For Ryan Sterry it was about like playing with a video game or a remote control toy. But the Menomonie High School technical education teacher had a lot more in mind than fun and games as he used a controller to manipulate a robotic arm inside the Chippewa Valley Technical College Mobile Manufacturing Lab Tuesday, July 24.
The lab is coming to Menomonie High School in November, and is staying through January, thanks to a National Science Foundation (NSF) Smart Manufacturing and Resources for Transforming the Future (SMART Future) grant announced in June. Through the grant, CVTC will partner with four rural high schools, including Menomonie, to incorporate industrial automation and networking principles into the high school curriculum.
Sterry has been at the CVTC Manufacturing Education Center recently for training that will help him make the best of the high-tech equipment in the mobile lab.
“The lab is going to allow us to teach concepts that would be difficult to teach otherwise,” Sterry said. “We don’t have access to this equipment.”
“We’re bringing in our electromechanical trainers and the PLC (programmable logic control) trainers,” said Andrew Kott, the CVTC instructor who will work directly with students in the mobile lab. “We’re also going to bring Fanuc Robotics Arms. They’re Certified Educational Robotics Training (CERT) units.”
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Sterry has attended summer training at CVTC with other technical education teachers before, but the coming of the mobile lab brings a different purpose to his time at the Manufacturing Education Center.
“Right now, we’re learning to program the PLCs and learning about the robots,” Sterry said. “We’re going to use them in a number of our technology classes.”
For the first time
The automation equipment will be new to the lab, which has already been used for four years at other school districts. Of course, it will all be new to Menomonie students, who will be able to use the lab for the first time in November. Other equipment in the lab includes a 3D printer, a CNC (computer numerical control) mill, and a laser engraver.
“This will help us in our existing curriculum,” Sterry said. “We’re fortunate to have this partnership with CVTC. This is my fourth year doing these trainings, and they are so beneficial.”
Joining Sterry at the CVTC training was first-year Menomonie High School technical education teacher Ben Edelburg, a 2017 UW-Stout graduate.
“This is going to be awesome having this, especially for a first-year teacher,” Edelburg said. “And this is stuff that’s really relevant to the community, with the businesses like the Walmart Distribution Center we have here.”
The outlook is to have the Mobile Manufacturing Lab as part of the Menomonie High School technical education program for one quarter of the year for the next four years. The new automation equipment will be more fully utilized in the second year. The lab will also visit Durand, Greenwood and Owen-Withee high schools in the coming school year.