As makerspaces become more popular in communities trying to support entrepreneurs, Campion Academy boasts its own space where students can use software and machinery to create their personalized designs—the wood shop.

Dan Philpott began teaching Campion’s woodworking classes nine years ago and how his students are turning out more impressive work than ever. The 23 students enrolled in last semester’s class completed lathe work, glued projects and computer-aided engraving.

In a consumer-oriented society, Philpott realizes that enabling students to work with their hands and their imaginations is more important than ever. Most students complete at least five or six projects and incorporate any number of woodworking techniques, such as finger-jointed corners which sophomore Tommy Eickmann used to create a small chest. Sophomores Emanuel Espino and David Marroquin each completed about a dozen projects, from wooden pens to checker boards. Their enthusiasm hinged on their creative license.

This freedom to choose their own projects is what Cesar Lowrance likes the best. “We can be as creative as we want and can make whatever we want,” he said.

When Philpott began teaching the class in 2006, the shop contained a band saw and a drill press. With his continued management, the shop now boasts more than $20,000 worth of machines, including various lathes, sanders, saws and finishing materials.

The latest addition to the wood shop’s array of machines is a computerized numeric control (CNC) engraving machine, which allows students to manipulate an image or text using the machine’s software, and then set parameters that guide a drill bit to cut or engrave the image in wood.

Sophomore Hannah Phelps said, “Using your imagination, you can really make about anything in this class.” Her classmate Devaney Bright agreed. As they both watched the CNC machine cut shapes of the continents out of a piece of cherry wood, Bright described projects she has made for her mom and her current inlaid map project. “I like learning how to use tools that I wouldn’t have gotten a chance to otherwise,” she added. Both she and Phelps are also looking forward to taking a welding class from Mr. Philpott.

“I want the students to feel comfortable in a shop setting, use different machines, and work with their hands,” Philpott said. He added that he hopes students will walk away with the skills and confidence to tackle future projects and household fixes themselves.

Jenny Sigler teaches English at Campion Academy.