$250K grant will upgrade CNC lab at Orleans Career and Technical Education Center

Posted 8 February 2023 at 3:06 pm

‘We are going to have a state-of-the-art learning lab. It’s going to be completely transformed.’ – teacher Bill Rakonczay

Provided photo: Bill Rakonczay teaches in the Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering program at the Orleans Career and Technical Education Center.

Press Release, Orleans/Niagara BOCES

MEDINA – The Orleans Career and Technical Education Center’s Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering program has been awarded a $250,000 naming rights grant from the Gene Haas Foundation to upgrade the classroom at the Orleans/Niagara BOCES site.

Once the renovations are completed, it will be one of the premier Career and Technical Education CNC labs in the country, said AME teacher Bill Rakonczay.

“We are thrilled to have received this very generous grant from the Gene Haas Foundation,” he said. “The director of the Gene Haas Foundation, Kathy Looman, encouraged me to apply for the funds because she said she has heard a lot about our program, and from what she saw from our social media accounts. I think that speaks volumes about what we do here.”

The AME program teaches students CNC (Computer Numerical Control) programming, CNC set-up and operation, along with Engineering Principals. They also partner with NASA for their HUNCH program with the students making parts for the stowage lockers that go to the International Space Station.

The HUNCH mission is to empower and inspire students through a Project Based Learning program where high school students learn 21st century skills and have the opportunity to launch their careers through participation in the design and fabrication of real world valued products for NASA.

“Gene Haas Foundation is thrilled to partner with Orleans/Niagara BOCES on this upgrade to their facility,” Looman said. “This naming program is an endorsement of the best CNC programs in the world. This grant was established for the purpose of highlighting those programs in order to raise the standard of Manufacturing Technology programs everywhere. We would like to thank William Rakonczay and the entire team at Orleans/Niagara BOCES for the success it has had as we look forward to the future.”

The upgrades to the classroom will take place over the course of this summer and next year’s classes will be walking into the new Gene Haas Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Lab.  “It is a very exciting time for me and for the students,” Rakonczay said.  “We are going to have a state-of-the-art learning lab.  It’s going to be completely transformed and I know I will be here all summer long to watch that happen. I can’t wait.”

The Gene Haas Foundation has played a very important role in Rakonczay’s program for many years providing scholarships to his students to continue their education. Gene Haas, the sole funder of the foundation bearing his name is the founder and owner of Haas Automation, the largest machine tool builder in the western world.

The foundation was founded by its namesake in 1999, to focus on manufacturing education in the form of scholarships for CNC machinist training. It donates millions of dollars every year to manufacturing education and the community.

There are over 300,000 manufacturing jobs that are currently unfilled due to a lack of skilled workers. Those numbers continue to grow daily due to retirements.

“I get calls all the time from companies who desperately need machinists,” Rakonczay said.  “There are just not enough trained workers out there.”

The AME program at OCTEC has introduced many students to careers in manufacturing and improves the pathway for them to careers thanks to the generosity of many local companies who have donated machines, provided mentors and shadowing opportunities. The Gene Haas grant will help Mr. Rakonczay to attract and educate the next generation of machinists to help populate the workforce.

“I am so grateful to the contributions that this grant and my business/community advisors have made to my classroom and students,” said Rakonczay.  “It is going to change the lives of many of our students and make us a top notch facility.  We are the first BOCES as well to receive this award. This is just amazing.”

To follow along the journey of the renovations of the lab, follow the OCTEC AME Class on Facebook.