Three high school students from Mayville, Wisconsin were recently recognized by FANUC, the world’s largest industrial robotics company, for winning the Team Robotics Competition.
The event is the first robotics competition in the state to take place on an industrial-grade platform, combining the competitive spirit built by organizations like Lego League and FIRST Robotics with authentic industrial skills in high demand in the workforce.
Mayville High School Stands Out
23 teams from across the state came to Wisconsin State Fair Park to compete. Their challenge: write an original program to carry out a proposed task on a FANUC LR Mate 200iD robot, then successfully operate the robot performing the task. All this was to be completed in three hours.
Myles Adamavich, Matt Schneider and Tanner Wiedmeyer of Mayville High School received the highest marks for their programming skills and the effectiveness of their solution. Jon Potter, Regional Director for Robotics Education at FANUC, commented on the ingenuity of their program. “It was brilliant,” he said.
In an awards ceremony last week Potter, along with representatives from LAB Midwest and Metalcraft of Mayville, presented the team with their first-place prize: a FANUC M-1iA delta robot.
LAB Midwest has been working with Mayville High School to add more automation and Industry 4.0 equipment to the school’s technical education program. Thanks to sponsorship from industry partner Metalcraft of Mayville, the school has added a FANUC Robotic Weld Cell, Robot-Loaded CNC Machining Center, and a FANUC LR Mate robotic arm.
The new delta robot will add another dimension of robotic learning. With experience on this equipment, students like Adamavich, Schneider and Wiedmeyer can get hands-on skills that directly translate to high-demand jobs in Mayville and across the state.
Connecting Education to Employers
The Team Robotics Competition was developed to give students a chance to showcase these types of industrial automation skills. For this reason, the event was strategically held at the Wisconsin Manufacturing and Technology Show (WIMTS), a tradeshow attended by thousands of industrial employers.
Teams had to demonstrate hard and soft skills used in the workplace: teamwork, creativity, working under pressure and time restriction, as well as robotics knowledge, programming, flowchart writing, testing and operation.
It’s no secret that employers are having a hard time finding skilled workers. At WIMTS, they were able to see students performing exactly the types of skills they’re looking for.
Kent Lorenz, Vice President of the Wisconsin Technical College System Advisory Board, who also pioneered the development of the competition, remarked on the positive feedback from employers:
“One of the comments from employers is that most of the high school robotics competitors could get a job in industry right out of high school…It’s nice to see young talent evolve this way.”
FANUC has also invited the team to showcase their program at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago in the fall. IMTS is the world’s largest industrial technology show, hosting over 130,000 attendees from all over the world.
It will be an opportunity for Mayville High School to show the world how advanced manufacturing education is changing the lives of students and preparing them for bright futures.
Engineering programs face a simple reality: offer abundant lab time and practical experience to students, or graduate engineers who aren’t ready for the field. We’d all prefer the former.
Yet a 2019 global survey suggests real-world application is not being prioritized – not in classroom time or course grading. A deeper dive shows universities are coming across multiple barriers to offering more lab opportunities for students.
How can we overcome these hurdles?
Experienced Engineers are in Demand
With the rise of smart factory technology and innovation, job roles have become quite nuanced. Employers need engineers with the know-how to design, implement and maintain complex new systems. They also need to be well-versed in the most basic processes and technologies to upkeep current systems.
A report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the upward trend for engineering employment. And yet, employers are finding that graduates don’t have the practical knowledge to manage these systems without additional training – which is time-consuming and expensive.
Global Survey: Practical Teaching in Engineering Education
New graduates shouldn’t be expected to have the kind of expertise that can only come from years of field experience. But they should have enough practical knowledge to take on a new role with confidence.
We’ve had conversations with engineering students and engineers in the field recalling their university days, and there seems to be a consensus: lecture time is essential, but learners desire more hands-on time in labs doing industry-relevant practical work.
A global study conducted by TecQuipment of the UK sought to understand the perspective of educators on this topic. The 2019 survey of 114 university instructors from around the world showed that 90% of professors believe practical learning is “extremely important” to the employability of engineering students.
So why is there a gap between what’s desired by students, employers and professors and what actually takes place in the classroom?
Practical Engineering Gaps & Barriers
The survey delivered some concrete numbers on the current state of engineering education. For 73% of professors, lab time was weighted as less than 40% of the student’s total grade.
However, when asked what the grade distribution should be, a majority of respondents said lab time should account for 40-80% of a student’s grade.
Professors face a number of barriers to delivering their ideal engineering course structure:
- knowledge of practical labs
- class size
- available space
- lab time
- available equipment, and
- cost of procuring more space and equipment.
These certainly aren’t surprising; they’re much the same barriers educators often face. But students’ futures are too important to let roadblocks stop us from providing valuable hands-on experience.
One university found a solution, despite facing just about every barrier along the way.
How One University Overcame Barriers
The University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minnesota recently launched an engineering bachelor’s degree program. For nearly four decades, the university could only offer pre-engineering as a precursor in a dual-degree program with the University of Minnesota.
When they launched their own engineering program, they wanted to focus on practical aspects that would give students relevant experience. But they faced space, budget and equipment barriers. “Our current lab space was renovated from art studios and kitchens, which means space is a high concern,” remarked Lab Technician Rachel Friesen.
The University partnered with TecQuipment to outfit their new labs. Friesen commented on how the “compact” benchtop models save space “while still being big enough for groups of students to work on them together.” Additionally, she noted that the equipment was “cost effective” and TecQuipment’s large range of products allowed them to purchase everything they needed.
They weren’t shy about displaying the new labs (and just how skilled their new graduates would be as a result).
“We’ve had groups from our alumni community, human resources and the local community come along to the department, get hands on…with this piece of equipment. It allows us to show them that engineering is not all equations and work on computers.”
You can read the University of Northwestern’s full story here: https://labmidwest.com/university-of-northwestern-st-paul-builds-new-engineering-program/
Engaging Students, Graduating Great Engineers
The process to transform engineering programs to a more hands-on focus certainly won’t be easy. But it will be worth it for the students going through the program.
Educators are inspired when they see students motivated and passionate about learning. As part of the TecQuipment survey, professors were asked what could improve student motivation. The responses include:
“Clear outcomes – relevant and linked to real-life engineering problems and how they can be implemented into different sectors.”
