- Collaborative YuMi robot helps students build careers in robotics
- Cutting-edge FANUC robot helps fill the manufacturing industry skills gap
- KUKA robot training cell helps educate vocational students
- Educational Niryo robot trains tomorrow’s engineers and managers
In today’s rapidly evolving world, businesses are restructuring their operations and embracing new technologies to tackle challenges and uncertainties. Robotic automation has emerged as a pivotal force in this transformation, leading to a pressing need for substantial investments in continuous education. Educational robotics is poised to revolutionise the way we learn and empower students with essential skills for their future careers. It is set to support a diverse range of learners and equip them for a future where robotics and AI play integral roles in their lives. Robots in education are powerful tools that have the potential to optimise learning experiences, enhance creativity, promote active engagement, improve problem-solving, and encourage collaboration among students. Interacting with robots provides a hands-on way to apply theories and concepts learned in the classroom, allowing learners to experiment with different approaches and solutions. Moreover, robots can help develop problem-solving skills, logical thinking competencies, and computational thinking, while boosting interest and proficiency in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects. In this article, we will explore various new robots that are being introduced in educational settings across the world and uncover how they can equip students with the skills necessary to thrive in an increasingly automated world.
“The industry is clamouring right now for qualified people,
and we’re having a lot of trouble meeting that need”.Dr Kevin Devine, technology professor at Illinois State University (ISU)
1. Collaborative YuMi robot helps students build careers in robotics
Robots from ABB, a technology leader in electrification and automation, are already playing an important role in education. At the University of Applied Sciences (UAS) at Wiener Neustadt in Austria, ABB’s collaborative YuMi robots are used to help students build their future careers in robotics. Using these robots, students have already developed various applications. One application involved two students equipping a YuMi robot with 3D-printed fingers and instructing it to pick up coffee capsules and sort them into different trays. Another application revolved around solving a Rubik’s Cube puzzle. The robot presents the cube to a camera that scans the cube for size, colours, and patterns. The data is then sent to an algorithm, which analyses the data, works out which moves are needed to solve the puzzle, and instructs the robot to do it. The university also uses ABB’s offline programming and simulation software RobotStudio, which is used to program, train, and optimise robots on a PC without having to halt the robots’ current tasks.
The university’s new degree in robotics offers students a thorough basis in electronics, computer science, mechanics, actuators, and sensors. While the university’s lecturers are the students’ first line of support, for more challenging or involved robotics issues, ABB — which is located in close proximity to the university — can also lend a helping hand. ABB robotics and software are also used at Illinois State University (ISU) in the US to train the workforce of the future. Students at the university’s department of technology are trained to program and operate industrial robots to help ensure an ongoing stream of talented young people entering this increasingly critical industry. Students graduate with the skills needed to thrive in the future of industry and robotic automation. Dr Kevin Devine, technology professor at the university, says: “One trend that I think we’re seeing clearly is an increased demand for our graduates. The industry is clamouring right now for qualified people, and we’re having a lot of trouble meeting that need”.
2. Cutting-edge FANUC robot helps fill the manufacturing industry skills gap
At Ron Dearing University Technical College (UTC) in Hull in the United Kingdom, students are gaining invaluable robotics skills that will enhance their career prospects and bridge the growing gap in the national industry’s skill set. As part of their Automation and Control engineering course, these aspiring engineers have the opportunity to work with a cutting-edge FANUC robot training cell. This state-of-the-art robot, funded jointly by Ron Dearing and Kohler Mira, a leading shower manufacturer and major partner of the college, replicates the tasks that are mapped out by computer software, allowing students to develop advanced skills that are in high demand in the understaffed robotics sector. Glenn Jensen, senior assistant principal and head of engineering at the college, expressed the significance of this advanced technology in shaping the students’ understanding of future automation jobs. By using a physical robot and engaging in real-life programming, students can experience industry-level control and movement, providing them with a glimpse into their prospective workplaces. Jensen emphasised that this integration of cutting-edge technology into the curriculum is a testament to the college’s commitment to meeting employer needs and addressing the national skills shortage in the field.
The collaboration with the companies also offers valuable support to the students, including career guidance, work experience opportunities, and potential apprenticeships. By equipping the students with the skills desired by future employers, the aim is to ensure they are well-prepared for the workforce upon graduation. Kohler Mira, in addition to funding the robot training cell, has donated two additional robots to further enhance students’ training. These robots will not only teach the students how to troubleshoot and maintain them but will also facilitate the development of programming skills. Derek Atkinson, the Operations Manager at Kohler Mira, recognised the pressing skills gap in the local engineering industry and commended the partnership with Ron Dearing UTC for bridging that gap. Atkinson stressed that students possessing these essential skills would greatly benefit their business. By providing students with cutting-edge robotics training, Ron Dearing UTC and its employer partners are paving the way for a bright future for these aspiring engineers, ensuring they have the skills necessary to excel in the field and meet the demands of the industry.
