By Kel Hahn
One way to describe Floyd Taylor is “the scary old machinist in the RGAN basement.”
But those are his self-deprecating words, not mine. And he says them with an ironical laugh.
Another way to describe Floyd is “outstanding staff member.”
That’s the perspective of appreciative students who made Floyd a finalist for the 2018 UK Staff Senate Outstanding Staff Award. According to Alexandre Martin, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, that take is much closer to the truth.
"Floyd has been instrumental to the success of the students, as well to the research of the department. His willingness to teach the techniques, instead of merely performing them, makes his contribution even greater."
As senior machinist for the College of Engineering, Floyd works with undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff on senior design projects, research endeavors and more. With three decades of designing and building industrial equipment under his belt—including 23 years at Clark Machine Tool & Die in nearby Nicholasville, Kentucky—Floyd has more than enough experience to impart to students.
“I like working with students because they’re like sponges. They’re eager for information that will help them get on their way,” says Floyd.
Often, however, the best wisdom Floyd can proffer to students comes with an unexpected price.
“Ninety-percent of the time, they bring me a design and I have to change it,” he explains. “Students always expect that their drawing is going to be right the first time, so they get upset and hung up on what they did wrong. I always tell them that I've been designing and building machines for over 30 years, and to this day I've never gotten it completely right the first time.”
A significant component of Floyd’s hands-on education involves expanding students’ ways of thinking.
“Because students work with formulas and equations, they usually think there’s only one way to do something. I try to show them that there might be many ways to design something, depending on the machines you have and what the customer wants,” he says.
Given the college-wide scope of Floyd’s work, his goal is to build “a huge machine shop where faculty, staff and students can use their knowledge and intelligence to freely build.” Since Floyd’s arrival, the college now operates a computer numerical control (CNC) mill, CNC lathe and a large-scale 3D printer, among other key pieces. Lately he’s been pushing for a CNC water jet.
“The more things I can show students how to do, the more they can take with them to become better employees when they leave. It’s very important to me that we turn out good graduates.”
Mike Renfro, chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, observes, “Floyd’s work with the students gives them practical insight into actually making their designs that complements the theoretical material they learn in class. His considerable machining experience adds a lot of value to their education."
Now, does that sound like someone scary to you?