We have nearly 400 schools using our G-Wizard Software, and we offer an educational discount to students and teachers on all our products.  Our schools range from High Schools to Community Colleges to the best Universities in the land including Stanford, MIT, and Harvard.  Here at CNCCookbook, we’re big believers in Manufacturing-related careers and it all starts with being able to learn the skills you need.  We’re also big believers in teaching kids to make things–real physical fun things, like the miniature pool table our friends at Northwest Iowa Community College have created.  Instructor Brian Busch was kind enough to share with me photos and other information about the CNC program at NWICC.

The NWICC Program

I asked Brian to tell me what sort of programs are offered for CNC’ers at NWICC:

Our program is a 1 year diploma or 2 year A.A.S. program with transfer options to earn B.A. degree in Engineering Technology. Our program is a makeup of Design/ Drafting, Machining/Processing, and Mechanical design/build.  Instructor to student ratio is about 1:8, so our students get quite a bit of “face time” with a person who has a decade or more of experience in the field and dedicated to teaching/learning. The two instructors for our program are Ryan Steffen (Cad –Mechanical Design, Metrology, hydro and pneumatics) and myself, Brian Busch (Manual-CNC Machining programming ETC. Robotics, Mechanical Design). We also offer a fairly new and unique program, Advanced Welding Technology (A.A.S.), which marries welding, drafting, and CNC programming. Our facilities for machining and drafting offer around 6000 sq/ft. And quite a bit of current technology including.

  • 6 CNC mills
  • 3 CNC lathes
  • 1 4×8 CNC router (We retrofitted (Chinese junk) to usable machine that now can M6 change tools ( Mach 3)
  • 6 Manual Mills
  • 5 Manual Lathes
  • 4 3d printers (2 different types—extrusion and liquid resin based)
  • 2 3d-Master Gages
  • 1 120W Universal CNC Laser
  • Mig, and Tig Welder-Hypertherm plasma
  • CNC Plasma Table
  • 4 Robots (3 smaller 5 axis trainers, 1 full-scale Fanuc)
  • Software Autodesk (Inventor-Autocad) , EdgeCam, BobCad/CAM, HSM, Various machine and robot control/simulation software’s.


(Wow, nicely equipped lab! — BW)

What I think makes our program unique is also what makes our representative 4 county area industry unique. Northwest Iowa is full of Industry, as you might expect we have a fair amount of Ag based businesses, but we also have companies such as Quatro Composites who manufactures carbon fiber composites for the military as well as other industries or Maintainer who designs and fabricates custom truck bodies for just about any industry including fire and rescue. We even have a custom firearm and trigger manufacturer (JARD) right here in town.  Our industry partners want to hire people with varied sets of skills ie-drafting/design, machining, welding, etc. which is what I love about the program everyone at NCC has helped to create. I feel our students leave with a wide-ranging set of skills and more importantly practical uses for those skills. While we do focus on fundamentals we also expand on those by allowing student’s time and opportunity to design and build projects that interest them, which is important for the  “Make Generation”. One current group of students is designing and building an “old school” raspberry pi controlled 2 player arcade (cabinet and all). Another group of students is building an aggregate and epoxy based 3 axis cnc mill. If the students are willing to put in the work—we as the instructors are willing to help them find answers. Not only their program instructors, but we often work with other program instructor such as our Electrical Trades programs (Phil Louters , Mark Bohnet, Byron Krull) to answer question outside our own areas of “expertise”.


At NWICC, students have undertaken some very ambitious projects–it must be quite a program and staff.  Sure looks like fun to me!

One of the projects was this student designed CNC Plasma Table:




Student designed clamps make it easy to use the table for welding or plasma cutting…

A student designed and built CNC induction hardener for a local firearms manufacturing company.  It uses a laptop with Mach3 for control and is just about ready to ship out to the new owner in the photo below:



There are many more including a CNC mill built into a granite surface plate and a large-scale 3D printing extruder–very cool stuff!

The Mini Pool Table

What originally caught my eye was Brian reached out to me via email and generously shared their mini pool table project:


1/4″ steel and brass ball bearings make good balls for this little pool table…

They came up with the mini pool tables as part of what they call a “Face to Face” program.  With this program, they bring in local High School students and show them what a career in CNC might be like.  Their goal was to wow them and capture their interest in 3 hours.  What a fantastic idea to get folks interested in our trade.

They used quite a variety of machines to make the table in 3 hours:

  1. Legs turned on Haas Sl-20 and Toolroom lathe all handwritten code
  2. Table top machined of VF-3 with both CAM and handwritten programming elements
  3. Table bottom all hand written code.
  4. Felt Lasered out (DXF file provided)
  5. Rack 3D printed

Thanks so much to Brian, his co-faculty, the students, and staff at NWICC for sharing their CNC program with us.  I wish there’d been a program like this near me when I got started in CNC. Heck, I’d love to be able to drop in on a program like this even now.  I can tell you there’s been a grin ear to ear on my face as I’ve written this article that comes purely from vicariously enjoying all the fun things that must be going on with this program.

I’ve got tons more pictures as well as some CAD files for this project.  Click to see the Mini Pool Table article.  There should be enough information there for you to follow along and make your own if you wish.  Meanwhile, make sure you don’t miss out on any of our great CNC articles–use the signup below to get onto our Weekly Blog Newsletter mailing list so  you’ll be sure and see the follow-on installment.



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