5 people gathered around robot

Plymouth High School engineering students listen to Kohler Co. engineers discuss the robotic arm donated by the company to the school.

Robot latest benefit from PHS-Kohler partnership

Posted May 20, 2019

Plymouth High School students are benefiting from innovative learning experiences, as a result of collaboration and partnership efforts with Kohler Co.

“We’d like to thank Kohler Company for making these opportunities available to our students,” said PHS technology education teacher Jake Sherman.

Kohler opens its manufacturing facility for student tours, and offers Youth Apprentice and High School Co-Op opportunities to numerous PHS students – giving them hands-on-experience and an in-depth understanding of a manufacturing career. Kohler also provides guest speakers to enhance classroom learning through presentations as well as discussions about careers in manufacturing.

Most recently, Kohler has provided a Kohler Manufacturing and Automation Grant through its foundation for Plymouth High School to purchase a FANUC LR Mate 200iD robotic arm with an iRVision system and fenceless training cell.

“This robot training cell is the only one like it in a high-school setting in the state of Wisconsin,” Mr. Sherman said. “The robot training cell has been incorporated in the PHS Project Lead the Way engineering curriculum, which adds industry relevance to our course content.”

Students have learned robot safety, systems and movements, and have gotten an introduction to robotic programming. Kohler employees have visited PHS to answer student questions about the robot and further address the industry relevance of the robotics content they are learning in the classroom.

The robot, installed in January, has quickly become a centerpiece of the Computer Integrated Manufacturing class, part of the school’s extensive Project Lead the Way engineering offerings.

Students began by programming the robot to pick up and place blocks with precision, then taught it to draw their initials using a dry erase marker on a white board. The most complicated project so far – and a favorite among students – has been teaching the robot to play tic-tac-toe.

“I really enjoyed planning out the logic for tic-tac-toe,” said PHS junior Jacob Ashworth. “We had to teach it every possible move. But that means it can’t lose now. It’s impossible to beat.”

This kind of project reinforces logical thinking by the programmer, which is vital, said Kohler Engines engineer Paul Theisen, who works with PHS students. “Companies desire employees that can see an issue and have the problem-solving ability to correct it,” he said.

Learning to program the robot was challenging, since users don’t type out lines of code but instead let software do most of the math, Jacob said.

Junior Alex Oty agreed. “The user interface is different than anything we’ve done before,” he said. “But there is lots of functionality.”

Alex hopes to become an aerospace engineer, and said that his production experience with the robot will enable him to make things easier to design.

Jacob plans to go into computer programming and said he can see himself programming machines like the robot in a manufacturing setting. “I really like that this robot is scaled down but is the same machine and uses the same software as the machines at Kohler and Sargento,” he said.

Both students encouraged others to take CIM and get the chance to work with the robot. “More people should learn automation and how it works, especially in an evolving work field, where automation will play a key role in manufacturing and engineering,” Alex said.

Learn more:
• Check out the Innovative Opportunities section of our award-winning District Report Card to learn more about how our students use modern, cool resources to learn in innovative ways; and the Community Engagement section to learn more about our high-quality business and industry partnerships.