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New Robotic Arm in IDEAS Xchange Offers Engineering Challenges

One of the newest technologies in the school's new IDEAS Xchange space in Dickson-Hemby Technology center is a yellow robotic arm, visible through the glass window. The arm comes from the robotics company FANUC. Funding to help obtain the robotic arm came from the Spring 2022 Parents' Association auction. 

Middle School students will be able to experiment with the arm and brainstorm projects. Upper School students will use the arm to explore the possibilities of automation in college and in their future careers. 

When Todd Johnson came to PD, he said, he wanted to create more opportunities for engineering on campus. The IDEAS Xchange space, devoted to the study of Innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship, Analytics, and Sustainability, was established for students to be creative and collaborative. In the IDEAS Xchange, students have used the software and the equipment to create and test their inventions. Mr. Johnson wants to motivate students to craft a mold, build a product, and be able to present it to investors, he said. 

Globally, demand is growing for individuals who can program robots. Thousands of robots are used in factories and require programming to complete tasks. Having new technology, such as the robotic arm, allows for students to get exposed to a variety of engineering technologies to understand that there are many potential areas of engineering to specialize in.

Over the summer, Mr. Johnson attended a robotic workshop in Tennessee for training on the robotic arm. Mr. Johnson describes the arm as being an avenue to open up the door to the automation industry, and provide early exposure to students. “The addition of the FANUC robotic arm will give students an opportunity to use an industry standard robot as they develop computer programming solutions to manufacturing engineering challenges.” 

The robotic arm will allow students to learn how to design a part, program it, and see how the arm is able to create the product that the student desires. Once the arm is fully available in a few weeks, Mr. Johnson invites students to come and experiment with the arm when they are in the Xchange to see the potential of automation.

Technology is always evolving, and Mr. Johnson wants students to be one step ahead in the learning process. The first task of the robotic arm? Being able to mimic the exact plays of historic chess games.