“Students are motivated when we introduce real-life engineering problems for them to solve.”
“State-of-the-art equipment that will simulate real-life scenarios.”
The path to overcoming barriers may involve developing industry partnerships, securing more grant funding, creating multi-disciplinary lab spaces, and/or scouring the world of engineering lab equipment for the best manufacturer.
The process will look different for each university. But ask the ones who have found ways to offer more practical experiences, and they will tell you it is worth the effort.
Facing Barriers in your Program?
If you can relate to the sentiments shared by the 100+ survey respondents, then rest assured you’re not alone. We worked closely with the University of Northwestern in their program upgrades. We’ve done the same for universities and colleges across the Midwest. If implementing more hands-on labs interests you, fill out the form below and we’ll share programs and equipment that have transformed engineering courses for our customers.
The US Department of Education published findings on the long-term effect of student participation in career and technical education (CTE) programs. See the data story here.
8 years after high school graduation, those with a CTE focus (2 or more courses in a specific program of study) had higher median annual earnings. Plus, CTE concentrators were more likely to graduate high school and more likely to enroll in postsecondary education.
And yet, while 77% of students had taken at least one CTE course throughout high school, only 37% pursued a CTE focus over those four years.
So how do we get more students to focus on CTE?
Let’s start with perhaps the simplest fix: exposure to your CTE program.
You may have an excellent CTE program offering a variety of career focuses, work-based learning opportunities, post-secondary incentives, and hands-on skill learning.
Your students (and their parents) simply may not know all that’s being offered.
We’ve seen a whole range of methods to increase exposure that have really worked well. Here are a few:
- West Bend School District hosted a special showcase and tour of their CTE program. Attendees included the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, local business leaders, and media.
- New Berlin School District hosted a community night, welcoming parents and families to come see upgrades to their CTE program.
- An instructor at Germantown High School had the idea to use their new FANUC industrial robot in core classes to teach math & physics concepts. This would give more students the chance to work with technologies they might not have had exposure to – which could lead to higher enrollment in CTE courses.
- Lomira Middle School has students learning on the FANUC elearning platform in 8th grade – this exposure can get them interested in enrolling in CTE when they get to high school.
Here’s where the report showed a wide range of responses (click to expand):
Funding, available classroom space, instructor training, access to technology, and the needs of the particular region…all of these can impact what CTE courses are offered to students.
We’ve seen schools succeed with a variety of methods. The key is to develop a sustainable program that works best for your district and attracts students to enroll.
We’ve seen mobile classrooms shared by multiple rural districts, CTE courses offered at the local technical college, CTE-focused high schools, you name it.
One very simple solution to begin offering more CTE courses is through eLearning. Amatrol has a multimedia, interactive eLearning library that houses over 300 courses.
With access to a computer, students can get a great head start on their CTE development. And the curriculum comes with all the instructor resources you need for easy implementation.
Students that are attracted to CTE programs tend to be more hands-on learners. They’re looking for a classroom experience that will give them real-world knowledge they can directly apply to a career pathway.
Particularly in the skilled trades, hands-on, industry-relevant teaching is crucial. We provide the equipment and curriculum to deliver this level of learning for a wide range of course areas, including:
The report showed incentives offered through the CTE programs polled, with the following results (click to expand):
The number of co-op opportunities and postsecondary credit offerings are certainly something to celebrate. We know many schools across the Midwest who are creating more opportunities for students to earn articulated credits and certifications.
But there is more work to be done, particularly in real-world experiences. This would include mentoring from local employers, student-run businesses, and apprenticeship opportunities.
We’ve seen programs use these activities with success, including:
- Cardinal Manufacturing: student-run manufacturing business (includes marketing and business students)
- GPS Education Partners: apprenticeship programs that allow students to earn their high school diploma taking classes at their workplace, while also going through the apprenticeship process.
Let’s increase CTE enrollment
We’ve worked with schools across the Midwest to develop the best CTE programs in the US. From small rural districts, to dense urban areas, our goal is to find the solution that fits the needs of your students and community.
If you’re looking to increase enrollment in CTE or bolster your program to provide industry-relevant courses, let’s connect!
The self-driving car craze continues to gain traction as more players step into the race to build the first fully-functioning autonomous vehicle. A simple Google search of “self-driving cars” pulls up articles published by the likes of CNBC, Forbes, and Automotive News all within the last week.
Big names like Tesla, Waymo, Google, Cruise (GM) and Aurora (Amazon) tout advancements in technology and hours logged by their vehicles. Even so, none of these companies have met original projections for consumer-ready vehicles.
There are a number of factors that have caused the delay: Accidents have instilled a greater sense of caution in testing. Legislation has a long way to go to be ready for autonomous vehicles. And perhaps most importantly, there are just too many unique situations for on-the-road vehicles to encounter and test them all.
Some companies have turned to simulations to test more real-world situations. But what if we took this experimentation to academia, where the next generation of innovators are given space to create and test?
Self-Driving Car Research Studio
Quanser is doing just that with its new Self-Driving Car Research Studio. The platform is currently under rigorous development, and once launched, it will provide students with the tools to advance autonomous vehicle technology to new heights.
The vision behind the Self-Driving Car Research Studio is to provide researchers with a flexible platform and enough tools to test their theories. With the right combination of hardware and software, this product could be the catalyst that enables your students to design the very vehicles we will be driving in the near future.
The QCar comes equipped with a number of high-tech components.
GPU Power: The NVidia Jetson TX2 connects to a custom PCB – perfect for real-time image processing and AI functionality. There is also a USB 3.0 hub for additional devices, including a Intel RealSense D435 depth camera.
Vision and Navigation: Four onboard, wide angle CSI color cameras provide 360 degrees of vision with close to 4K resolution at 10 bpp per camera (or 120fps at lower resolution). There will also be 2D LIDAR on top of the QCar for 360 degree ranging, which can be used in conjunction with the CSI cameras or alone.
Audio: Stereo microphones are an experimental component that can be used to design automated responses to ground surface, emergency vehicles, honking horns, and other audio cues.
