The twenty-first century job market is vastly different from that of the twentieth century. People who have specialized skills and experience with computer aided design (CAD), computer assisted manufacturing (CAM), and computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines are expected to have a competitive edge over their counterparts applying for the same positions. The Technology for Untapped Talent (TUT) program, in its third year in 2013, enables people with disabilities to gain experience with CAD, CAM, and CNC at their own pace. Teaching a STEM curriculum not yet found in the typical K–12 program, TUT teaches the STEM disciplines in an applied setting, integrating the four elements and addressing applicable standards from both the Common Core State Standards and the engineering sections of the Next Generation Science Standards. The program was designed to lead to secure and meaningful employment for individuals with a range of disabilities. “Every employment situation comes with challenges; but TUT participants gain the self-confidence to realize that they are familiar with tools that most people have never even used,” said Project Director Neil Scott.
After graduating the first cohort in 2012, TUT launched its first Phase II cohort in 2013. The initial program, known as Phase I, introduced participants to the CNC micro mill, laser cutter, and 3D printer through a series of prescribed projects. In Phase II participants honed these skills as they chose a particular field, did more 3D modeling, used the larger mill, and developed the experience and confidence to design and fabricate products independently.
This year also saw the expansion of the program to all four major islands with the opening of a program on Maui. The project has been based on O‘ahu, but has also had a Hilo location from the beginning. While there was not yet a location on Kaua‘i, they had one participant from that island who flew over each week to participate in the program.
All of this growth meant that the program finally outgrew the already tight space where it had started on the campus of the College of Education at UH Mānoa. A move in the fall to much larger quarters in Iwilei tripled their space. An open house in December showed off both student work and the new space, which included a larger classroom; dedicated rooms for wood shop, metal shop, and finishing; a conference room overlooking twenty-first century manufacturing machines; and space for a gallery to display exemplary student work. And, importantly, the new location left room for continued growth and expansion.