At a Glance
The Indiana County Technology Center (ICTC) partners with Indiana Area Junior High School to produce Combat Robotic weapon parts as a way to engage middle school students in learning about machining technology. This collaboration introduces engineering and machining basics to sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students, with the intent of recruiting potential machining technology students as they transition to high school.
Michael Rescenete, machining technology instructor, shared that his initial concern with the Combat Robotics competition was if the Indiana Junior High School team did not win the competition it might leave a negative impression on the machining program. He was concerned that students might not be interested in the ICTC Machining Technology program if the team was not successful in the competition. Mr. Rescenete had to take a step back and look at the potential benefits this opportunity could present to his program area. First, there was the opportunity to partner with local sending schools to work together to manufacture their combat robot weapon parts. In addition to helping to manufacture their parts, the students were invited to ICTC for the day. This day was spent showing the students what machining technology is all about and how manufacturing bought their ideas and designs to life. This experience also drove home the goal of introducing the program to the younger generation in a fun and exciting way.
This collaboration between ICTC and our local sending schools created the opportunity to introduce machining technology to younger students so they could learn about career opportunities in the high-demand machining/manufacturing industry. Connecting and collaborating with younger students before ninth grade was the driving goal of this initiative. Though Machining Technology cannot be taken until their sophomore year, this experience allows students to have Machining Technology in mind as they prepare to schedule classes for high school.
There were many key people involved in this exciting initiative, including:
- Indiana Area Junior High School Combat Robotics instructors, whose role was to oversee and teach the construction of the entire bot, including design and simulation. They also communicated their design requests to ICTC’s Machining Technology instructor.
- Indiana County Technology Center machining technology instructor, whose role was to receive the bot weapon designs and work with the CTE students to manufacture the parts using CADCAM software and CNC machines.
Combat robotics is considered a club event at ICTC’s sending schools. Students who are interested in combat robotics sign up at the beginning of the school year. Once students are signed up, teams are selected, and rules and regulations are provided. Beginning in January, the sending schools’ students have designed their BOT weapon, and they then email the blueprints to the career and technology education (CTE) instructor. At this time the CTE students and instructor review the design and determine if it can be manufactured at ICTC. Communications are sent back and forth with the team via email to answer any remaining questions. The CTE students have approximately one month to produce the parts. Pictures and videos are sent to the sending school(s) to keep them informed about how their parts are coming along. This is a very exciting process for the students. Following the completion of their weapons, the sending schools’ students and instructors are invited to the technology center for a day. During their visit to ICTC, the students get to see how their parts were manufactured. This visit allows the students to observe and ask questions about their parts and the machines the parts were manufactured on. Upon returning to their sending school, the students have about one month to build and test their combat robot in preparation for the competition in April.
Mr. Rescenete shared that there were challenges along the way. One of those challenges was tooling limitations. For example, the part designed was not a thickness that a standard cutting tool could cut. The potential solutions for this were to order larger tools (at a cost) or come up with a different approach to manufacturing the part. These challenges presented deeper learning, critical thinking, and problem-solving opportunities for the CTE students. A suggestion was also offered that, in the future, the CTE students set size restrictions before the sending schools’ students start designing their weapon. The combat robotics program and all materials are locally funded. The ICTC expects with the continued growth of this program and local community support, this program will continue to gain interest and participation.
This project is a collaboration of ideas among students of several grade levels. The older students can share their experiences and successes with the younger students, creating interest in the machining technology field. In manufacturing facilities, many businesses onboard new employees with a mentoring-style training program. The ICTC team is trying to replicate this model with students at the junior high level and current high school CTE students. This recruitment tool takes a few years to see a return on the partnership investment, however the ICTC team is optimistic that this approach will help educate our youth on this highly demanded career pathway.
The Indiana Area Junior High School hosts the combat robotics competition. Community members, parents, and administrators are invited to attend. Those who are not able to attend can enjoy watching the competition via a live video stream provided by the Indiana Area Junior High School.
Michael Rescenete, Machining Technology Instructor