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BVA student Riley Ott, center, accepts a $2,000 check from DMI Companies Inc toward the cost of a computerized numeric control router for STEM/engineering teacher Michael Pappas’ classes.  Also pictured are, left to right, Katie Hager, DMI workforce development coordinator; Doug Gudenburr, DMI chief operating officer, Mr. Pappas and DMI new product development/manufacturing engineering manager.



    Until the Covid-19 virus closed schools, Belle Vernon Area students were making substantial progress on building a high-tech device that will be of special value to engineering classes.
    Called a computerized numeric control router, or CNC, once completed, it will enable students to manufacture and fabricate items needed for engineering projects as well as BotsIQ and other robotic instead of sending their designs to an outside firm to produce at a cost.
    The project is being overseen by STEM instructor Michael Pappas, who said the equipment, related software and tutorials would have cost almost twice as much if they had been purchased outright instead of being built in-house, which, in turn provides students with new experiences.
    The BVA Charitable Fund contributed $6,500 toward the project, supplemented by $2,000 from Charleroi-based DMI Companies Inc. and $1,000 raised by a BVA Engineering Go Fund Me campaign. 
    DMI has partnered with Pappas and the school district for five years as industry adviser for the BotsIQ team and engineering program. The firm has provided goods and services as well sending employees for regular classroom visits and technical support.
    Pappas recently issued a CNC Router progress report that showed students have motors and spindles running; built duct runs; laser-cut custom boxes to house control units and emergency shut-offs; and prepped what’s called a spoil board.
    “Won’t be long,” he said, “and the students are excited,” albeit that was shortly before schools were shut down on March 16 in response to Covid-19, the virus responsible for a pandemic.
    Pappas said the CNC Router is self-contained, safer for students to use than conventional “shop machines,” results in a better product and serves as another tool to recruit students in BVA engineering classes.
    As another result of school closures, preliminary BotsIQ competition that was scheduled this month at Westmoreland County Community College was cancelled.
    Covid-19 also has impacted the 14th annual Southwestern Pennsylvania BotsIQ finals in which 80 teams of students from more than 50 local high schools were to battle their 15-pound, custom-built robots at California University of Pennsylvania’s Convocation Center in April.