Signals and Lights: Standard brake lights, turn signals, reverse indicators and headlights allow users to design algorithms to detect and respond to various light patterns that could indicate another vehicle’s movements. Headlights allow researchers to consider how night driving will impact image data and processing for safe autonomous driving.
Ports for Customization: To allow for customized additions, the QCar is equipped with ports for keyboard, mouse and HDMI for direct access to Ubuntu OS. There are also ports for SPI, I2C, CAN bus, serial, Ethernet, and USB 3 as well as general purpose digital IO.4 user encoder channels with quadrature decoding and PWM outputs that support standard servo PWM, DShot, Oneshot, and multishot.
Quanser’s proprietary software, which is the basis of all their products, is called QUARC. The QCar will be run on QUARC as well, primarily in conjunction with Matlab/Simulink. QUARC sends code to remote targets (the NVidia TX2 in this case) and enables Simulink to display real-time data and allows for real-time parameter changes to the vehicle.
QUARC also provides support in Java, C, C++, C#, VB, and with the development of the Self-Driving Car Research Studio, Quanser will be adding Python 3 to that list.
HIL (Hardware in the Loop): Using the HIL API, users can replicate algorithms written for one piece of hardware and use it on another piece of hardware. The HIL Open function will read analog outputs, write PWM outputs, set encoder counts etc., creating a single unified interface for every target, on every platform, for every language.
Stream: The Stream API creates ease of communications across languages, channels and hardware. This allows you to add custom sensors or equipment with an accompanying library of code, run multiple processes across different channels, or use a different language for each hardware process on the QCar.
Media: The Media API will allow you to extract raw camera data from any of the built-in cameras or customized cameras to translate into your language of choice.
HIL Simulation: HIL Simulation will allow for greater depth of research; for example, virtual objects could be entered into the physical environment a QCar is driving in.
Quanser continues to add more features and functionality to the Self-Driving Car Research Studio in preparation for its launch. Future news releases will include updates on what the applications team has done to process algorithms, test AI, and create different driving scenarios.
If you’d like to receive updates on the Self-Driving Research Studio from Quanser, you can sign up here.
Quanser Research Products
Quanser has a whole range of research products, including the Autonomous Vehicle Research Studio. Take a look at all their product offerings, or if you’d like to talk with us about Quanser, simply fill out the form below!
Welding is one of the fastest-growing professions in the country. And it’s an excellent career choice because the need for welding spans so many industries: manufacturing, aerospace, infrastructure, automotive, construction, trains and more. Those entering the profession can do so with a starting salary over $40,000 straight out of high school.
And yet, like many skilled trades, welding is facing significant skills gaps and labor shortages. The average welder today is 54 years old, so we’ll see a huge influx of open positions in the coming decade. But one statistic reports that 60% of new applicants get turned away due to a lack of job-ready skills.
Miller Electric Welding Partnership
The solution is to develop welding programs as early as K-12 that equip students with job-ready welding skills. To do so, a program needs:
- Welding equipment designed for education
- Curriculum aligned to AWS (American Welding Society) standards
- Real-time feedback and data for instructors
LAB Midwest has partnered with Miller Electric to provide schools with all the equipment and resources to train the next generation of world-class welders. Founded right here in the Midwest (Appleton, WI) nearly 100 years ago, the Miller brand is well known in the industry for its high-quality equipment.
Miller Welding Equipment
Miller has developed two systems designed specifically to train, assess and prepare students for welding: AugmentedArc and LiveArc.
The Miller AugmentedArc uses augmented reality (AR) to immerse the student in a computer-generated workspace where she can weld metal workpieces. Within the helmet is a high-def display where she will see her weld arcs and weld beads as realistically as live welding.
Customizable heads-up displays provide real-time feedback on contact-tip-to-work-distance, travel angle, travel speed and more. After each pass, the AugmentedArc provides a full analysis of the weld, showing where the learner can improve and where she has mastered skills.
AugmentedArc is perfect for middle school STEM spaces, fab labs, high schools starting a new welding program, and technical colleges for introductory-level coursework. It offers easy setup, safe welding for beginners and young students, a video game-like feel to learning, and no cost of consumables!
The Miller LiveArc has two modes: simulated and live arc welding. This is a great next step for learners looking to continue building their welding skillset. High school and technical college programs can add these to the AugmentedArc to build out their classrooms.
The MIG SmartGun on the LiveArc provides tactile vibration feedback so students can make performance adjustments in real-time. The instructor interface also provides feedback on each weld, including work angle, aim, contact-tip-to-work-distance and more. All this data can be stored and reviewed at any time to track the learner’s progress.
OpenBook is a free learning management system for teachers to plan, implement and assess learning. The OpenBook curriculum aligns to AWS standards, so you can be confident in the course materials while focusing your time customizing the resources to fit your program’s needs.
With OpenBook, teachers can
- Deliver welding instructional content
- Create quizzes
- Download welding labs
- Monitor student participation
- Assess and report student progress and performance
As an educator, you have free access to this curriculum. Click here to try OpenBook!
Learn more about Miller Welding for your school
We’re your experts in technical education, curriculum and world-class service. If you’re considering Miller welding solutions for your classroom, let us guide you!
Milwaukee, WI – High school and technical college students from across Wisconsin competed in the inaugural Team Robotics Competition held at the Wisconsin Manufacturing and Technology Show (WIMTS). The competition took place over the course of October 8th and 9th, while attendees to the show were able to watch the teams compete. An awards ceremony took place on October 10th where first, second and third place teams in high school and college divisions were announced.
The purpose of the Team Robotics Competition was to create an opportunity for students to showcase their skills with industrial robots, particularly in the presence of employers seeking skilled candidates.
The event certainly did so, impressing spectators and judges with the level of aptitude displayed by the 23 teams. The range of abilities was also unique, from schools with just a few hours of exposure on the platform, to individuals completing degrees in automation.
The competition challenged teams of up to three students to design, program and operate a solution to a proposed task on a FANUC LR Mate 200iD robot. The challenge was open-ended enough to allow teams to be creative in how they accomplished the task. They were also tested on flowchart writing, teamwork, program planning, and robotics knowledge.
The first-place high school team was awarded an all-expense-paid trip to IMTS 2020 in Chicago to be featured in FANUC’s education booth. The first place college team received a FANUC M1iA 4-axis robot for their program. The second and third place teams in each division received $1500 and $750, respectively, toward their automation & robotics programs.
