The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith (UAFS) prides itself on preparing students for good-paying jobs so it’s little wonder that the school has become the first in the state to offer a robotics certification program.
Robots are used widely in material handling, welding and machine assembly. But they’re also finding increasing application in fields such as health care, notes John Martini, an assistant professor of electronics technology at UAFS. Robots are being used in pharmaceutical distribution, surgery and even patient care.
When the school studied the demand for robotics technicians, it found that in just a one-year period -May 2011 to May 2012 ¬there was a 29% increase in demand nationally for these skills. And in the Fort Smith area, UAFS found that 21 companies were using robots. But the school could only locate one robotics technician in the area.
When UAFS’s chancellor presented this information to the governor, he quickly awarded the school funds to purchase robots for a learning laboratory.
Happily, Baldor Electric Co. is a major employer in the Fort Smith area and its parent company, ABB (IW1000/107), is a leading manufacturer of robots. ABB gave the school two robots and discounted the rest to support the educational endeavor.
The robotics courses are offered to both two-year and four-year students and will soon be available to high school students who participate in the Western Arkansas Technical Center.
UAFS currently has 13 robots – nine ABB IRB120 models in the laboratory. These are the “lightest, fastest” robots in ABB’s lineup, Martini explains, with a 3 kilogram payload and a 22-inch reach.
“They are really good for delicate operations, such as building a cellphone, building an electronics board or doing pick-and-place tasks in pharmaceuticals,” says Martini. They also have built-in vision capabilities.
UAFS has three more robots in a facility that is used for education of area industrial workers that is paid for by employers. A welding robot is also available for a welding training program.
The video shows robots programmed by students in Martini’s Robot Operations and Maintenance class, which teaches programming and maintenance of robots. The robots' activities range from putting to drawing a face.