This is My Story.
This is My Story.
Watch Steven’s Video
‘Being out in the shop with my dad is where it all started.’
At eight years old, Steven Shaw loved to be in the shop, amongst his dad’s collection of classic cars. Each of the five Corvettes, two Camaros, and one Chevelle were at different stages of rebuilding. On weekends, his father, taught him and his brother about the exterior and finishes — how to make panels, sand, and paint cars. Shaw enjoyed working on the exteriors, but was even more fascinated by the engines. “I wanted to know how the engines worked…to take them apart and rebuild them,” Shaw said. “I wanted to build a rocket motor, so I began asking for a lathe*. I didn’t get the lathe, but my dad gave me a drill press instead.”
‘High school was a fork in the road. On one path was something in the arts and on the other was working in industry. I love the arts, but I chose industry because I’m a gearhead at heart.’
At 15, Shaw already knew himself — he knew he liked working with his hands, being creative, and problem-solving. In high school he made average grades, but was involved in video production and music. Outside of school, he built go karts and dirt bikes. One summer, Shaw was bored and sneaked across the street to his cousins’ house, where he “borrowed” the ride-on mower. Lowering it five inches and changing out the pulleys, he turned it into a racing mower.That fall he attended a career fair at his high school, where he discovered the Central Educational Center (CEC), a partnership of the Coweta County Schools, West Central Technical College, and local business and industry. CEC provides high school students with work-based and project-based learning outside the traditional classroom.It was around this time that a friend asked Shaw to join his robotics team. Shaw said, “I almost didn’t do it because I thought engineering was dorky. Instead it inspired me to finish high school strong and start making A’s.”The robotics team gave Shaw the ability to be autonomous and innovative. The competitions gave his team a chance to create a vehicle that had to navigate an underwater obstacle course using only a mounted camera. For another competition, they received a box of random items that needed to be turned into a robot to solve a problem given to them. It also allowed him to get to know Scott and Pam Brown, the robotics team teachers at his high school, who would be instrumental in his life.
‘It was a no brainer for me. Of course I wanted to work in exchange for the lathe.’
At 17, through the work-based program at the CEC and the guidance of the Browns, Shaw went on a tour of a small machining company. During the plant tour Shaw walked through the aisles looking at all of the machines he wanted to try out, but what really caught his attention was the same 1957 lathe he wanted as a child. At the end, he asked the president of the company if he could intern there. The president, knowing that Shaw was interested in the machinery, responded with ‘I can hire you as an intern. Do you want minimum wage or do you want to work in lieu of pay for that lathe you’ve been eyeing?’ Shaw said, “it was a no brainer for me. Of course I wanted to work for the lathe.”
‘I appreciate EVERYTHING my teachers have done for me.’
After graduating high school, Shaw went on to Southern Polytechnic State University, where he began his undergraduate courses. In the spring semester of freshman year the Browns called him, once again helping forge his career path. The Browns knew of a local machine shop, GT Virtual Concepts (GTVC) in Newnan that was interested in hiring an apprentice. Shaw quickly called the company and spoke with the owner Golda Noble. An interview was then set-up with Golda’s husband, Aaron, also the product engineer at GTVC. What was supposed to be a short interview lasted three hours, as the two bonded over their love of machining and fabrication.
‘In manufacturing it’s important to try things. You have to be willing to problem solve and be creative.’
In May 2012, at the age of 19, Shaw began working at GTVC in the apprentice role. At the beginning, Shaw was amazed by the details that went into programming a machine and creating a product. Over time, he has learned to set-up the machines, work on the programming software, and be forward thinking, helping to anticipate issues that could arise and create a domino effect in production. Almost three years later, the company has grown from two machines to five, increased its support staff, and taken on an additional machinist, who was also new to the industry. Between the two, they collaborate on designing parts for their biggest customers, creating unique features for these parts, developing new products, incorporating different technology in the shop, and finding new uses for their existing technology. They are given the independence to be creative and are able to explore opportunities to expand their skill sets through travel to technology shows and real-world applications.
‘Manufacturing is so much more than I imagined’
While growing up, if anyone had asked Shaw what he thought manufacturing was, he would have told you about the black and white documentaries he had seen that featured individuals repetitively pressing the “go” button on stamping machines. Nowadays, Shaw lights up when he talks about what manufacturing really is to him — 3D design, research and development, flexibility, and the ability to create and be innovative.
‘I’m lucky. I was afforded the opportunity to discover what I loved to do at an early age.’
Now at 22, people always ask Shaw, “What do you want to do when you get done with school?” His response: “I want to be doing this.” Sometimes you can get burnt out on doing the same type of work, but with what he does in manufacturing, there are always new machines or technology to discover.Shaw’s message for both boys and girls in middle and high school is to try things. Get involved with the vocational programs in your school. If your school doesn’t have one, check out internships at local companies in your area. Be willing to work on equipment and do the monotonous tasks when you are starting out and discovering what your interests are. Understand that there is more to manufacturing than what you do in your first job, have the desire to learn and succeed, and many opportunities in different areas will be made available to you within manufacturing facilities.*A lathe is a machine tool which rotates the workpiece on its axis to perform various operations such as cutting, sanding, knurling, drilling, or deformation, facing, turning, with tools that are applied to the workpiece to create an object which has symmetry about an axis of rotation. (source: Wikipedia)
GTVC was started in 2002. Golda and Aaron Noble are a husband and wife team who found themselves in a financial quandary. They took a leap of faith and decided to start their own machine shop. Golda requested a loan from her father but was given one stipulation; the loan had to be repaid in full in 45 days. With that loan Golda and Aaron purchased their first machine, a Hwacheon CNC Lathe. As fate would have it they were able to repay the loan in 30 days. Encouraged by the success of their investment, they tested their luck once more and with another loan from Golda’s father they purchased a Hurco CNC Knee Mill, and once again paid the loan back. Today GT Virtual Concepts has 3 Hurco Vertical Machining Centers, a Torchmate X CNC Plasma system and the Hwacheon CNC Lathe. GT Virtual continues to grow and develop rapid prototyping methods and design and manufacture jigs and fixtures for manufacturing facilities in Georgia.