. To reinforce the lessons learned, each student concluded the course by applying their new skills to build their own monkey wrench, consisting of five parts.

The course has been such a success that the department hopes to offer it to interested students during every semester moving forward. The skills that the students gained in this hands-on experience will be useful both in independent research projects and in future pursuits in graduate school or in the workforce.

There is still space available in the course for the fall 2013 semester. Interested students should contact Shannon Zachow.


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