A huge congratulations to the winners, as well as to all who participated in the inaugural competition. The winning teams are as follows:
1st place: Mayville High School: Matt Schneider, Myles Adamavich, Tanner Wiedmeyer; instructor Dave Seiler
2nd place: West Bend High School: Anthony Biel; instructor Jacob Gitter
3rd place: Plymouth High School: Jacob Ashworth, Kyle Kraus, Alex Oty; instructor Jacob Sherman
1st place: Madison College: Garrett Butler, Jonathon Stowell, Schuyler Bostedt; instructor Peter Dettmer
2nd place: Lakeshore Technical College: Nick Link, Brenden Olds, Joe Leiterman; instructor Jim Gruenke
3rd place: Moraine Park Technical College: Jacob Hutchins, Gunner Fox, Jackson Wilson; instructor Craig Habeck
College Winner Makes Surprising Request
The Madison College team impressed the judges with their creativity and ability to complete the task within the time constraint – the only college team able to do so. And yet, the team made a surprising request in the event that they were to win.
A majority of the teams registered for the event were high schools – this in itself was a surprise to all. Even more impressive was the level of competitiveness brought by the top-ranking teams. These high schoolers showed a command over robotic programming that exceeded expectations.
The Madison College team was also impressed by the up-and-coming programmers. So much so that they elected to donate their prize robot back to the competition, to be awarded to the winner of the high school division.
In response to their generosity, LAB Midwest and FANUC will provide the Madison College team with an all-expense paid trip to be featured at IMTS 2020 in Chicago, along with the Mayville High School team.
Creating Industrially-Relevant Experiences
Robotics competitions are becoming more popular across the country for students of all ages. But this competition was a groundbreaking new opportunity. It is the first event of its kind where students compete on authentic industrial robots.
Recognition goes to WIMTS hosting the event. Because of the location, thousands of manufacturing employers saw firsthand the capabilities of the next wave of talent.
Thanks also to FANUC Robotics for providing robots and expertise for the competition. LAB Midwest has partnered with FANUC to put industrial robots in high schools and colleges across the Midwest to prepare students for careers in automation.
Lastly, LAB Midwest would like to thank the judges and mentors who helped design the layout and scoring for the competition.
For any questions regarding the Team Robotics Competition or FANUC educational programs, please fill out the contact form below.
Arcadia, WI – Ashley Furniture Industries hosted a grand opening for the Advanced Technology Maker Center (ATMC) earlier this month. Employees, educators and community members came to celebrate the $2 million investment in workforce training.
The Need for Training
Ashley Furniture is the world’s largest manufacturer of furniture. The company continues to grow its worldwide presence, but the skills-gap has had an affect on its ability to find skilled workers locally. Particularly in rural Arcadia, Wisconsin, where Ashley’s headquarters is located.
The ATMC was developed in an effort to keep the workforce local while staying competitive in a global economy. Now, new hires from any background can learn hard skills specific to their roles. Additionally, the high schoolers who take advanced manufacturing classes in the ATMC or Mobile Skills Lab can graduate and get a great job at Ashley.
Todd Wanek, President and CEO of Ashley Furniture, commented, “As an organization, we’re investing back into our people significantly in education…to make sure that we have a future.”
The ATMC will also be a training center for incumbent workers. It will help refresh skills and train toward more advanced roles.
This is particularly important as the company invests more in automation. The Innovation Center next door has a team that designs and builds automation cells to free up workers from rote or labor-intensive tasks. These workers can then train for more advanced roles.
Wanda Cartrette, who leads the training efforts at the ATMC, put it best. “The Advanced Technology Maker Center is a game-changer for Ashley Furniture, its incumbent employees, and our education partners.”
Inside the Advanced Technology Maker Center
The Advanced Technology Maker Center has hands-on training equipment from Amatrol and FANUC, as well as CNC machines, and 3D printers from Markforged. There’s even a full mechatronics smart factory for teaching Industry 4.0 skills.
Individuals get a customized training plan developed from 300 courses with over 3,000 hours of content. At any given time, the ATMC has employees working through objectives and skills for fluid power, mechanical and electrical skills, robotics, quality assurance, maintenance, troubleshooting and more.
At the grand opening celebration, Ashley Furniture recognized a group of individuals who completed the first of four Industry 4.0 courses. 75% of those plan to return to take more courses on a volunteer basis.
“The smart factories we have today require a totally new workforce, and that’s what this is all about – training people for what’s coming. And we’re very proud of our people here,” remarked Founder and Chairman Ron Wanek.
It’s All About Employees
Wanda Cartrette has been working at Ashley Furniture for nearly 30 years. When she started in production, she was told which buttons to push without being taught the technology behind the machine. If anything went wrong, she couldn’t troubleshoot. A maintenance person would have to be called, causing stoppages on the line.
That’s not the case anymore.
Technology is advancing exponentially. It’s now imperative that employees understand the systems and components behind their work. It will allow them to take charge over their workspace, troubleshoot and keep production running.
Individuals who really own their work are motivated to learn and grow within the company. The ATMC provides that opportunity for them.
“Identifying the skills gaps, filling those, and then also putting our incumbent employees on a fast-track to their careers, we can do that right here,” remarked Cartrette. “And if they choose to continue on with their education with our post-secondary partnerships, that’s great for us and great for the community.”
You can keep up with the happenings of the Advanced Technology Maker Center on LinkedIn.
Interested in developing your own workforce training program? We can help! Fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch with how your company can grow with in-house training.
Celebrate Manufacturing Month with a Special Student Event at Metalcraft of Mayville!
Wednesday, October 16 | 1-3pm
Facility Tours & Hands-On Demos
October is Manufacturing Month, a time to spread awareness of all the great career options in manufacturing. You can help spark an interest for your students by participating in a Manufacturing Month event.
This year, Metalcraft of Mayville & LAB Midwest are putting on a special event for schools for just this purpose. Metalcraft is best known for the Scag brand, but they also contract manufacture for Fortune 500 companies in construction, agriculture, military, material handling and outdoor power equipment industries.
