Training students for the workforce of tomorrow, Randolph Community College integrates all-in-one robotics solution into curriculum

How a community college prepares students for real-world industrial automation applications


Training students for the workforce of tomorrow, Randolph Community College integrates all-in-one robotics solution into curriculum

With the automation trend in manufacturing rapidly increasing, education must keep pace to train the next generation of workers on cutting-edge electrical, industrial, and manufacturing systems technologies. As the industry breaks down silos in these areas, it is important that Industrial Programs department heads ensure students have skills across those disciplines.

At Randolph Community College, we are tackling this head-on to better prepare students for mechatronics roles that require electrical, mechanical, robotics, and software skills. Based on real-world applications, our industrial robotics course provides students with robotics fundamentals as well as real-world manufacturing automation training during the 16-week semester. To allow students to gain hands-on experience with common manufacturing applications used across multiple industries, such as pick and place, we integrated an all-in-one robotics solution that would provide the greatest number of students robotics lab time.

Finding the right solution for the right budget

Like most schools, we had to work within department budget constraints to find a robotics solution that would maximize students’ lab time and experience. Some of the robotic education solutions available went beyond our budget scope and required multiple students to share one work cell, hindering the hands-on experience we hoped to achieve. It was important that we find a high-value, turnkey solution for students to gain in-person, real-life experiences with manufacturing automation equipment. And speed, precision, and repeatability were all key factors when deciding on a high-value robot.

Trusting the guidance and expertise from automation solutions provider CIMTEC, our college integrated the T3 Education System. We worked with CIMTEC to define the requirements and customize the solution to meet our curriculum needs. Keeping budget in mind, CIMTEC leveraged Epson’s T3 SCARA robot for the work cell. The ultra-low cost of the robot compared to similar solutions on the market allowed us to keep the entire cost of the work cell within budget, and opened the door to purchasing additional robot stations in the future for more hands-on student lab time.

In addition to cost, here are some things to consider when selecting a robot to support students’ coursework in industrial robotics:

  • Maximizing lab space: Robotics equipment can easily take up valuable lab real estate. With limited space for equipment, it’s important to consider the size of the solution to maximize lab space while providing the greatest number of students with hands-on robotics time. Implementing a robot with an all-in-one design and built-in controller like the Epson T3 SCARA reduces space requirements, allowing for easy placement within our college’s lab and simplifying setup for our college lab technicians as the controller, amplifier and cabling are all housed in the T3’s base.
  • Hands-on automation programming: Today’s industrial manufacturers must be software-savvy in order to operate robotics solutions. To ensure students are ahead of the curve, our curriculum requires students to understand and write a simple pick-and-place program. The T3 Education System offers students hands-on practice with the Epson RC+ Development Software, giving them the advantage to learn a program that can be applicable to many future automation jobs.
  • Real life applications: In any course, real-world experience is invaluable. Providing students with a hands-on experience that is applicable in today’s business settings is much more valuable than only providing students with demonstrations or concepts. The T3 Education System is a fully functional robot that offers a built-in 3D Simulator, enabling students to practice real-world applications like programming work cells, uploading CAD models, testing different end-of-arm tools, or adding additional components in real time, such as a table, feeder, or guarding.

Achieving excellence through true partnership

It’s also important to find the right partners to identify and implement the right technology to support your goals and to provide support as needed with delivery and deployment. Even though the T3 Education System was implemented during the pandemic in 2020, CIMTEC, with Epson’s help, was able to remain flexible through delivery and startup and reliably follow up with us months after deployment. CIMTEC also provided curriculum training for instructors and ongoing service and support for the system.

Ready to join the automation workforce of tomorrow  

Careful consideration of the issues above has given our college the ability to make hands-on training practical for a class of 20 students or more. The high-value T3 Education System checks all the boxes for the industrial robotics course on a technical level and enables us to implement multiple student groupings, accommodating lab time for each student. The system also provides options for the future to integrate machine vision, or imaging-based guidance for the robot.

With manufacturers updating their processes with equipment that requires skilled mechatronics technicians to operate and maintain, robotics courses will become more vital to training the workforce of tomorrow. By selecting the right technology, colleges can ensure their students will be well-trained and confident to take their place in an automated world.

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