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MirandaNet Fellowship Casestudy

Membership List | Publications | Research | Specialist Area List | Braided Learning Ejournal


Darryl Shear

Year of posting: 2005




This paper considers how the implementation of a new Laser Cutter will affect the way in which we deliver CAD/CAM to our students and if there will be a change in the attitudes and motivation of students.  This can only be done by comparing the current CAD/CAM system with the new Laser Cutter.



Being a Teacher of Design technology for the last five years, I have begun to see swift changes in the types of projects that students are taught.  It seems a long time ago since we taught lathe skills or wood turning skills to make a balancing toy.  The trend now seems to be smart materials, 3D modelling and CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Design/ Computer Aided Manufacture) simply because this technology is now readily available and used to enhance everyday life via the products we use and buy. 

The National Curriculum for England: design and technology


Programme of study: design and technology - Key stage 3

[During key stage 3 pupils use a wide range of materials to design and make products. They work out their ideas with some precision, taking into account how products will be used, who will use them, how much they cost and their appearance. They develop their understanding of designing and making by investigating products and finding out about the work of professional designers and manufacturing industry. They use computers, including computer-aided design and manufacture (CAD/CAM) and control software, as an integral part of designing and making. They draw on knowledge and understanding from other areas of the curriculum.]


[Accessed 3rd May]


There has been a drive from the government and other external agencies, to raise the profile of manufacturing and engineering skills within schools, primarily this is because there is a shortfall of skilled workers in these areas.  Part of the National Curriculum states that pupils in Key Stage 3 (KS3) need to cover the following areas:-  

Developing, planning and communicating ideas
1a: Identify relevant sources of information, using a range of resources including ICT

1h: Use graphic techniques, including computer-aided design (CAD) to explore, develop, model and communicate design proposals (for example, using CAD software or clip-art libraries, CD-ROM and internet-based resources, or scanners and digital cameras)

Working with tools, equipment, materials and components to produce quality products
2a: Select and use tools, equipment and processes, including computer-aided design and manufacture (CAD/CAM), to shape and form materials safely and accurately and finish them appropriately (for example, using CAM software linked to a cutter/plotter, lathe, milling machine or sewing machine)

2d: Make single products and products in quantity, using a range of techniques, including CAD/CAM, to ensure consistency and accuracy

Knowledge and understanding of systems and control
5g: Use ICT to design sub-systems and systems


[Accessed 26th April]


As a result of the above information, and being able to purchase a CAD/CAM machine, the Design Technology Department restructured KS3 to enable us to teach specific CAD related project.  Over the last few years, GCSE Exam Boards have also begun to demand more of a CAD/CAM input in student products. 


During a parents meeting, I was talking to an intelligent girl, who had been given a low mark for her ICT coursework.  When questioned about this she explained that she did not like computers and that she would not need them when she left school.  I spent some time talking to both girl and parent explaining how ICT enriches our lives, makes live easier, speeds up shopping queues via bar coding etc and that this is the future.  The only comment I received in return was “it’s your future not ours”!  This was a comment from a parent who could not see the values or benefits of ICT.  Had this attitude affected her daughter who has grown up in the technology revolution?  It had been three years since this meeting, so I though it would be interesting to get an up to date statement. 


“I think computers are useful in some circumstances, such as the internet (research), communicating via e-mail, making the world appear smaller, doing graphs and charts etc”  

                 Year 11 student 2005


In my opinion a typical response form someone who has needed to use ICT to get through her school life.  I then asked the following question:-


How do you feel about computers? Her response was a little more negative.


“I feel that people are becoming more reliant on computers and technology.  This means that if they break or get a virus the world won’t be able to manage/function properly.  The increasing use of technology means people are communicating face to face less and eventually people will do everything from home”.


                                                                                                                                                Year 11 student 2005


One of the first major pieces of equipment bought was an A3 flat bed CNC machine in 2003. This equipment, at the time was a major piece of ICT hardware within our Design Technology Department.  This machine now appears very temperamental and slow in comparison with the Laser Cutter. When the A3 flat bed CNC machine was delivered, we had crowds of students swarming round this CNC machine and showing lots of interest. Over a period of time I could see some students with Special Educational Needs (SEN) felt alienated, because of the complex CAD programme needed to run this machine.  When we first started to teach CAD/CAM we found that the machine took up a lot of teacher time, as it required setting parameters, tool compensations, locking materials in place and then setting the datum point. 


It was felt that we could not give the pupils ownership of this equipment, because of the levels of trouble shooting needed, in order to complete a successful product.  This meant that we could not get around the class and aid students with their design work.     


