Automation department rocks the robot
Did you know there are robots among us at SAIT?
On Dec. 6, students of the automation department kicked things into full gear for the end of the semester when they conducted a full production run on the automated assembly lines they’ve been constructing since September.
“Other programs may have more robots, more bells and whistles,” said robotics and automation instructor Craig Maynard.
“But our students have to sit down and design their own mechanisms and software. They have to solve their own problems, and that is rare and precious.”
Each fall, the automation students are presented with a challenge. Instructors tell the students a large company has an order for a million units of a product, and it needs an automated solution.
This year, the fictitious company requested spark plugs. Once given the scenario, students are essentially left to their own devices.
The class is divided into two teams competing against one another. Each team is given the same equipment, but must come up with its own designs and solutions.
The production lines consist of four work cells, each equipped only with the robotic arm that acts as the workhorse.
Everything else involved in the production process, including the tools that the robots use and the workbenches they work on, as crafted by the students.
The project is as much a bonding experience as a construction challenge. Team members often help others with challenges and setbacks that pop up.
Some work cells found they had a number of problems to solve.
Kyle Park and Blair Foster’s station had their fair share. They spent multiple weeks in a row troubleshooting problems with circuitry and electric motors. Their robot even needed reprogramming. But at the end of the semester, their cell passed with flying colours.
“You learn a lot more from your mistakes than from your successes,” said Park.
“We adjusted a few wires, tweaked some circuitry and everything worked out. We now have a fully functioning work cell.”
Each student’s cell passed the test this semester.
“They exceeded my expectations, as a matter of fact,” said Maynard.
Next semester is the capstone project, wherein students are presented with four industrial problems of opportunity. The students design solutions in class and present them to actual industry clients.