How colleges are building expertise for the next generation of automation

Dunwoody College of Technology was search of robotics hardware and software to improve students' career prospects.

The continued growth of automation is placing new instructional demands on higher education. Throughout the nation, colleges are revamping their robotics programs to set students up for success by providing hands-on, physical training with today’s automation solutions.

Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis has offered degrees in automation and robotics for more than 30 years. However, the curriculum lacked hands-on experience with “selective compliance articulated robot arm (SCARA) technology. We were in search of robotics hardware and software to train students for future experiences in the real world.

Mirroring real-world automation set ups

Prior to the relationship with Epson, Dunwoody didn’t have a SCARA robot on campus. Several of our advisory committee members provided feedback that there was a hole in our curriculum. So, our team met with Dunwoody alumnus Jason Markuson, who is currently a manager of Air Automation Engineering (AAE), a leading distributor of automation solutions in the Greater Upper Midwest region. At AAE, Markuson frequently works with Epson robots and invited us to experience the easy-to-use, high-performance Epson T3 SCARA robots firsthand.

What really impressed our team with the Epson T3 SCARA is the fact that they are extremely fast and accurate, and what really hit home was the price point. Over the past three years, Dunwoody has purchased a total of 12 Epson Synthis T3 All-in-One SCARA robots for its robotics curriculum. The school typically has a maximum of 12 students in its lab, allowing each student a dedicated hands-on experience.

“The fact that we can afford one student per robot is critical,” said Joseph M. White, an assistant professor at Dunwoody College of Technology. “They’re not waiting for the USB cable to be passed over to them to check their code. They can fix anything and look at anything that’s critical to them.”

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For Dunwoody, the ease of programming, accessibility of the software and simulation of the software were key points when looking at the Epson T3 SCARA robots. The Synthis T3 SCARA robot features the powerful Epson RC+ programming software, which leads the industry in ease of use to save development time. Epson RC+ includes a library of pre-built programs that users can leverage when building both complex and simple applications. Markuson was able to teach Epson’s RC+ software to White on the first day.

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“For those students who have had no exposure to text-based programming, it’s a perfect intro tool,” said White.

Epson RC+ takes automation development to the next level with the built-in 3D Simulator. Users can build and fine-tune applications from a standalone PC without needing the hardware on-hand. When we went through the COVID pandemic, Epson RC+ was a huge benefit. With the simulation software, students were able to program the T3 robots from home.

Preparing students for post-grad jobs

The Midwest is home to many medical device manufacturers that use Epson SCARA Robots and seek employees who have training with Epson technology. With the integration of Epson T3 SCARA Robots into its curriculum, Dunwoody is setting its graduates up for success as they enter the workforce because they will be dealing with the actual equipment that they’re going to be using out in the real world.

Dunwoody has bought four Epson T3 SCARA Robots a year for the past three years and will continue to expand its inventory as the College’s program grows.

E.J. Daigle is the dean of advanced manufacturing & robotics at Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis. For the past 20 years he has taught courses in electronics, programmable controls, machine vision, and robotics. 

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