Most able students who managed to grasp the CAD package, would design basic products, with a higher quality finish, helping to build self esteem and confidence.  A great deal of students seemed more impressed with the way the machine traversed along its axis to create a product rather than having to go through the process of getting to grips with a CAD package and produce a design on screen rather than on paper.  OFSTED made the point:-


The challenge for teachers using CAD continues to be, to find out which aspects of designing are best tackled with CAD software genuinely to raise design and technology capability, rather than just the ‘appearance of capability’ shown by the production of sophisticated drawings. The early evidence suggests that CAD is more successfully used in ‘design development’ than for basic ‘conceptual design’ when pencil and paper or other forms of design modelling are better. Similarly, further work needs to be done to find out the most effective ways of teaching pupils to use the software to help them in solving design tasks. Suitable curriculum materials need to be developed that foster creative responses from pupils using these new designing and manufacturing resources.


In one lesson the teacher introduced Year 7 pupils to 2D CAD software so competently, that not only did they learn to use the basic operations of the software, but they also understood when it was appropriate to use this facility and when it was better to make quick initial design ideas with pencil and paper.

[Accessed 26th April]


 It would appear that for some pupils, watching the CNC machine cutting out a kit for them to assemble gave them just as much satisfaction as those who had designed and manufactured their own product; an important point as this helped raise self-esteem with students with Special Educational Needs (SEN). 


We decided to run Pupils with Marked Aptitudes (PUMA) classes during the summer half term, for year eight, to help raise the profile of the current CNC machine and for students to impart their knowledge to others.  This worked really well and after a short time, we had several CAD/CAM assistants that would facilitate other students within the class, which allowed the teacher more freedom to help others.  Ideally we would have liked to focus purely on the designing and then e-mailing the designs to the technician for him to manufacture and then return the product back to the student’s next lesson. However the students were more motivated when they could see their designs (and others) being cut right in front of them.        


                                                                                    Mini Light Project Using Gallard



Before arriving at Ringmer Community College in 2002, CAD/CAM had already been targeted as a major piece of equipment that could potentially raise standards.  The following points were made as part of the Departments Development Plan. 


Key Objective 1 – Raising Achievement


1.1              Development Objective – To raise further the quality of teaching and learning and, in particular, (a) to increase levels of responsibility and accountability in the learner, and (b) to challenge pupils with marked aptitudes.


1.3              Development Objective – To build on increased achievement in SATS during 1998/1999 in order to achieve SATS performance targets for 2001 and 2002 by focussing on pupils at the level 4/5 borderline and on those capable of achieving levels 7 and 8.


4.0       Development Objective – To further develop the College strategy for ICT so     as to    enhance the curriculum and improve pupil achievement


To achieve these targets in Design Technology, it was firmly believed that the introduction of CAD/CAM, Rapid prototype theories, and External speakers would enhance the knowledge and understanding of students and so increase SATS performances.   


Ringmer Community College gained Technology College Status in 1999, about the same time the then Minister Charles Clark launched the CAD/CAM in Schools Initiative at the University of Warwick.  According to Dr John Garside, Principal Fellow, Warwick Manufacturing Group, University of Warwick:-







[Accessed 22nd April 2005]


After employing a new Design Technology Technician in 2003, we were made aware of a new piece of equipment ‘The Laser Cutter’.  After a year of fundraising and applying for grants, we managed to obtain a second hand Laser Cutter. 


The main reasons for getting this piece of equipment, was to improve the quality of our Graphics work and to enable us to ensure that we could have a CAD/CAM influence in Textiles, as this Laser Cutter would cut through a wide variety of material. 

Being a Technical College, I felt it was also important to keep up with the latest Technologies available to schools.  At this time the department did not have any idea how much of an impact it would have on teaching and learning. 






Below are two key areas of our Technology College Bid (TCB) and a progress report that I wrote in 2003:-     


DT 1

Raise standards at Key Stage 3 so that a greater proportion of pupils reach level 5 by the end of Year 9

2003- 70% of students achieved a level 5 or above

2004- 75% of students achieved a level 5 or above

Although this was 5% off our target, according to our PECs our value added for both boys and girls was 1.13 show that we achieved excellent value added.





Introduction of the KS3 strategies have commenced.  The use of keywords has been used for some time now.  We have plans to introduce a comprehensive glossary of technology terms.   MSB has redesigned new assessment sheets for teachers and pupils.  This allows the pupils to see how we are marking and to see the assessment criteria they are marked against.

In 2003/04 the assessment sheets have been modified and improved so that the targets pupils receive are directly linked to the project they are working on.

DLS has re-written SoW to enrich pupils D&T experiences. Which now include CAD/CAM, Electronics, Graphics and Resident Materials. 










DT 2: -

Raise standards at GCSE so as to increase the A*- C pass rate and the proportion of pupils gaining A and A* grades as well as consolidating the A*- G pass rate.

