For FRC Student Machinists

This thread is dedicated to FRC student machinists. Im talking about the few of us who simply think +/- .002 is unexceptional. The masters of the dials, defeaters of backlash.

I hope im not alone when i say one of my favorit parts of FIRST is machining. Not just 80/20, but things with dimension. Ive learned so much just from working with tools that i know will come in more than handy while working somday as a mechanical engineer, which is my ultimate goal.

Call me a loser, but there realy is somthing about thos chips flying, and the presision required while boring holes for bearings. I know my school bridgeport, and southbend like the back of my hands. Ebay has become basically used starrett

i am starting this to hear from any other kids who realy care about the product make, and HOW they make it

I’m not so much a hands on person when it comes to hammering… err fine tuning things. I personally like using the CNC Mill that we are very lucky to have. I really like cadding the item and programming the mill and watching it do exactly what I told it. I almost enjoy using the cnc and watching it do all the work (that I told it to do) then actually drilling out every bearing pocket. Don’t get me wrong, I love to work with the manual mill and I sometimes enjoy the bandsaw, not so much anymore when we can send freshmen to do that, but really seeing a near flawless piece that you just programmed a machine to make, makes me feel very professional and good. That’s just me, someone else on our team is a hand tool freak and a welding freak who isnt exactly best friends with the CNC.

I know exactly how you feel, some of my best memories in robotics were from working in the shop on the mill and lathe. Getting thrown onto the lathe when I was in grade 10 is what sparked my passion for robotics. I remember in my first year I lived on our lathe, and found a real skill for it (later on I found out that my grandfather actually was a professional tool maker and worked for 40 years on the lathe). Even some of my best experiences last year were on our mill, I think i spent over 20 hours one weekend on our mill machining our drive tracks last year, it was quite the machining marathon but man it was fun.

Sadly those days are over for me as a university mentor, but hopefully some of the new kids can find a passion for it like I did.

I remember my first year in FIRST learning the lathe and mill. Fly cutting and throwing chips 30 feet across the room. Good times. :slight_smile:

Unfortunately, liability concerns prevent many schools (including universities) from allowing students to operate machine tools. If you are one of the lucky ones who have the opportunity, please take it. Please be careful, but don’t be intimidated.

I think having machining experience will make you better engineers. Too many of us nowadays just “throw our drawings over the transom” without a proper understanding of how our parts will actually get made and our profession suffers as a result.

Please add me to this group. Anyone who knows me personally know machining is not a fun time thing for me but something I take seriously. My team tries to take quality in the parts we make in fact as a acting mentor on 1251 I challenge my students that are machinsts to make things as accurately as they can. I myself have been or learning to machine since 05. I enjoy ever moment and facet of being able to machine parts for the robot.


At Cyber Blue, we kind of have a system of teachers and apprentices among the students. This year, I have begun to learn to use our mill. Though there is already another apprentice ahead of me, I have already learned a lot. I especially like how cleanly it drills and how precise you can be. The machine itself is not that complex to operate, but I really have grown just in the few weeks that I’ve been working on it to appreciate measurement. I mean, I knew measuring was important, but with the level of measurement this machine allows, I see new opportunities rising.

How come it is being limited to just students? Some of the mentors like to make chips fly too! :slight_smile:


Throw me into the group. While I haven’t personally made robot parts on a machine (unless you count drilling and countersinking holes on a drill press), I just love watching those chips fly.

ayeckley is right; the engineer needs to know what the machinist goes through. My shop instructor once told a story about an engineer who was mad because his part was costing too much/taking too long. Then the machinist showed him the specs–the tolerance was in the ten-thousandths range. (As we all know, that’s pretty hard to get to.)

I guess you could call me a “machinist”. I operate the mill, but I’m not the most precise person ever…

That being said, one of our mentors had me mill a piece of alu so that it was 2/1000 shorter… that was fun.

I do like milling, though. It’s soothing. If you get it, you know.


I should also add that I might be looking into becoming an engineer for a living.

