Surplus ovens in District 1 go high tech at NIC in second life
When District 1's Materials Section determined last fall that a pair of large aggregate ovens needed repair beyond what was practical -- the cost to calibrate them was much too high -- Dan Boston (D-1 driller) immediately thought of his father's work with North Idaho College's Aerospace Composite Technology program.
Rather than simply scrapping them as surplus items unusable by ITD, the district donated them to the program. The ovens were then refurbished and modified for use in teaching students needed skills in fabricating and repairing composite parts.
"They are used to cook Kevlar and graphite parts," said Boston.
Dan's father, Murdo Cameron (cameronaircraft.com), got involved with the college program a year ago through his work with composites -- first building airplanes, then moving into hydroplanes. Murdo prepared the ovens a few months before the fall semester by cleaning them with a soda-blaster paint and making necessary repairs. Cameron is developing a one-piece "mold" for the bottom of unlimited hydroplanes at the work center and gets students to assist for further hands-on training.
Murdo has been volunteering his time on the advisory board at the college and working with students to make molds of unlimited hydroplane boats. The students, about 65 of them, range from 19 to 50 years of age. There also are military veterans in the program pursuing new careers.
The project's total cost of almost $3 million was funded from a grant awarded under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grants Program, as implemented by the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration. Boston said many of the materials have been donated, including ovens, composite sheeting, paints and even planes.
"I think everyone involved from D-1 Materials feels really good to give back to the community," he added. "After seeing the ovens cleaned up and in use, everyone was proud that we were able to help the college."
N.I.C.'s Aerospace Division began in the fall of 2013 and will expand in 2014-15 with a pair of additional courses -- computer numeric control mill operator training and non-destructive testing. N.I.C is pursuing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification to train general- and airframe-qualified maintenance technicians, with priority given to military veterans.
Murdo built his first full-scale P-51 Mustang out of graphite composite in 1998, but he and Dan have been involved in the "process" for decades. "We started the molds around 1982. As a kid he would have us at the shop every holiday," Boston said.
After completing the replica Miss Spokane, Murdo plans on completing a second mustang. "All the parts for the second aircraft are complete," Boston said. "It just needs to be assembled."
Information about the program is available at www.nic.edu/aerospace, or by calling program instructor Trevor Budge at (208) 625-2344 or e-mailing email@example.com.
Pictured above: An NIC faculty member and student try out the college's "new" oven.