This objective links with D&T 6


By Easter 2003 we should have 12 laptops with CAD software installed.  A CAD/CAM machine has been ordered which will allow us to for fill the National Curriculum.  A Smart Board is needed so that we may effectively teach CAD/CAM.  Unimatic (supplier of our CAD/CAM equipment) will give our staff one days training.  Food will take our existing CAD/CAM machine so that they may cover their Syllabus, DLS to train.


Equipment has started to arrive for the new tech. Room (CO2).  Yr 11 to have priority with timetabling in rooms CO2 and CO5.


As ICT is having a major effect on KS4 It is expected that with the CAD/CAM equipment and the newly fitted workshop, GCSE results should improve.  

Design and Technology – Wider Community 3

To extend the College’s community Design and Technology provision by encouraging evening and weekend use of our CAD by individuals and community groups.



·        June 2003. CAD software used successfully to support one adult education class and provide facilities for one community group.

Meeting held with RHC and Steve Green on 02.04.03

Lots of positive work has been done on this.  A full report is expected by RHC and Steve after easter.

Meeting held with RHC on 02.04.03

RHC to discuss with SH ways of introducing CAD into the community.  DLS and  MSB are to provide a taster day for any possible adult ed class.  Evening classes to be run by external CAD/CAM tutor.  Have applied for a Smart Board to help deliver any future classes

This was advertised by adult Ed.  There were no takers.












·        To enrich technology courses through more effective linkage with business, industry and the local community.

For the Summer Booster classes COLAS (Engineering Company) was used for a visit to demonstrate the use of CAD/CAM in the manufacturing of road signs. This link has been established and future projects are in the pipeline.







DT 4

To increase the use and application of ICT in technology, especially in relation to the use of CAD / CAM, control technology and research & communication




July 2002 50% of Year 9 pupils.

July 2003 85% of Year 9 pupils.

July 2004 and 2005 100% of Year 9 pupils

CAD/CAM will be taught as a FPT for six weeks in year 7 and 8, giving complete ownership to the pupils by year 9.





Due to new Specifications, all pupils taking Graphics and Product Design, will have to demonstrate graphic and CAD/CAM abilities.  All equipment is in place and pupils successfully completed this task in 2002-3






New schemes of work allow pupils to explore CAD/CAM within D&T.  Laptops allow pupils to refine research and measure and control events via crocodile clips.

Key Stage 3 students follow the ICT framework sample units.  Therefore, in Yrs 7 & 8 they use MS Excel for modelling and data handling.   In addition they use Bridge Builder as an example of an alternative modelling program.

In addition Yr 9 students use MS Access for data handling.









New schemes of work now include CAD/CAM.  Pupils will experience this in years 7,8 and 9.  Projects increasing in difficulty as they progress





CAD CAM is well established with several developments being made over recent months.


  • Arrival of Laser cutter due 20th JAN
  • MSB accredited Pro/Desktop trainer and will pilot yr10 project.
  • Interactive whiteboard usage for C02 and projector used in other workshops.
  • New software introduce- Mechanical toy/Fairground/ Focus on Plastic/Wood joints.
  • Primary CAD software Block CAD














Having a “TRAFFIC LIGHT SYSTEM” allowed us and Senior Management (SMT) to follow our progress. 


Working closely with the Tech. College Bid as this forms the basis for our development plan, we have:


1.      Purchased an industrial standard CAD/CAM machine and trained all staff.

2.      Re-written KS3 and 4 schemes of work to include and aid the development of ICT in the curriculum

3.      Development of industrial links and links to the community.

4.      Redesigned our assessment strategies to come in line with current trackers.

5.      Built and fully equipped a new tech room.

6.      Set up a resources centre for pupils within technology.

7.      Obtained laptops to enable us to teach CAD/CAM effectively.

8.      Consolidation of Food Technology courses and further development of schemes.

9.      PUMA opportunities within all the departments’ curriculum areas.

10.  Staff training – ICT







I am aware that through Curriculum Leader Meetings, Design Technology as a subject tends to have less behaviour problems than other subjects.  Design Technology appeals to all types of learners (Auditory, Kinaesthetic and Visual) which could explain this, or maybe students are generally more motivated in Design Technology because they can produce something 3 Dimensional.


 The department has developed a clear assessment for learning policy which now focuses more on formative assessment rather than summative.  We have created projects with half time assessment points, so that students can attain a half time level with specific areas for improvement, thus giving the student clear guidelines for improvement.    


With the use of a new Interactive White Board (IWB), Laser Cutter and twenty laptops, the DT Department has become very ICT orientated. The last OFSTED reported,


“There is excellent planning of the overall learning programme in Years 7 to             9, and this enables teachers to have well structured lessons. The technology     special status of the college has enabled the department to establish good use of ICT and use CAD in Year 8 lessons”.


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