Features

Dan Frank Manufactures Student Success

2018 Innovator, Rocklin Teachers Professional Association

Over the next decade, an estimated 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will be needed, and 2 million jobs are expected to go unfilled due to the skills gap. Today, more than 80 percent of manufacturers cannot find skilled workers to fill their production jobs.

The stakes are high: For every $1 spent in manufacturing, another $1.89 is added to the economy, which is the highest multiplier effect of any economic sector, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.

Dan Frank, who runs Rocklin High School’s Engineering Technology Program, is helping to fill the gap using curriculum he developed with industry partners. Frank’s shop, a state-of-the art facility built with more than $1.2 million in grants he secured, uses the most up-to-date software for engineering and manufacturing and has a robotic welder, which he believes to be the only one on a California high school campus, plus other machinery.

“We have kids who can’t drive, but they are working on machines that cost more than a Porsche,” comments Frank, a member of Rocklin Teachers Professional Association.


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“Many of my students have gone on to earn degrees in engineering or start their own businesses.”

The computer-controlled technologies his students use to develop, design and produce products has indeed put Rocklin High on the map. His school received the 2018 Clips & Clamps Industries Educational Institution Award for enhancing student experience through hands-on educational opportunities.

“I love that we are bridging the disconnect between what our workforce needs and what students need.”

His program has been featured twice in CNC West, a major trade magazine for machinists. Last May, he and his students received a visit from Donna Wyatt, director of Career and College Transitions for the state, who watched students demonstrate their skills with 3-D printers, welding, laser cutting and robotic design. In addition, the school was selected for the Precision Metalwork-ing Association’s sole Educational Institution Award, which Frank calls “a heck of an honor.”

“I believe in teaching high-level skills that yield high value,” says Frank, in his fifteenth year as an educator.

“While my students are designing products, my program is designing what success looks like when students use critical thinking and hands-on, problem-solving skills.”

When Frank was a college student, he worked in the UC Davis engineering shop making projects. “I discovered how fun it was to work with metal, figure something out and see the resulting product being used. In this class, I mentor and challenge students while I share the thrill of using advanced manufacturing equipment to convert a scrap of metal into an amazing project.”

His curriculum includes four courses. The first introduces a broad variety of tools and technologies and teaches safety. The second addresses skills development during which the “Titans of CNC Academy” curriculum is implemented.

The curriculum was created and piloted with Frank and his students by Titan Gilroy, CEO of Titans of CNC, an advanced production facility based in Rocklin whose clients have included aerospace companies SpaceX and Blue Origin. The colorful ex-con produced and starred in the reality series “Titans of CNC” on MAVTV. CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control — the automated control of machining tools by computer.

The third course focuses on robotics, and students design and develop their own projects for the school’s robotics team. The fourth course has students designing and developing their own manufacturing projects, which may be purchased or used by local companies.

Frank’s students have partnered with NASA’s Hunch Program (High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware) and created parts for transporting experiments to the International Space Station. Tanner Knight, a junior, designed a locking mechanism for the Space Station’s lockers that store scientific experiments. The device must be as precise as the width of 100th of a human hair.

After receiving grant money from CTA’s Institute for Learning last year, Frank created a program called Measure Up Two! designed to help students connect with a variety of industry partners. His monthly Saturday workshops have attracted manufacturing industry stars, as well as staff from UC Davis who volunteer their time to mentor students. The grant also supports robotics. “I love that we have built an engineering community,” says Frank.

“I love that we are bridging the disconnect between what our workforce needs and what students need. I love that I am helping to move the manufacturing industry forward.”

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