UF Announced as Hub to Expand Machine Tools Workforce Training Centers in Florida

The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) announced recently that it is expanding America’s Cutting Edge (ACE), a national initiative aimed at revitalizing U.S. manufacturing, to three locations in Florida, including the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering at the University of Florida (UF).

ACE, which now has regional machine tool training centers in Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia, provides free online and in-person training in the machine tool industry – training that’s essential to America’s national security and continued economic vitality.

According to Sean Niemi, Ph.D., an assistant instructional professor in the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering and the project’s principal investigator, ACE is part of a strategic economic direction for the state of Florida. Dr. Niemi will be working with co-PI Katie Basinger-Ellis, Ph.D., an assistant instructional professor in the Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering.

“The pandemic emphasized the role of tourism in the State economy and the need for Florida to further expand its industry base, including advanced manufacturing,” Dr. Niemi said. “As someone who teaches mechanical design courses and is fascinated with manufacturing, I’m excited to see all the elements I’m passionate about coalesce in the ACE program.”

ACE is comprised of two parts. The first is an online requirement that covers an introduction to Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining and 3D modeling using Fusion 360. Additional courses in metrology, composites, and cybersecurity are being added. Upon completion, students become qualified to advance to a week-long, hands-on lab training “bootcamp.” Bootcamps provide opportunities for eligible students to learn in a high-intensity environment through hands-on, in-person training—all at no cost.

Launched in 2020, ACE is a public-private partnership established between the Department of Defense’s Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment (IBAS) program and the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Through ACE, a national CNC machining training program was developed by Tony Schmitz, Ph.D., (MSME ’96/Ph.D. ’99) a professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. More than 3,400 people from all 50 states are engaged in online training and more than 225 have completed in-person bootcamps.

“The ACE CNC machining and metrology modules exist, in large part, because I completed my graduate studies at the UF Machine Tool Research Center,” Dr. Schmitz said. “It’s so nice to see this connection, truly full circle. They are now part of an evangelizing community, and we want nothing less than eliminating the shortfall in the manufacturing workforce that exists today.”

The University of Florida will serve as an ACE hub, working with units across the state to expand machine tool training centers in Florida.