WEBSTER— While the rest of Webster was buckling in for the weekend on Friday, Webster Technical Education Teacher Roy Ward was anxiously awaiting the newest addition to the Webster High School shop, a Haas CNC Mini Mill. 

Ward, the expert, describes the machine’s capabilities like this: “Using a piece of raw material or a casting, students will program the mill to perform one or several operations. There are 10 tool holders that can automatically change. One part might have an area that needs to be surface milled, a hole to drill, and a thread to tap. Another example might be a pocketing operation to remove material from an inside contour. To put it simply, it makes chips.”

The uncanny professionalism of Webster’s shop is due not only to an array of sophisticated machinery, it has also gained respect through Ward’s ambition to partner with the community and provide students with what they need to prepare for life after high school.

In 2006, Webster High School (WHS) began Tiger Manufacturing, a student-run business. The vision behind the project is to provide students with real world skills and provide the world with highly skilled students. 

The program soon raised $22,000 from surrounding businesses and community members. Some money was borrowed from the bank and soon the shop was filling up with more advanced material. 

Within six years of its introduction, Tiger Manufacturing paid off the loan. Most notable is this project was of no burden to the Burnett County tax payers. 

“Over the last 11 years we have done over 300 jobs for local people. That work has allowed us to invest in this new manufacturing technology and expand our business into the metals side with this purchase of the Haas CNC Mini Mill.”

Webster is in the process of building a strong partnership with Nexen, a manufacturer of precision motion control components, power transmissions and web tension control products.

A retired Nexen employee will serve as a volunteer on the production floor in the Webster shop. With the help of that volunteer and others, students will learn the intricacies of programs such as SolidWorks and Mastercam, and even devices like 3D printers. 

“Besides learning how to create geometry and tool-paths, these students will learn skills that employers are screaming for. Skills such as work ethic, taking pride in their work, problem solving, critical thinking, customer relations, lots of math, production, quality control and most of all, teamwork,” said Ward.

In somewhat of an unofficial partnership, WHS has been offered the support from other Technical Education programs in the state and vice versa. Webster Tech Ed was gifted a simulator which allows students to “run graphics” and test programs in the classroom setting before operating a machine. This simulator was donated by Cardinal Manufacturing in Elva Strum.

In addition, Bob Morehead of Chetek-Weyerhaeuser donated a vice, tool holders and tooling. 

In return, Ward and WHS is donating a manual Bridgeport mill to Drummond High School. 

“The mill was donated to us so it only feels right to pass it along to someone who really needs it. We are so excited to support [their] program in this little way,” said Ward. 

The Webster Technical Education program has gained the support of enthusiastic community members and businesses. Ward explained that much support comes from Nexen, Wegner Cabinetry, Schaffer Mfg., Diamond Collision and Krysandi Kabinets, Northwoods Lumber and Lake Superior College. 

“The list goes on, but my point is the students are fortunate to have so many people who care about them enough to give their time,” said Ward. 

It is the hope of WHS to continue collaboration with surrounding schools and even offer neighboring programs to benefit from Webster’s growing shop.

“These machines can sit for hours and hours without use,” said shop volunteer, Larry O’Connell.  

WHS and Roy Ward’s Technical Education program is growing and it seems,  it will continue to grow. 

“There are great, high paying and plenty of jobs out there for youth that want to work in the trades. Our challenge is to expose students to all the possibilities. I am proud of the education we offer in our small school in northwest Wisconsin. In addition to the traditional woods, metals and engines curriculum, we have added many learning opportunities for students,” said Ward. 

Check out Mr. Ward’s homepage to see past projects conducted at WHS, including a house built for a community member with another on the way. https://sites.google.com/a/webster.k12.wi.us/ward/.