Community college offers robotics program

Students wanting to learn more about working on robots now have the opportunity to starting this fall at Washington State Community College.

The college’s new Robotics and Mechatronics associate degree program has been two years in the making and the final pieces are starting to come together.

“I’ve been here about a year and shortly after my arrival is when we really started digging into the nuts and bolts of developing the program,” said Jesse Roush, executive director of Workforce Development and Corporate Partnerships at WSCC.

He said the first year was dedicated to envisioning the program and finding out whether the market was ready for it.

“Once we determined all those last year, then came developing the curriculum and strengthening some of those employer relations,” he added. “And shopping for the equipment.”

Brenda Kornmiller, dean of business, engineering, public service and liberal arts, said people are relying on robots to do some of the repetitive tasks they have.

“There are so many manufacturers in the Mid-Ohio Valley with robots, so we need to be able to train technicians to work on those robots,” she said.

The program is going to focus mainly on the servicing and diagnostics of robots more than the building and coding of them.

“There will probably be less emphasis on the coding aspect in our program and more emphasis on the hands-on servicing and diagnostics aspect of robotics,” Roush said. “So they are going to get a good fundamental exposure to what robotics is in terms of the automation components, and what are the physical pieces involved in robots.”

He noted the students will be focusing and honing in on the hands-on and physical aspects of robots.

“It’s not just the physical robots; it’s the total automation process. Even the skill set is important to some of what we do here from an automation standpoint,” he said. “We’ve had conversations with employers as we set this program up that say ‘we don’t have a robot yet, however right now, that skill set is very useful to us’.”

He said the employers are looking for someone who can program and work on, troubleshoot and diagnose a robot.

Kornmiller said the program is designed to graduate students who are going to be the people keeping robots up and running.

“Miba Bearings in McConnelsville is probably the leader in our service area in terms of already having numbers of robots and needing folks,” Roush said, adding there are four or five companies for robotics, with another three or four that value the automation skill set.

He said the skills the students will learn will be able to help local businesses grow, as there are some who would like to incorporate robotics if they knew there was someone they could bring in to service it.

“Someone who comes through and has an understanding from a servicing and diagnostic component on that robot understands electronic motors,” Roush noted. “They understand the troubleshooting that’s involved with the electrical issues, which in our valley is a huge need.”

Although the program’s curriculum has been set, the lab’s equipment is still in the works.

“We’ll have a nice balance of equipment by the time it’s all said and done.” Kornmiller said. “We have a donated robot that we’re very fortunate to have. We’re also going to be buying a universal robot that’s a table top. There’s going to be plenty of robots for the students to practice on and learn the different types that are going to be out there in the industry.”

One of the donated piece of equipment is a servo motor for a FANUC robot, which is the centerpiece of the new lab.

The key driver behind the robot is a servo motor, Roush explained.

“Being able to troubleshoot and diagnose (the servo motor) is critical to the operation of (the robot), but having an understanding of how to service and diagnose an electrical motor like this is a skill set that is employable in a lot of businesses around here,” he added.

The program is currently open for enrollment and will be until classes start Aug. 19, Kornmiller said.

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