This project creates a new type of robotics competition that centers specifically on robotics skills in manufacturing. Teams of students will build program and be judged through timing and efficiency measures. Education will be provided via micro-credentialing through another ARM Project, SMART. A key component of this competition is keeping the cost low for participants, providing high-quality STEM education opportunities to those who may otherwise be unable to afford similar robotics technician training. Robotic skills in manufacturing are needed more than ever.
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 helping students learn robotic skills in manufacturing, 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 robotic skills in manufacturing and new 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 robotics skills learned have real manufacturing industry impact.
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.
Robotics Education & Competition Foundation (Principal Investigator), RAMTEC, RoboMatter