At this event, students will get a firsthand look at careers in advanced manufacturing. The tour of the Metalcraft facility includes FANUC paint robots, FANUC robotic welders, and an inside view on how Scag equipment is assembled.
Schools will then get hands-on demonstrations for skills in Industry 4.0 technology, robotics, welding, powder coating and more from LAB Midwest.
This event is sponsored by the CCAI Wisconsin chapter and is free for all schools. A toy donation for Kids2Kids toy drive is encouraged.
Questions or RSVP: Contact Melissa Martin – email@example.com
Event Address: 1000 Metalcraft Drive, Mayville, WI 53050
The demand for process control engineers has been on the rise lately. That may come as a surprise, since employers have needed these skills for decades.
Process control is a vital function of hundreds of industries that affect us every day. From water treatment, to food and beverage, to the pharmaceutical industry, these engineers are responsible for developing a process that is safe and consistent.
So why are we seeing more demand for these skills in recent years?
We broke down three causes for this trend followed by some ways educators can respond.
1. Process control is evolving.
Our day-to-day activities are impacted by the work process control engineers do. They ensure our water is safe for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and farming. They monitor chemical and pH levels so our food and beverages taste and feel the same every time.
They meet quality requirements for producing supplements and pharmaceuticals.
They design systems for creating paper, cardboard, paint, cleaning chemicals, and so much more.
Additionally, consumers are evolving. They demand more environmentally-friendly processes and waste treatment. There is a push toward renewable and recyclable materials.
And consumer tastes are creating a market for craft beverage and food products.
This opens the door for a new wave of process control engineers who can respond to the changing standards and demand coming from manufacturers and consumers.
2. Process control engineers can make or break an operation.
Process control engineers are present for every step of the process, from designing, to monitoring, to troubleshooting.
A typical day in the life of a process control engineer could include…
Designing a system of valves, pumps, heaters, cooling coils, tanks and sensors.
Setting limits for temperature, timing, concentration, pressure, pH, flow and other variables at a precise proportion to keep the process running to standard.
Testing output and quality to make sure the process is meeting requirements.
Troubleshooting issues in the process.
All of this requires knowledge of equipment, programmable logic controllers, computer programs, chemicals, pipes, and sensors, etc. specific to that process. And each individual product has its own parameters unique to the manufacturer, requiring an even greater depth of expertise.
A good process control engineer is an asset to any employer. She will maintain safety standards, ensure consistent quality of products, save on raw materials, and design the most efficient processes.
3. Process Control has developed into an exact science.
Process control has evolved from a “black art” performed by so-called experts to an exact science.
Smart sensors, smart devices and analytic tools allow engineers to gather exact data. They can then push this through specialized algorithms that will improve processes.
This allows craft food and beverage manufacturers to develop unique products whose taste and texture are always consistent.
It allows smarter choices for equipment, variables and raw materials, making processes more eco-friendly.
And it saves the employer time and money by reducing cost of materials and production time.
Process control is an exciting career path that will continue to evolve. It’s an excellent option for students who want to help develop new and better processes, be an important part of how things are produced, and want to work with high-tech equipment and analytics!
Teaching Process Control
A good process control engineer has to understand chemical engineering, control engineering and industrial control systems. They need to understand HMIs, PACs, VFDs, and PLCs. Training with industrial-grade software like SCADA, Foundation Fieldbus and Simulink are also valuable.
Click on any of the product photos below to learn more about them.
Training starts at a foundational level in high school. This Amatrol portable process control trainer is an excellent place to start.
Technical & Community College
Technical and community colleges should teach process control as a foundation for all engineering programs. Amatrol offers a range of full-size trainers for training level and flow, temperature, pressure and analytics.
DAC Worldwide has an excellent selection of cutaways & training systems to demonstrate specific topics within process control.
Universities should invest in process control research and analytic tools so students can perform data analyses as part of their training. TecQuipment’s line of control engineering products are the perfect solution.
Learn more about Process Control Training
Want to learn more about the equipment and curriculum available for teaching process control? Fill out the form below and we’ll connect with you!
The First Industrial Robotics Competition for Wisconsin Students
October 8-10, 2019 at the Wisconsin Manufacturing and Technology Show – Milwaukee, WI
Get a chance to…
- Test your robotic programming knowledge
- Compete against other automation and robotics students from around the state
- Earn prizes for your team and school
- Network with hundreds of employers who need your programming skills for high-demand, high-wage jobs
About the Wisconsin Robotics Competition
Competition will take place throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, October 8-9, and the Awards Ceremony will take place Thursday, October 10th.
Teams of 3 students will be given three hours to complete a set of tasks on a FANUC LR Mate 200iD education robot. The tasks are aligned to foundational knowledge taught in FANUC’s coursework, so students will be familiar with the objectives.
There will be multiple levels with increasing difficulty, allowing beginners to test their knowledge and more advanced students to challenge themselves. It will be the perfect challenge for any school!
The objective will include program planning, end of arm tool selection, robot programming, teamwork, and more.
Teams will be judged by a panel of experts on their ability to complete the objective, efficiency, teamwork, and robotics knowledge.
All Wisconsin high school and college students are encouraged to participate in this competition.
Grand Prizes for Winning Teams
No matter your skill level, you’ll want to compete just to get a shot at one of these AMAZING grand prize packages!
High School Grand Prize: The winning team will receive an all-expense paid trip to IMTS 2020 in Chicago to be featured in FANUC’s educational booth! All 3 team members and one sponsoring adult will be provided for.
College Grand Prize: The winning team will receive a brand-new FANUC M1iA 4-axis robot for their school! Made by the world’s foremost robotics manufacturer, this robot will be perfect for teaching industrial robotics operation & programming.
Additional Perks for Participants
Resume Rendezvous: On Tuesday evening, students will get to network with employers hiring for industrial robot operators and programmers. Students can hand out their resumes to as many employers as they’d like.
It’s a great way for your students to see the connection between their coursework and the great jobs available all throughout the state.
Awards Ceremony: On Thursday, the student competition awards ceremony will be presented by a special guest: stay tuned for the big announcement! Winning teams will be presented their awards on the Mainstage. Friends and family are encouraged to attend!
Questions? Contact us.
