(Above) Aedyn Snyder, 12, in ACC’s Computer-Integrated Machining lab in the campus Advanced Applied Technology Center.

(November 15, 2023) – Middle school student Aedyn Snyder of Graham plays on the basketball team at Hawbridge School, the charter school he attends in Saxapahaw. He is also a member of the cross-country team, and joined his family one cold Saturday morning in early November to run in the recent Reinhartsen 5k on the Alamance Community College campus.

Aedyn also just achieved a first for his age. At 12, he graduated with a certificate from a new college initiative known as America’s Cutting Edge (ACE) that provides hands-on learning in the Computer-Integrated Machining (CIM) lab. That made Aedyn the youngest student to matriculate successfully through the ACE boot camp last summer, according to James Adkins, Department Head for Computer-Integrated Machining (CIM), Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD), and Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET).

The America’s Cutting Edge (ACE) program originated last year when Alamance Community College received a grant from the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, making it North Carolina’s first community college to become an ACE-approved facility. With the goal of putting U.S. manufacturing back on the map by training the next generation of operators, engineers, and designers, ACE can put students on a path to a career in the machine tool industry. In conjunction with NC A&T State University, the ACE program at Alamance Community College includes a one-week boot camp training following successful completion of required online courses. No prior training or experience is required.

“The ACE program is a way for novice students to test drive a CNC machine,” said Adkins. “We encourage everyone to consider the opportunity and ask themselves ‘Is this something I can do?’ Aedyn Snyder’s answer was yes and he did it. At 12 years old, Aedyn had zero machine shop experience and he succeeded by making the effort.”

Although ACC markets the ACE program to area middle and high schools, Aedyn Snyder learned about it from his dad, Justin Snyder, who is the Vice President of Workforce Development at Alamance Community College. Still, Aedyn still had to prove himself equally alongside his fellow classmates, all of whom were at least three or more years older.

Aedyn discovered his aptitude and interest in industrial creativity two summers ago when he took part in ACC’s CAD (Computer-Aided Drafting) summer camp on the college campus. The camp further ignited his passion for designing and building houses on a computer. This experience sparked a desire to learn how real construction occurs, seeing how metal parts made on machines can integrate into a completed project.

“I already knew that screws and bolts are created with machining equipment. So that made me want to actually find out the nooks and crannies of how to do that,” said Aedyn.

(Above) Aedyn Snyder learned how to program and operate CNC equipment during the America’s Cutting Edge (ACE) boot camp last summer.

To qualify for the ACE boot camp earlier this year, Aedyn was required first to pass quizzes based on information he learned from watching videos that dissected what machining is all about.

“One of the videos was three hours long, but of course I could pause and come back to it. The questions at the end of each video allowed you to learn from your mistakes and retake the test again,” said Aedyn.

Once Aedyn moved forward from the online courses, the ACE boot camp awaited him and fellow students, most all in high school. Although the ACE boot camp is described as a “high-intensity environment,” Aedyn says he enjoyed the hands-on learning in ACC’s Computer-Integrated Machining lab. Located in the expansive Advanced Applied Technology Center (AATC) on the college campus, the CIM lab provides opportunities for students to actually program and create metal parts that are used in a variety of equipment.

The ACE boot camp ran eight hours each day for a full week last summer. Aedyn says he felt gratified to finally be creating useful parts from metal as he had seen in the required video viewing.

For Aedyn, being given the chance to learn about and operate CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machinery at ACC under expert instructors like James Adkins and Daniel Quatrone has broadened his view of computer-aided machines.

Although he doesn’t turn 13 until December, Aedyn already has his academic future set on a pursuit that will feed his hunger for designing on a computer using 3D modeling.

“I know ACC has a really good CAD [Computer-Aided Drafting] program so that’s what I’m thinking about now,” he said.

All students who successfully graduate the ACE boot camp earn Continuing Education credit with some transfer credit into ACC’s Computer-Integrated Machining program.

“Anyone interested in exploring a precision machining career option can do it at Alamance Community College,” said Adkins.

For more information about the ACE program