How One Small Town is Addressing the Skills Gap: Introducing Students to Industrial Robotics
Jeffrey Heimgartner posted on March 25, 2019 |

Today’s manufacturing environment contains advanced technology and exciting challenges for both new engineers and new machinists, millwrights and programmers on the floor. So, why aren’t more high school students interested in a career in industry 4.0?

One reason could be a lack of exposure and awareness to exciting technologies like CNC machine tools and industrial robots. In the small town of Hannibal, Missouri at a local career and technical center for high school students, that is now starting to change.

With studies suggesting that students better understand scientific concepts when they experience them, then students in the Hannibal Career and Technical Center’s (HCTC) Machine Tool program may be on the path to careers in robotics.

Thanks to a grant and funding from the Henry A. Jubel Foundation, founded by Spartan Light Metal Products to provide engineering students college scholarships, the school was able to purchase a FANUC LR Mate 200iD robot—a compact 6-axis robot with the approximate size and reach of a human arm. The students recently displayed their new programming skills for representatives of the foundation, which funded 25 percent of the robot’s approximately $50,000 cost.

HCTC Machine Tool students gather with representatives from the Henry A. Jubel Foundation after showcasing their robot programming skills. (Image courtesy of HCTC.)
HCTC Machine Tool students gather with representatives from the Henry A. Jubel Foundation after showcasing their robot programming skills. (Image courtesy of HCTC.)

“They haven’t had the robot that long, but the students have learned quite a bit about programming it,” said Don Jubel, Spartan Light Metal Products CEO. “The demonstration was very good. We hope to continue funding the Hannibal tech center.”

For HCTC Machine Tool Instructor Aaron Gander, the assistance provided to obtain the robot has created many benefits and future opportunities.

“By them coming in and helping, they allowed us to get that piece of technology for our students and also for our community,” he said. “Now we are able to give our students skills that they had not been able to previously get.”

The LRMate 200iD is a versatile high-speed sorting robot that is ideal for various industrial robotics applications. (Image courtesy of FANUC.)
The LRMate 200iD is a versatile high-speed sorting robot that is ideal for various industrial robotics applications. (Image courtesy of FANUC.)

Learning to program the robot—which the students only had for three weeks before the demonstration—has been a fun and informative experience for participants.

“I see it benefiting me in a way that will actually land me a career sometime soon after high school,” said Brad Tutor, student.

While the robot is still somewhat new to the students, Gander looks forward to seeing what will happen next.

“We have scratched the surface right now in the three weeks we’ve been working with it,” he said. “We look to improve as we go forward.”

Interested in more ways professionals are encouraging the next generation of engineers? Check out TacoBot Teaches Coding and STEM as Stackable Robot and Empowering the Next Generation of Engineers and Innovators with Robolink.


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