While most 2019 grads are headed off to college this month, one Lomira student is already well into a rewarding career at Metalcraft of Mayville, programming FANUC paint robots. The atmosphere, pay and benefits, and opportunity he has now are what his peers will be hoping for 4 years down the road.
Manufacturing is seeing an astounding transformation. Walk into a facility that’s adopting Industry 4.0 technologies and you’ll immediately realize you’re not in the factory of your grandparents’ time.
Instead, with the convergence of operation technology and information technology, production machinery is integrated with smart robotics. Programming software and HMIs resemble smartphones. Apps are monitoring, analyzing and running equipment. Screens display production statistics in real-time.
And the opportunities for motivated young people are endless. Companies can now manufacture more products faster, and they need bright minds to program and operate these smart technologies.
Metalcraft of Mayville
Metalcraft of Mayville is one of the manufacturers taking advantage of the industrial boom and scaling up. With plants in Mayville, West Bend and Beaver Dam, the company is producing more than ever. There currently aren’t enough skilled workers available to fill their positions, so they’ve turned to automation.
This summer Metalcraft acquired two automation companies who are adding more robotics to their facilities, as well as designing automated solutions for customers.
The Mayville plant welcomes guests with a high-ceilinged entryway filled with natural light from large windows. To the right, a large meeting room contains bag toss boards and ping pong tables – employees have tournaments for fun.
The production facility is clean, brightly lit, and filled with automated lines. On screens overhead, production statistics are displayed in real-time. The operation runs safely and efficiently, using robots to weld, paint, and move parts.
One of Metalcraft’s primary products are Scag mowers, known for their bright orange color. To keep up with the production rate of these mowers, the paint department has also seen a great deal of increased automation. They moved from a fully-manual operation to a process that now begins with FANUC paint robots doing most of the work.
And Metalcraft needed a bright young individual to come and program these robots.
Choosing a Career Pathway
Enter Kyle Pike, a 2019 graduate of Lomira High School and Metalcraft’s newest programmer.
Last year, Kyle was facing the same questions as his peers: what will I do after graduation? His friends were going to universities, technical colleges or the armed forces.
Kyle recognized that he was wired for another path, despite the pressure to go to college. Instead, he opted to take advantage of a great opportunity to jumpstart his career in the workforce.
“School just wasn’t for me,” he explained. “But I did take a lot of shop classes, and I liked those.”
Lomira Learning Lab
In addition to the welding, metal fabrication, and woodworking classes that Kyle took at Lomira, the district has also begun to offer classes that expose students to authentic industrial robotics and CNC.
Lomira is one of four schools in Wisconsin to install one of these “Metalcraft Learning Labs,” loaded with FANUC products.
Branding is important, and when a company is able to get in front of students with real, authentic tools and skills used in their business, they see a greater influx of talent from graduates.
Last summer, Metalcraft’s West Bend plant employed nine students from West Bend School District between their junior and senior years. These students spent their days operating robots and CNC machines.
But in Kyle’s case, the Learning Lab wasn’t his first direct exposure to Metalcraft. A FAMILY LEGACY
Andy Pike, Kyle’s older brother, has been working at Metalcraft for over 16 years. His experience is a testament to what happens when a great company invests in a hard-working employee.
“I started when I was 19 as a production employee. I was fascinated by the robots, so I moved to the robotics area. Within two years I became a lead which allowed me to set up jobs, fix the robots, and do minor programming. Now I am the lead programmer, mainly concentrating on weld but also helping Kyle with the paint robots.”
With guidance from Andy and support from Kyle Gourlie, the Mayville Plant Manager, Kyle Pike has the opportunity to follow a similar career pathway.
“Part of our culture at Metalcraft is to look for people with good hearts and good minds,’ remarked Gourlie. “Kyle struck me, when I sat down with him for an hour, as being one of those people.”
So Kyle was hired as an intern and given the opportunity to explore where his interests in the company were. He started working part-time after school during the spring, and has come onboard full-time since graduation.
Programming Paint Robots
The facility is loaded with automation and technology that would make any job exciting, but Kyle was drawn to the paint department in particular.
Two FANUC paint robots loom overhead, waiting for a part rack to slide into range. Then they go to work, their path of motion smooth and precise, efficiently dispersing a coat of paint over the parts. While they seem almost lifelike in their precision, the programming behind each movement requires specialized skill.
Kyle recalled the first time his brother prodded him to try programming.
“[Andy] said, ‘Want to try learning this?’ I said, ‘I don’t know…it looks pretty complicated, but I’ll try it.’ I tried it on his computer and I’d get frustrated. But whenever I get frustrated it makes me want to complete that task. So I just liked it ever since, and it’s something I’ll probably stick with.”
Now, Kyle is the one using FANUC robots to paint the Scag mowers for Metalcraft.
Each Scag model has a unique rack setup for its parts and requires a unique paint path. Kyle is tasked with writing the most efficient program for each setup and then making sure operations run smoothly.
To help facilitate this, the company uses ROBOGUIDE PaintPro software from FANUC.
Using the software, Kyle can test various iterations in a simulated environment, saving the company time and money. It also validates the final program as the most efficient.
Eventually, his responsibilities will also include designing the various rack setups. And if he wants to go back to school or learn another discipline like weld robot programming, Metalcraft will support those endeavors.
When asked where he sees himself in 10 years, Kyle replied simply, “Still here.”
Inspiring Students Towards Rewarding Careers
Kyle’s story is certainly not the norm, but the opportunities for similar experiences are everywhere in manufacturing today. Unfortunately, students aren’t always aware of them.
To his peers, Kyle’s advice is, “Check out every possibility. Go to job fairs. Do some job shadowing. Keep your eyes open.” It takes courage to go against the crowd, but it is undoubtedly paying off for him.
From the perspective of an employer, Kyle Gourlie recognizes the need to do more outreach among local students to let them know what opportunities are available.
“As we started putting these Metalcraft Learning Labs in schools, we’re filling out our minor league system. So when those kids graduate they know their avenues, feel comfortable and know what they can do. It’s important that we get the Metalcraft name out there, for students to know some of the plant managers and supervisors. Then you know the robots, what we do, and who we are. And if you’ve got a good heart and a good mind and want to work for a great company, there’s a way.”
There are countless strategies for outreach that encompass a range of investment levels: from donations of equipment like welding gloves and safety glasses with company logos, to full Learning Labs, to internship opportunities.
