Steven Stolberg'S 2021 COLLEGE LEVEL WINNING PROJECT
MAKING A METAL DROID:
Travers Tool is thrilled to announce the college level winner of our 2021 Travers Tool For Schools Scholarship is Steven Stolberg, a student at Hennepin Technical College in Minnesota. Steven's winning project demonstrated a variety of machining applications, critical thinking, and a level of craftsmanship and attention to detail that will no doubt serve him well as he pursues a career in machining.
I TOOK THE FOLLOWING STEPS TO COMPLETE THE PROJECT:
- Visualize the blueprint.
- Create and implement the proper set-up for each component.
- Machine the aluminum as required.
The first project that I have done, along with one of the most difficult projects that I have yet to do, is what we call the droid. The droid is used for electrical wiring and got its name because it looks like a droid’s head from Star Wars. I was still fairly new to machining at this point and I was extremely nervous. This was the first part that I had ever done from start to finish, and no one in the shop had done it before. The foreman has since told me that this part was way out of my wheelhouse and that no “normal” first year machinist would ever machine this part. The company ordered one hundred and ten of these parts after another machine shop had failed to complete the part successfully. There was quite a bit of pressure on me to be able to do this job well. I machined this part on the conversational Hurco VM10 and it took me over one hundred hours to complete the first time. I had to do nine different set ups in total and create three different sets of jaws just for this part. One of the set ups took me over seven hours to complete on my own, another set up took me over eight hours. The foreman wanted me to try to visualize the blueprint and use my creativity to finish this part. The droid is made out of aluminum and has one borehole, three tapped holes, several saw cuts, several forty five degree angles, a threadmilled I.D. thread, and ends up being roughly three and a half by five inches. In the end, my foreman did help me with some of the set ups later on. This part forced me to try new things in machining, be innovative, learn to use different inspection tools in some unique ways, and to really think outside of the box.
From Legos To Metals
As a child, I was the kid that was constantly building with colorful legos to create whatever I had imagined. I was raised by my grandparents who graciously took in my two siblings and myself. My grandmother used to buy me endless lego sets that created a mirage of star wars replicas. I distinctly remember her breaking my star destroyer made up of thousands of tiny lego pieces. She looked at my frustrated young face and told me “You did that too fast. Make it again”, and I did. Miraculously, this did not make me want to quit building things, this only pushed me to get better at my creations, to be faster. Creating with legos is one of the many things that led to me becoming a machinist.
You would think that my grandmother’s loving way of destroying my lego sets would have discouraged me, but it didn’t. I continued to build with legos, eventually moving on to fixing my family’s broken sinks, repairing my grandparent’s vehicles, and fixing or welding various different things on a farm. Working with my hands became my hobby and is now my career.
Later in life, I took every opportunity to take hands-on classes. I consistently thrived in classes that had me building or fixing things. I took autos so many times in high school that by my senior year, I was helping the teacher teach the class. I was also involved in a program called STEP in my final year of high school. In this program, we were able to go to a technical college to take college level courses for free. I instantly loved being in a school that allowed me to work with my hands rather than sitting at a desk all day.
After high school, I really wasn’t sure on what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I toggled between going to school for welding, machining, teaching, or even becoming an EMT. I ended up working for a machine shop in Fridley, Minnesota called B and E Tool where I learned more about becoming a machinist and decided that I wanted to go to school for it. I only had one thing standing in my way…how would I pay for it? I began learning more and more about the different scholarships, financial aid, and grants that I could earn to put towards my education. I filled out my required portion of the FAFSA and was then prompted to fill out my parent’s information. This became the second thing standing in my way. I have yet to even meet my father, and my mother left my siblings and I with our grandparents years ago. The issue is, my grandparents never legally adopted me, meaning they were not my legal guardians and could not fill out the FAFSA for me. I reached out to my mother to ask her to fill it out, making it very clear that I did not want her to pay for it, I just wanted to be able to qualify for some financial aid. She flat out refused.
After quite a bit of back and forth between various FAFSA employees, I learned that I could not finish my application without a parent’s income. The only way to complete the FAFSA without a guardian's information is to have joined the military, get married, have a child, be legally separated from my parents, or have parents that have passed away. None of these options worked for me at the time, and I felt terribly stuck. I had grown up in poverty with my grandparents and I did not want that to be my future. So, I worked my butt off. I worked as many overtime hours as I could. I worked weekends, saved every penny I could, sold some of my belongings, and poured it all into college. Without a FAFSA application, I am not eligible for most scholarships, grants, loans, or financial aid. I am currently in my second year of my degree and have paid for absolutely everything upfront. This has cost me thousands of dollars all at once. My most recent semester was $4,000, plus the cost of my textbooks. Currently, I am going to school full time at Hennepin Tech in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota and I am working at B and E Tool as much as possible.
I want to end my family’s poverty from my generation on. My future family will not have to scrape together enough quarters for a meal like I did. This is because of my tenacity and dedication. My family is not able to financially help me through college. I need to pay for everything on my own while still paying my bills on time. I am asking for this tooling scholarship because I truly do not have the extra money to buy the tooling myself. If I could, I would. This tooling would help me to become a better machinist at work. My whole life has led up to me becoming a machinist. The ten year old boy building star wars ships didn’t know it then, but creating things was going to be his future. Working with his hands was going to be his way out of poverty. Regardless of who you decide to give this grant to, I feel lucky to have even gotten this far. Just a few years ago, I would have never imagined getting a well paying job, much less going to college as well. I am blessed to have gotten so far.
Travers Tool For Schools Scholarships are co-sponsored by Dynabrade, our trusted partner. We appreciate their continued support of the scholarship and their commitment to the future of American Manufacturing.