From Elgin to Daytona IMT Program collaborations help student Steven Spicer excel in new career path

  • Tags: Academics | Achievements | Student Profile
Published 10/29/2021
Professor Umberto Tinajero and student Steven Spicer stand in front of Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Machine

Professor Umberto Tinajero and student Steven Spicer stand in front of Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Machine


Elgin Community College student Steven Spicer entered ECC’s Industrial Manufacturing Technology (IMT) Program without any knowledge of the craft, coming from a background in construction and working odd jobs to support himself and his two children. “Before I got into this line of work, I had spent most of my adult years just doing random jobs that didn’t always pay well, though at times I did do carpentry and construction, and I liked that,” said Spicer. “I had planned on doing that, but for a long time I had no car, so bringing my tools to a job site every day wasn’t realistic. Eventually, being almost 30 and with two kids, I decided to find a new trade, which led me to CNC, and then to ECC.”

Spicer entered ECC’s Integrated Career & Academic Preparation System Program’s (ICAPS) Computer Numerical Control (CNC) program in 2018. He recently finished his Associate in Applied Science – IMT and will complete his certification in CNC programming this fall. Since his involvement with the IMT program, he’s made significant strides in the field; one of the more memorable ones being working with go-kart racer Miles Franklin of Delmar, Iowa, who competes at local, regional, and national levels of racing around the U.S. and Canada.

Franklin and his team were seeking assistance to improve the heel support system on his kart, leading Franklin to approach his Uncle, ECC Groundskeeper Coordinator Dennis Doherty, who then reached out to Umberto Tinajero, professor of IMT and the Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) instructional coordinator. Tinajero, Spicer, IMT professor Alejandro Murillo, and lab assistant Kyle Witek worked together to take a complex industry drawing to create a CNC program matching six important replicas of the foot/heel supports on the kart. “My crew is willing to work hard and race our hearts out, but we cannot do this alone, and we sure appreciate everything Steven and the IMT program at ECC has done for us,” said racer Miles Franklin. With ECC’s assistance on his kart, Franklin won first place at the Daytona Int’l Speedway – WKA/Margay Ignite Challenge in the Ignite Jr. class in December 2020.

Spicer has also shown success through a collaboration with the welding program to create purge blocks. “The purge blocks made for the welding department are used to join fragile materials that would usually burn up the material since they are thin. They’re usually used on stainless steel and other odd metals, but can be used for steel as well,” said Tinajero, who also collaborated with the welding department and Spicer on the project.

ECC’s welding team drew up the design for the purge block and purchased the metal required for the project. The design and materials were sent to Tinajero’s side in IMT, where Spicer used MasterCAM to make the piece of equipment that roughly sells for $700, but the team could make for under $50. “Mr. Spicer did an absolutely amazing job on this project,” said Marc Hucek, associate professor of welding. “It was an awesome way we can collaboratively work between disciplines to help teach both IMT and welding students.”

Spicer is currently working toward a bachelor’s degree from NIU through a coordinated program with ECC and found work as a CNC Programming Leader. “In the past couple of years, my life has become vastly better, and a lot of my success is attributed to my time in the IMT program at ECC,” said Spicer. “It helped me get a good job, which has become a good career, and at this moment, both my education and my career are on an upward trajectory."