Every investment as an ROI that goes beyond the monetary: companies are inspiring young people towards rewarding careers. Hard-working students are finding fulfillment at jobs that invest in them.
And the face of advanced manufacturing is starting to get the positive recognition it deserves.
Learn more about FANUC for education
Whether you’re an educator wanting your students to get hands-on exposure to the same technologies they’ll see in the workforce, or an employer looking to invest in your local students, we can help!
This article was written by Matt Kirchner and was originally posted on productionmachining.com.
Industry Infinity.0: Continuous industrial innovation and revolution; a center point of the convergence between the exponential economy and Industry 4.0, where the speed at which data is processed and the rate at which industry is innovating collide.
Is Industry Infinity.0 upon us? To answer this question, we must turn our sights back to 1890, when a man, whom most know little about, initiated a string of events that have led to the infinite industrial revolution. It took the U.S. Census Bureau eight years to process the data garnered in the 1880 census. Eight years! By the time that procedure was completed the country was on the verge of commencing its next census in 1890. Enter Herman Hollerith. Born in 1860 to German immigrants, Mr. Hollerith invented the electromechanical tabulating machine. Hollerith’s machine didn’t require 8 years to process the 1890 census data; it did it in 5.5 hours.
The Exponential Economy
Such was born the exponential economy, wherein the speed at which we process data by non-human means doubles every 12 to 18 months, a phenomenon now known as Moore’s Law, so named for Gordon Moore, the founder and chairman emeritus of Intel Corp. More than 50 years ago, Mr. Moore postulated that for years to come processing speeds would increase exponentially, a reality that continues to this day.
Thanks to the exponential economy products double in price performance every year or two, explaining why our smart phones can do twice as much today (process information, communicate with each other, charge their batteries without being plugged into the wall, snap photos with higher and higher resolution) than they could two years ago for about the same amount of money.
Put another way, a smart phone with two-year old technology costs today about half of what it did two years ago. This phenomenon is true not just of our phones, but our vehicles, televisions, computers, tablets, intelligent personal assistants and more.
The concept of the exponential economy is nothing new. In the “zeros” I and others traveled the globe sharing the concept with audiences who were intent on understanding how exponential technological growth would affect their organizations and what they could do about it.
Also not new is the concept of Industry 4.0, the idea that we have entered the fourth industrial revolution – where industrial equipment is interconnected and loaded with smart sensors and smart devices that communicate directly with one another and make decisions on their own, rather than relying on programmable logic controllers or networked computers.
These devices and sensors gather exponentially unprecedented amounts of data and send it to the cloud where it is hyper-analyzed, enabling, for example, industrial equipment to predict its own future failure and order its own replacement parts before the failure ever happens.
Industry 4.0 technology is not limited to smart sensors and smart devices. Other examples include artificial intelligence, where machines are programmed to make decisions for humans and machine learning, where machines not only make their own decisions, but are trained to analyze external stimuli and become smarter on their own.
Augmented reality technology enables a maintenance technician to look at an electrical circuit and see a diagram of that circuit superimposed over the actual circuit she is viewing.
Digital twins create mirror images of industrial processes, making it possible to test changes to processes in a virtual environment.
These comprise of a handful of examples of Industry 4.0 technology. Like each of its predecessors, the fourth industrial revolution is fundamentally changing the manner in which products are manufactured around the globe.
What’s Next? 5.0 or Infinity.0?
Not to be outdone by Industry 4.0, consultants, leadership speakers and technology gurus have now begun proselytizing Industry 5.0, the concept that man and machine will become one in the workplace. Examples include collaborative robots that enable humans to safely work side by side with industrial robots, and exoskeletons—external robotic skins donned by industrial workers who can then perform human tasks with superhuman rigidity and strength.
Industry 5.0 also boasts the convergence of human intelligence and artificial intelligence, facilitating better and faster decision making in the industrial workplace. Industry 5.0: Can it be that the while 50-75 years were consumed between the previous industrial revolutions it took less than 10 to get from the fourth to the fifth?
I view it another way.
Perhaps we are at a center point of the convergence between the exponential economy and Industry 4.0, a big bang of sorts, where the speed at which data is processed and the rate at which industry is innovating collide, exploding into unlimited opportunity for industrial advancement.
I call this new era Industry ∞.0 or Industry Infinity.0 — continuous industrial innovation and revolution, where technologies both inside and outside of industry converge to create data and technology-driven manufacturing methods and processes of which we never could have previously dreamed.
Rather than being left to hypothesize about what the next industrial revolution will bring, we sit at ground zero, in time, in technology and in geography, of this fascinating development. Let us not wait for the next industrial revolution to define itself. Welcome to Industry Infinity.0 where the future and magnitude of industrial innovation is limitless.
Industry Infinity.0 Solutions for Education & Training
At LAB Midwest, we’re helping educators prepare students for a world of constant change & new technologies. Click here to see our Industry Infinity.0 technical education offerings, or fill out the form below to get in touch with us.
There are several opportunities to attend instructor training for high-demand Industry 4.0 courses being rapidly adopted throughout the Midwest. The training covers four courses from the Industry 4.0 Fundamentals program, including hands-on time with the equipment, curriculum, and certified instructors at leading educational institutions.
Industry 4.0 Fundamentals Courses
Course 1: Introduction to Mechatronics
Course 2: Introduction to Industrial Control Systems
Course 3: Introduction to Industrial Robotics
Course 4: Introduction to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
Click here to view the flyer for more information on the Industry 4.0 Fundamentals program.
Summer Training Schedule
Click here to view a shareable flyer listing all summer training opportunities.
Gateway Technical College | Racine, WI
June 17 – 21: Courses 1 & 2
June 24 – 28: Courses 3 & 4
To register for training at Gateway, contact Bao Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
University of Wisconsin-Stout | Held on the Mobile Skills Lab in Arcadia, WI
June 17 – 20: Courses 1 & 2
To register for the training through UW Stout, contact Barb Bauer at email@example.com.
Amatrol Headquarters | Jeffersonville, IN
July 8 – 12: Courses 1 & 2
July 15 – 19: Course 4
To register for training at Amatrol, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chippewa Valley Technical College | Eau Claire, WI
July 29 – August 1: Courses 3 & 4
To register for training at CVTC, contact Melissa Musser at email@example.com.
