As a senior enrolled in the Northern Maine Community College Precision Machining Technology program, Brady Hawkins was able to make his final project, a memorable one. In his last semester, Hawkins worked with Instructor Dean Duplessis on a veteran memorial wall for the Aroostook Band of Micmacs. Jennifer Pictou, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, had approached Duplessis in December of 2016 with the concept.
“I knew NMCC had an excellent reputation and felt it would be a great place to work with to help us honor our veterans,” said Pictou.
NMCC Precision Machining Technology students use intricate tools and computer aided manufacturing (CAM) programs to manufacture extremely specific objects and parts. Using this technology, Hawkins created a collection of life-sized blue anodized metal eagle feathers that each bears an engraved name of a respected Micmac veteran.
“I have gained a lot of experience from this project,” said Hawkins. “Setting up a new job from start to finish has been very valuable to my education.”
Hawkins utilized CAM software to create images for toolpaths and ran a test batch of a few feather designs. After he received approval, he then blanked out the pieces, made the fixtures, and the contour. Once the feathers were complete, he engraved the name of each veteran onto the feathers.
Using the element of the eagle feather was especially meaningful to the tribe. Eagles are a very revered symbol of the Micmac belief system. At powwows, eagle feathers adorn the ceremonial staff and some of the regalia. If an eagle feather falls during a ceremonial dance, a special presentation takes place where the eagle feather is gifted to a veteran. In the Micmac culture, there is no higher honor.
“It was nice doing something that will have such an impact on the community, will be available for people to see, and will be around for years,” said Hawkins.
Instructor Duplessis often works with businesses to provide his students with experience working on real jobs. Most of the time, however, the work that they do involves creating parts of bigger machines and their work does not get seen beyond the manufacturers they work with. This project was unique in the aspect that the feathers will be on display and visible to the community at large.
“We are fortunate to have been involved in the Micmac veteran wall project, and it’s nice knowing a student’s work will be appreciated by many, for years to come,” said Duplessis.
Pictou added, “Working with Brady and Dean was fantastic. Brady conducted himself in a very professional manner. He even provided us with a solution on how to hang the feathers and anticipated this problem before we even knew we had it. This exhibited skills that speak to the caliber of the students and education at Northern Maine Community College.”
In the past, not many veterans or their families came forward to participate on other memorial projects. The quality of this project, however, sparked interest and has helped Pictou identify more veterans within the Micmac community.
The project is called, “KEPMITE’LMANEJ SMA’KNISK,” which translates to, “Let us honor the soldiers.” The feathers will hang in the tribe’s new community center to honor veterans across all lines of service. The project was partially funded by the Institute of Museums and Library Services Grant as well as a grant from the Maine Communities Foundation.
Hawkins graduated from NMCC on May 13. He now works for Alexander’s Mechanical Solutions in Greenfield, Maine as a programmer/machinist.