Milken Community School is a non-profit private school that boasts state-of-the-art facilities and faculty that foster an innovative curriculum that emphasizes hands-on experimentation and experience. Chief among these facilities is Milken’s MIT-inspired Guerin Family Institute and Fab Lab, a groundbreaking home for student exploration and invention that’s equipped with 3D printers, laser cutters, key programming tools and a Republic Lagun milling machine. To learn more about how Milken Community School uses this cutting-edge space and their Republic Lagun FTV-2F-EVS we talked with Stephan Shapiro, the robotics program manager at Milken Community.

With nearly a decade of work experience in the aerospace industry and a love for robotics and technology that goes back to his days on the Granada Hills High School FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition) team, Shapiro has been leading the Milken Robotics program since 2017. Today, Milken Robotics participates in the FIRST suite of programs, that includes programming and building LEGO robots for grades 4-8, programing and driving 18” x 18” robots from a reusable robot kit for grades 7-12, all the way to the full-blown FRC for grades 9-12 that has students manufacture, build, program and drive 3’ x 3’, 150 lb robots out of an assortment of stock materials. To manufacture and modify these sophisticated robots and work on other projects, Shapiro and his team turn to their Fab Lab’s machines. Among these machines is their Republic Lagun FTV-2F-EVS, a vertical knee mill.

When we asked Shapiro about how the program used their Lagun he explained that,

“It has helped us build probably dozens of robots over the years, not to mention all sorts of other projects, school-related or personal… The mill provides the kind of precision that would be difficult, or in some cases impossible, without it. One of the things I love about the mill is how easy it is for students to learn. We have a CNC router, and it’s great, but it’s also super complicated. There are only about five students who really know how to run it. But with the mill, anyone can learn the basics in minutes and start machining simple components. Our machine is also equipped with an optional DRO (digital read-out) attachment, which makes the process that much faster… In addition to the mill, we just ordered a brand new Lagun lathe, model AT-1340-G-TW. We’re really looking forward to this upgrade over our current lathe.”

Although the majority of the space’s big projects are robot mechanisms for the FRC competition or practice systems during the off-season, students are encouraged to pick and peruse their own projects to work on. Students’ previous projects have included building a scale working model of a V8 engine using 3D-printed engine parts, using the FTV-2F to turn (literally) a piece of aluminum tube into a lightsaber hilt and even making a set of voice-controlled motorized curtains. But recently Aaron Neman, a graduating senior, built one of the most ambitious personal projects the Milken’s Fab Lab had ever seen.

Throughout his 4 years in the robotics program, Aaron completed several impressive personal projects like a 3D-printed RC car, a custom Onewheel and a set of voice-controlled motorized curtains. As graduation neared, Aaron’s inspiration and experience culminated with what Stephan Shapiro describes as, “this awesome drift trike he decided to build over the summer.” With extensive use of their Lagun lathe, Shapiro and Aaron spent countless hours designing it in CAD, buying the required components, machining, wiring and finally assembling the drift bike. Despite the arduous effort, Shapiro called it, “one of the coolest projects I’ve ever had the pleasure of helping a student with.” With students like Aaron and educators like Stephan working on such exciting projects, Lagun is proud to help cultivate the next generation of fabricators, engineers and operators.

Check out this video of Aaron’s drift trike in action!

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