Fowler puts vacation on hold to learn the science behind machining in ACE bootcamp

Say hello to Christopher Fowler. A recent University of Tennessee, Knoxville graduate in mechanical engineering, he decided to take the summer off before starting his new job as a Test Engineer at Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) in the Technical Solutions division. (BTW… HII is America’s largest military shipbuilder, and its Technical Solutions division supports national security missions around the globe.)

After learning about America’s Cutting Edge (ACE) from UT’s engineering department, and completing the free online CNC Machining Training, he put his vacation on hold to gain some hands-on experience through ACE’s first in-person CNC Machining Training session this week at UT.

Christopher said, of the online training, “I learned the science behind machining, the basics of CAM 3D models, and how to look for/fix chatter.” After the first three days of in-person training, he says he has now learned, “how to load tools and find the tool offsets, probe the work piece according to what was specified in the setup sheet, turn on the machine, and change tools.” He says he also learned how hard it is to clamp plastics versus metals, and his CAM skills are improving.

It’s certainly not everyone’s idea of a summer vacation, but Christopher says he thinks all engineers who might want to work in manufacturing should take this course.

“It is important to understand how designs will be machined and how much time a weird feature will take and how much it will cost. Also, it is a great experience to meet different people in different careers, and that exposure may help some figure out what industry is right for them,” he said.

Christopher is one of more than 60 participants taking part this summer in ACE’s next-generation machine tool workforce training developed by IACMI and UT Mechanical Engineering Professor Tony Schmitz. ACE is supported by the US Department of Defense Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment program from the Office of Industrial Policy.

More than 1,400 people from across the U.S. are engaged in the online training. If you’d like to join the ACE team, register online at no cost.


America’s Cutting Edge (ACE) is a national initiative to restore the prominence of the U.S. machine tools sector through advances in training and technology. Part of the ACE effort is an IACMI program that uses virtual training and machining simulation to teach essential manufacturing skills—all designed to help tackle the nation’s skills gap and recover its technical and manufacturing leadership position.

ACE is supported by the U.S. Department of Defense Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment (IBAS) Program from the Office of Industrial Policy and brings together the scientific expertise of the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) with the workforce development leadership of IACMI.

Through ACE, IACMI has partnered with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT) and Pellissippi State Community College (PSCC), also in Knoxville, to offer a new, no-cost CNC Machining Training opportunity.

The ACE CNC Machining Training Program uses virtual training and machining simulation to teach essential manufacturing skills through a modular, interactive, learn-at-your-own-pace course on modern CNC machining fundamentals. No prior machining experience is required, and the training is offered at no cost.

Designed to teach essential machining skills and address the nation’s growing manufacturing workforce gap, ACE kicked off in December 2020. The six-hour online curriculum walks users through the steps necessary to set up for machining a component, up to the point of engaging with the machine. It introduces new technology advancements being developed at Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL with partners like MSC Industry Supply to reduce expensive trial and error and increase productivity and efficiency of current machine tools.