Also, CNC mills annoy me. I like doing the work myself. =p

I’d like to be included in this group!
Last year my engineering professor said “If you just want to build things, this is not the class for you.” I couldn’t believe he said this, isn’t that what engineering is? Making things? Building things?
I might be biased because my dad is a machinist, but from my experience…people who understand the processes behind making something become the best engineers. I can’t tell you how many engineers I have seen design a part that is not manufacturable or simply costs exponentially more than it should.
Not only is machining a great foundation to have, but when you make something—it’s down right satisfying! It feels great when you take stock material and turn it into a full fledged working robot. Every year when I make parts for the robot I feel proud, especially when I see it out on the playing field.
For me, this is one of the most inspiring things about FIRST, for myself and the students on the teams I have worked with.


Engineering is designing things.

Machining is making them.

The best combination is a mix of the two.

I just so happen to be able to design stuff and think through the building process to find problems ahead of time, like an engineer, but I can also make it happen, like a machinist. Give me some tools, paper, some money, and a pencil. :wink:

I used to be be that way but not anymore. When you start designing parts with complex contours or need to make parts dozens in quantity, you’ll start liking the CNC more. :slight_smile:

I have to agree with Dave – why the bias against the adults? :slight_smile:

When I helped start 1437, we had a wood shop to work in and my experience was in electronics and programming. Last year with a new job I got to start 2014, and we have an outstanding metal shop. Fortunately one of my colleagues who agreed to help with the team also has machining experience, so I got to learn how to mill and use the lathe last year.

Now that I think about it, I guess this thread includes adults as well, as I am definitely as much a student as any one of the kids on the team.

I like that approach.

student (stu•dent: noun) - any person who studies, investigates, or examines thoughtfully: a student of human nature.

That works (any comments about the “examines thoughtfully” part will be ignored! :slight_smile: ). I am still young, and definitely still learning (I am primarily learning how much I have yet to learn). So, yeah, I am a student too. Count me in!


I started machineing this year. We have a class at our school and are very lucky to have 10 lathes, 6 bridgeports, several grinders and buffers and 2 metal saws and a band saw. we also have a HAAS 3 axis CNC lathe and mill and a mini mill. THis was gained by our school through the chesire center. For me there is nothing better then the smell of burning steel and then relizing u didnt put any collant on lol. yea good times
we are the ones that keep FIRST movin
i am certified on Lathe, Bridgeport and bridgeport acu-right

me too i cut most’s (90%) the parts for 340 and any other job at our school my team’s 340 and 424 have a really bad lathe that i have fixed up so it can cut blind at least we also have a prolit mini cnc and chiron cnc with out a transformer so:mad: and a big great 5hp Bridgeport prototrac really old spend most of my time on the Bridgeport-prototrac but do many of my easy parts on the mini cnc with feed of .5ipm wow that so slow i’m really glad to hear that there other firsters who love this stuff the best smell is that big old greases mill it is the best smell ever it cool to be better than most teachers in our tech wing i found one cut alum 1/4 plate at 340rpm’s then he broke a 50$ indicator after he drop it

im very happy to hear somany responces, while we all agree burning steel has somthing about it, i have to throw out the most untolerable smell in the shop ever…

I dunno if anyone hase taken time to take apart machines, to repair/ referb. but there is always that one screw that upon being cracked releases a putrid stench unlike nothing you have ever smelt before.

I got trained on the Lathe today. Tons of fun. have to keep in mind bit angle, feeding speed, headstock and tailstock position, etc. It’s great fun. I got to machine a couple pieces of extrusion down to 2.980 +/- .001. Used top-quality dial calipers and machinists squares and everything.

All this machining makes me want to reconsider my career path… I want to be an auto mechanic but dealing with precision measurements and working machines to get good fits and finishes is just way too fun for it’s own good. Hell, I broke out my Grizzly catalouge and I got all worked up looking at calipers and mill vices.

Now I have to go drink some caffeine and calm down or something. D=

One of the guys in the shop class I was in used some of the time to make parts for his truck’s clutch. Who says being a mechanic and being a machinist are mutually exclusive?