3. KUKA robot training cell helps educate vocational students
In preparation for a future with automation, the Vocational School in Göppingen, Southern Germany, has established a cutting-edge learning laboratory equipped with six networked KUKA ready2_educate cells and computer workstations for programming. Since the start of the 21/22 school year, this state-of-the-art facility has been providing students with valuable hands-on experience. During each lesson, 12 students have access to the robot training cells. The teachers use large projection screens to present various content and scenarios, creating an engaging learning environment. Meanwhile, the students receive information in a teacher-centric manner while having the opportunity to simultaneously work on the computer workstations and ready2_educate cells.
Franz Thaler, the department head of educational centres and technical schools at GS Göppingen, highlights the importance of modern hardware being closely aligned with practical applications. Joachim Heer, the head of the automation technology/robotics learning lab, explains: “Robotics is a beacon in automation technology and can be used very well in the classroom. We chose KUKA because we receive very good support, the training cells can be used in an illustrative way, and many companies work with KUKA robots. The goal is always to teach our students and trainees as close to reality as possible. And the response from the companies has been very positive”. By equipping students with basic robotics training, companies can avoid sending their new employees to training courses, making graduates from the Vocational School more desirable candidates. This offering has made the school itself highly attractive to students. There are ongoing efforts to expand robot training throughout the entire school. While the current focus is on technician training, the school aims to integrate automation technology, robotics, and welding applications. Traditionally, a distinction has been made between PLC programming and robot programming, but the school’s objective is to train individuals who are proficient in both areas. These versatile specialists are in high demand in the labour market.
4. Educational Niryo robot trains tomorrow’s engineers and managers
Tomorrow’s engineers and managers are being trained through an innovative solution provided by the French engineering institute ITII Normandie. Their objective of preparing future executives and engineers in the industrial field has been successfully accomplished with the implementation of fleets of Niryo collaborative robots. The training programme begins by familiarising the apprentices with the technical capabilities of the robots, both in terms of software and hardware. Once the students have gained a solid understanding of the robot’s capabilities, they are then challenged to conceptualise a system that encompasses various aspects, including element routing, assembly, and quality control. This exercise allows them to apply their knowledge and think critically about designing efficient and effective production lines. Furthermore, the programme offers participants the unique opportunity to prototype their own production lines and operate them. This hands-on experience enables the students to gain practical skills and understand the challenges and intricacies involved in managing a production line.
The success of this training programme can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, the available ecosystem of Niryo robots, coupled with their open-source flexibility, allows for the quick deployment of production and test lines. This flexibility empowers the students to explore and experiment with different configurations, fostering creativity and innovation. Secondly, the compactness of the robots proves advantageous in educational environments. The robots can be stored in large numbers without difficulty and easily manoeuvred within workshop settings. This ease of use enhances accessibility and convenience for the students, enabling them to work efficiently and comfortably with the robots. Lastly, the cost of the fleet of collaborative robots is another crucial aspect. The affordability of these robots ensures that each student can have the opportunity to handle a robot individually, promoting a more personalised and immersive learning experience. Additionally, the emphasis on safety ensures that students can work with the robots confidently and without any concerns. The educational robotics programme is a comprehensive and effective approach to training future engineers and managers. By combining theoretical knowledge with hands-on experience using the Niryo collaborative robots, students are equipped with the necessary skills and expertise to excel in the industrial field.
“We need significant investment in continuous education to prepare our existing and future workforce to thrive in an age of robotics and automation and to create prosperous societies going forward”.Sami Atiya, president of ABB’s robotics
Educational robotics is poised to revolutionise the way we learn, empower students with essential skills for their future careers, and support a diverse range of learners. In today’s rapidly evolving world, businesses are embracing new technologies and restructuring their operations to tackle various challenges and uncertainties. Robotic automation has emerged as a pivotal force in this transformation, and there’s a pressing need for substantial investments in continuous education to equip both current and future workers with the tools necessary to thrive in an era defined by robotics and automation. Sami Atiya, president of ABB’s robotics, says: “We need significant investment in continuous education to prepare our existing and future workforce to thrive in an age of robotics and automation, important not only to prepare for the widespread shifts we are seeing but to create prosperous societies going forward”.
To unlock the full potential of educational robotics, it is imperative to address certain challenges and explore innovative research areas. One significant hurdle is the cost of implementation, as well as the training required for teachers to effectively integrate robotics into the curriculum. By developing cost-effective solutions and providing comprehensive training programmes, educational robotics can become an inclusive and impactful tool in classrooms worldwide. Furthermore, focusing on accessibility is paramount to ensure that students from all backgrounds can benefit from this transformative technology. In addition to these practical considerations, advancements in generative AI models are poised to play a pivotal role in enhancing the conversational experiences between humans and robots. By incorporating improvements in emotional intelligence and collaborative problem-solving capabilities, educational robots can create more engaging and effective learning environments. These robots have the potential to guide students through personalised educational journeys, fostering deeper engagement and facilitating knowledge acquisition.