Robotics Education and Competition Foundation (Principal Investigator), Robomatter, and RAMTEC.
The manufacturing industry is facing an unprecedented workforce gap with current workers retiring and younger generations uninterested in manufacturing careers. As Industry 4.0 ushers in a new era of manufacturing that relies on robotics and automation, manufacturers are faced with the daunting tasks of both upskilling current workers and recruiting a new generation of workers.
The ARM Institute-funded Advanced Manufacturing Competition Program (later renamed to the Factory Automation Competition during further development of the program) Education & Workforce Development (EWD) project addresses the need to recruit younger generations into manufacturing careers. Specifically, the REC Foundation aims to improve workforce development education and interest by providing a clear path for students to prepare for advanced manufacturing careers, help close manufacturing skills gaps for many employers, and prepare the manufacturing workforce for continual career development.
The Factory Automation Competition is a classroom-based competition that provides students the opportunity to integrate and recognize how STEM skills translate to career opportunities. This unique manufacturing competition attracts students into robotics manufacturing careers while providing curriculum, resources, and hands-on problem-solving skills. The program acts as a critical first step in getting students to pursue industry credentials, including those offered by FANUC and Yaskawa.
The Factory Automation Competition covers concepts like coordinate systems, throughput, efficiency, end-effectors, feeder systems, safety, and redundancy. The Factory Automation Competition uses an automation work cell that students must construct, helping them learn about industry principles. The work cell accurately simulates a distribution center, ensuring the skills learned have real industry impact.
Chart Source: REC Foundation
This program tangibly improves student perceptions about careers in manufacturing. After completing the program, students reported increased interest in continued robotics education and interest in manufacturing careers as a whole. This program specifically looks to recruit students into more technical training and, as illustrated by the graph, the program is extraordinarily successful at this with student interest in “Industry Robotics Training” increasing from 63% to 100% after completing the program.
Additionally, upon launching this project as a product in 2021, the inventory of 500 kits immediately sold out with Career and Technical Education (CTE) organizations and trade schools purchasing the product.
The REC Foundation also had the opportunity to brief the ARM Membership about their project success at the Institute’s Annual Member Meeting held in November 2021. Through this briefing, the REC Foundation gained valuable exposure to the ARM Institute’s 330+ member consortium and key government stakeholders in attendance. The REC Foundation will also have their product on display at the ARM Institute’s Mill 19 headquarters where the project will continue to gain visibility.
Impact for the Department of Defense (DoD)
The implications of a manufacturing workforce gap extend beyond industry. The Department of Defense relies on a robust U.S. industrial base to be able to complete many critical activities and ensure that the nation can respond to urgent needs. Organizations like the REC Foundation and products like the Factory Automation Competition are critical to building a strong manufacturing workforce by showing students the careers opportunities that exist working with robotics in manufacturing and proactively preparing them for these careers.
The ARM Institute is the critical connection that accelerates projects to impact for both the DoD and industry. The REC Foundation is a prime example of a non-traditional DoD collaborator. Through the ARM Institute, the DoD has unique access to non-traditional DoD collaborators and these non-traditional organizations gain greater government visibility.
The REC Foundation will make more of their kits and already has a list of organizations waiting to place an order. Organizations interested in connecting with the REC Foundation to place an order should contact Dan Mantz at [email protected] and copy [email protected].
About the ARM Institute
The Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute is a Manufacturing Innovation Institute (MII) funded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense under Agreement Number W911NF-17-3-0004 and is part of the Manufacturing USA® network. The ARM Institute leverages a unique, robust, and diverse ecosystem of 300+ consortium members and partners across industry, academia, and government to make robotics, autonomy, and artificial intelligence more accessible to U.S. manufacturers large and small, train and empower the manufacturing workforce, strengthen our economy and global competitiveness, and elevate national security and resilience. Based in Pittsburgh, PA since 2017, the ARM Institute is leading the way to a future where people & robots work together to respond to our nation’s greatest challenges and to produce the world’s most desired products. For more information, visit www.arminstitute.org and follow the ARM Institute on LinkedIn and Twitter.