LAB Midwest Tech Center | Mequon, WI
August 5 – 9: Courses 1 & 2
August 12 – 16: Courses 3 & 4
To register for training at LAB Midwest, contact Melissa Musser at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Industry 4.0 – Overview and Certifications
The Industry 4.0 Fundamentals program was developed in response to rapidly evolving technologies and processes across industry, due to the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It also prepares students to sit for written and hands-on assessments for Industry 4.0 certifications through the Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA).
While the program has seen great success in the schools who have adopted it, some may still wonder what the core concepts of Industry 4.0 are and how they affect education.
We’ve put together several pieces overviewing Industry 4.0 concepts, programs, and case studies in the last year:
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Mequon, WI – LAB Midwest has officially announced a partnership with GPS Education Partners, a non-profit organization whose mission is to facilitate partnerships between education, industry and communities to expand the utilization of work-based learning experiences, such as Youth Apprenticeship.
This unique partnership will strengthen the opportunities available to high school students exploring career pathways, from authentic industrial experiences in the classroom to work-based learning with industrial partners. Additionally, collaborative efforts between LAB Midwest and GPS will provide industrial employers with the training resources they need to upskill or reskill incumbent workers in an environment of rapidly-changing Industry 4.0 technologies.
LAB Midwest and GPSEd recognize that the skilled labor shortage can be reduced by aligning employers’ requirements with hands-on learning opportunities, both for students and incumbent employees. A collaborative model that connects the needs and resources of education and industry will strengthen the talent pipeline and reinforce a burgeoning manufacturing economy.
The outcome will be a specialized integration of the curriculum, eLearning and skills training solutions offered by LAB Midwest into GPSEd’s work-based learning programs under an economic model that provides benefits to all parties, including educators, students, learners and industrial employers alike.
Stephanie Borowski, President and CEO of GPS Education Partners, remarked, “This partnership is a unique opportunity for GPSEd and LAB Midwest to combine almost 70 years of experience in exposing students of all ages to technical careers through hands-on, project and curriculum-based learning. It is our goal to put the great minds of our companies together to continue creating access and opportunities to quality work-based learning experiences that close the gap between Education and Business.”
Wisconsin has proven itself to be an innovator in industrial technology and STEM/CTE education, especially in recent years. LAB Midwest has given countless students the chance to learn industry-relevant skills and earn certifications in the classroom as they begin to pursue a career. Renee Kirchner, CEO of LAB Midwest, commented, “A key component to our work is collaborating with organizations who share our mission. GPSEd’s dedication to provide work-based learning for students and desire to see the same world-class training opportunities available to incumbent employees make them a perfect partner. We aim to promote this model across the Midwest and the entire US.”
About GPS Education Partners
GPS Education Partners is a WI-based 501c-3 nonprofit whose mission is to facilitate partnerships between Education, Industry, and Communities to expand the utilization of Work-based Learning experiences, such as Youth Apprenticeship, to improve student career outcomes, promote talent development pipelines, and influence systematic social impact.
GPS Education Partners is the only manufacturing-specific, statewide Department of Workforce Development Youth Apprenticeship Program in Wisconsin. Our community-based education model can help accelerate student preparation in technical careers through powerful, credentialed work-based learning solutions.
About LAB Midwest
At LAB Midwest, our mission is to secure the American Dream for the next generation of manufacturing talent. We accomplish this by providing educators and employers with the curriculum, learning systems, training equipment and certifications to prepare their students and workers for successful career pathways.
While great work is being done in education to train students for successful employment, LAB Midwest recognizes the disparity between on-the-job training available to employees five decades ago versus today. Part of our mission is to engage with manufacturers to increase the quality and quantity of employee training.
The process begins with an assessment of the training needs unique to your organization. We then collaborate to implement the training equipment and curriculum to ensure worker success. Outcomes include onboarding new employees regardless of beginning skill level, maintaining incumbent employee skills backed by subject-area knowledge, and upskilling employees in new competencies so they have the potential to move upward within the company. Successful deployment of a training program will ensure the company stays relevant as Industry 4.0 technologies continue to evolve.
To learn more about LAB Midwest, visit our website.
The Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA) is the certifying body for Industry 4.0 competencies. The organization has brought together experts from across industry to standardize and validate the skills required for success in advanced manufacturing. From basic manufacturing technologies to ethernet and networking, smart sensors and devices, and cloud-based software integration, SACA certifications are the only ones addressing Industry 4.0 in its entirety.
Now, the organization is looking for pilot test sites who want to get in on the ground floor of this movement. Participating schools will gain first access to the online and hands-on skills assessments that will form the basis for certifications.
Students can test for a number of Associate and Specialist level certifications that correspond to skills and competencies they’re already learning in the classroom. Credential areas include, but are not limited to:
- Industry 4.0 Systems
- IIoT and Data Analysis
- Electrical Systems
- Electric Motor Control
- Variable Frequency Drives
- Sensor Logic Systems
- Programmable Controllers
- Fluid Power
Becoming a pilot test site offers numerous advantages, including free assessments for students and instructors and feedback on performance. More importantly, participating schools will be seen as a national leader in workforce education and training. Their contribution to the Industry 4.0 certification process will be valued by local industry partners as well.
Pilot testing consists of a written and/or hands-on assessment for each credential area. This opportunity is only available for a limited time, so contact LAB Midwest to register as a pilot site, or download the informational flyer.
The Smart Automation Certification Alliance is a non-profit foundation supported by industry with the goal of creating a larger number of individuals with Industry 4.0 skills. To accomplish this goal the alliance is developing skill standards, providing teacher training, promoting these skill sets to students, and providing industry certifications.
Industry 4.0 technology is rapidly transforming the workplace. As companies increase their use of Ethernet networks and internet technology, they are connecting more devices, from smart sensors to smart phones, enabling them to reduce downtime and increase quality and productivity. These highly connected systems require new skills in almost every occupation, which include the ability to interact with software, data, networks, and smart devices.
Many certifications are available today that address isolated competencies, from machining to maintenance and IT, but SACA certifications are different. They address the integration of these technologies with industry 4.0 technology.