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METALling in Robotics

Esky’s Robomos learn about trade, build robot

February 4, 2011
By Dionna Harris

ESCANABA - A field trip to EMP (Engineered Machined Products) Thursday allowed members of the "Robomos" to view first hand how robotics and manufacturing work together.

The newly-formed club at Escanaba High School is constructing a robot, working with engineers from EMP and NewPage.

Under the tutelage of high school science Teacher Marie Young, in addition to working with the engineers, students are learning how to put what they are learning to practical use.

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A group of EHS students toured EMP recently to learn about robotics.

Currently the Robomos are constructing a robot, which will be entered into a statewide competition scheduled for March in Traverse City. According to Young, the program provides students with hands-on knowledge of how important science and mathematics are in today's economy.

"The students are learning not only about science and how it can be applied to robotics, but also the mechanics involved in making their robot work," said Young, adding how difficult it can be to design, construct, wire and produce the software needed to program the robot to perform a task.

As part of the tour Thursday of EMP, students were able to view first-hand how robotics can help manufacturing corporations compete within a global economy.

Conducting the tour for the students was Craig Hertig, engineering manager at EMP, and Paul Harvey, director of new business for the company.

"Many people believe that robotics will cost people jobs, but actually it is just the opposite," said Hertig. "Following the recession of 2008-2009, we not only recalled everyone who had been laid-off back to work, we created 27 new jobs."

As the students toured the facility, Hertig explained that in some of the plant's robotic cells, one operator was controlling 15 machines at one time, increasing production up to 110 parts per hour.

Students also learned how environmentally-friendly the facility is; the coolant used in keeping the machines at proper operating temperatures is not disposed of, but reused.

"We monitor the chemistry of the coolant, with it being analyzed on a regular basis. Samples of the coolant are taken and sent for testing. Once the test results come back, we replace the necessary additives to keep the coolant stable," said Hertig.

He also explained the plant's air conditioning unit by utilizing a Lake Superior aquifer.

Hertig said that the ponds seen in front of the plant office hold the excess water generated from the air conditioning units.

At the conclusion of the tour and question and answer period, Hertig offered the students the following advice: " do it right the first time. Don't let someone talk you into taking shortcuts, because you never have time to do it twice."



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