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CO2 Curriculum
CO2 Racer Sparks Students' Interest
And Smokes The Competition at Nationals

Ron Torres-Gatherer, Technology Education Teacher, Hialeah HS,
Thomas Jefferson Middle School, Miami, FL

Educators and school administrators are constantly challenged by students who have "been there, done that." Revitalizing the classroom so that kids are invigorated by learning and enthusiastic about coming to school requires fresh ideas and creative approaches to teaching. The emphasis should be on providing educational tools to motivate, inspire, and focus on teaching skills rather than simply teaching the student how to use the tool itself.

Middle and high school technology education programs have turned to the IMS CO2 System from Techno (also known as the DaVinci CO2 System) to ignite the spark of interest in the classroom.  This unique system allows students to quickly, easily, and inexpensively design and produce finely machined CO2 metric 500 racing cars that meet the specifications for Technology Scholastic Association (TSA) competition.

Carlos Ramos (Thomas Jefferson HS, Miami, FL) winner of the 1996 TSA National CO2 Race Car Contest.  Car
built with the Techno System.

The idea for the DaVinci CO2 System came to Richard Wong in 1995, when South Florida technology educators approached him about how to best use  their newly acquired CNC machines in the classroom.  The teachers were hoping for a brand new project that could be used on this cutting-edge technology to excite and motivate students about learning CAD/CAM and  design.  Wong saw an opportunity to replace the difficult and frustrating task of hand carving CO2 race cars using a combination of CAD design, CAM toolpath generation, and CNC machining.  He devised a kit, incorporating specially fitted hardware, interface software, instructional videos and fabrication templates, that simplified the design and manufacture of CO2 cars on the fastest of the CNC machines, the Techno DaVinci.  Students could now produce better cars in much less time, with none of the frustrating and tedious hand carving.

The CO2 car kit is sold as part of the DaVinci CO2 System, which also includes the Mastercam CAD/CAM software and the Techno DaVinci three-axis machine that is used for fabricating the cars.  The entire system can be purchased from Techno for under $9,600.  The wheel kit, which is optional, can be ordered with the system or separately. Instructors using the DaVinci CO2 System report that students find the Techno CO2 car and wheel kit systems simple to learn and use.  They work through the steps on their own, or with each other, in small groups, using the instructional videos as their guide. The teacher is free to facilitate independent learning and peer instruction, encouraging their students' interest in discovery and their enjoyment of learning. The students concentrate on learning about CAD, CAM, CNC machining and aerodynamic design, rather than spending hours on hand carving.

On their PC's, students use the 3D Mastercam software to draw the cross sections of their design within the work zones and generate the toolpath of their car.  Using the Techno Mastercam interface software to direct the DaVinci machine, they drill the holes for the wheels, then route the first side of the car.  When the car is flipped over in the special clamping hardware, it is already perfectly aligned for routing the second side.  When routing is complete, the car is cut from the blank and painted, and the wheels are mounted.  Because it takes less than one hour to complete a car, students are motivated to experiment with different styles and materials. According to Richard Wong, students get hooked on using the system in the hope of making "the fastest car in the world".

Before Hialeah High School (Florida) discovered the IMS CO2 System from Techno, students in Ron Torres-Gatherer's technology education class used pencil and paper to design their metric 500 race cars, and then carved them by hand.  Ron finds that, in line with his goals of developing critical thinking through problem solving, the Techno CO2 system frees up time formerly spent on manual labor to learn design concepts and modern technological methods.

The hand carving was often a long and frustrating process for many students who were also frequently disappointed with the results of their efforts.  With the DaVinci CO2 System, every car has a smooth finish and is perfectly symmetrical whether hard or soft wood is used.

The Techno System is used in technology education to motivate students about learning CAD design, CAM toolpath generation and CNC machining.
In Miami's Thomas Jefferson Middle School where a traditional woodshop has been converted into a technology lab, the IMS CO2 System from Techno has enabled two of William Baltazar's technology education students to place first and second in the TSA Nationals this June.  In April, his students also took first and second place in the Florida TSA State Competition, and 12 of his students were among the 16 finalists in the Dade County Youth Fair Metric 500 Competition.

The CO2 system was prototyped at this school and has been a focus of the technology education program there since the beginning of this year.  

Up to then, students at Thomas Jefferson were designing and carving their cars manually, but many of these youngsters lacked the manual skills or patience to finish the project. The DaVinci CO2 system has allowed students to spend their time learning, and to finish the project successfully, providing positive reinforcement and encouragement.

Proud to boast about his two prize-winning students from Barbara Goleman Senior High, Tom Cummings gives much of the credit to the IMS CO2 System from Techno.  "The machinery and fixture used were of the highest quality.  Every operation we performed worked simply, effectively, and accurately. The equipment proved to be very reliable," he says. One of Cummings' students took second place, and the other, a special education student, took fourth, in the 1996 Research and Design Competition at Florida's TSA State Leadership Conference.  Both cars were designed and fabricated using the IMS CO2 System from Techno.

According to Cummings, working with this new, dynamic system has provided many invaluable learning experiences, not all of which have been technology-related.  He and his students have enjoyed using sophisticated industrial technology and, as he puts it, once they "began working with the software, it was captivating to the entire class".  

But, he says that "real life" skills such as brainstorming, working as part of a team, and sharing ideas, learned while using the system, have been as important as the acquired knowledge about how to design the cars, use the software, and operate the Techno CNC machine.  To Cummings, the value of the CO2 racing car project – from inception of design, through watching the cars being cut, to adding the wheels and finishing touches – lay in the process itself, rather that the product.  With this system, students learn lifelong skills involving organization and follow-through on a project from its planning stages through execution and beyond, to competition.

Students and teachers, parents and families, and the technology industry itself have benefitted from the increased interest in practical images of modern technology at the middle and high school level.  The IMS CO2 System from Techno has helped to energize students with a renewed passion for learning and a sense of caring and responsibility for outcomes and their own futures.  Whether they design and make one CO2 car or many, students are given the opportunity to learn about and use the exact same software and hardware that is being used in hundreds of industrial sites around the country.  It is this opportunity that will give them the racer's edge, not only at the TSA Nationals, but at the starting gate of their adult lives as well.

  Techno is celebrating over 25 years of CNC technology expertise. Our Educational sector provides industrial quality products at educational prices with a network of award-winning Educators. We can provide CNC Curriculums, CNC Projects, Technical Information and Packages for any educational classroom.
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