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GCAMP Grant Funds Robotic Arm for Classroom

Weger grant students

Hampshire High School teacher, Jonathan Weger, knew the right steps to take to make a huge impact with his students this year – give students knowledge, combine it with hands-on experiences, apply it to real-world scenarios, and watch the learning grow. 

 

What I love about this job is that I’m able to combine my passion for the subject matter with the needs of students.  I love bringing the things they learned in math class and showing them where it fits into their lives.  My greatest responsibility is to show them as much as I can of the possibilities out there.  Why is engineering fun?   Why does it pay very well?   What kind of schooling do I need?   All of these questions can be worked through while students are designing, building, and creating industrial robotics and automation setups.   They get placed into situations that are as real to work life as possible.  So while they’re having fun working with the robotics, they are applying the book knowledge from so many subjects and learning real life soft skills, tech skills, and becoming better future employees and employers.   

You can talk theories, read things in books, learn all about the steps of the engineering process, but put that same student into a situation where they put that theoretical knowledge into practice, and they will never forget that.     

 

It was in Fall of 2023, when Weger, a first-year teacher with years of industrial experience, reached out to GCAMP with a big idea.   He wanted to purchase an Annin Robotic Arm kit to teach students to build, program, plan, implement, and repair industrial robotics setups. Beyond the initial learning experience of building the arm, he envisioned using the arm in other classes for CNC-tending setups and automated welding.  He also thought the arm would help get younger kids excited about manufacturing. 

 

Robotic Arm Parts
Annin Robotic Arm parts.

However, one thing stood in the way of his dream.  He needed funding.  In September, Weger approached GCAMP about funding his project through a grant, and, with Weger’s obvious passion for industry and his clear commitment to giving his students the best possible learning experience, it was impossible for GCAMP to say no.   

 

 By the time students returned from winter break, the supplies they needed were waiting for them in their lab.   Mr. Weger tweeted, “Robotics 2 students returned from break to find all parts to make our first Annin Robotics Industrial Robotic Arm.   Look at the lovely collection of electronics, CNC parts, and 3D printed pieces!   It’s going to be a fun semester thanks to GCAMP and their generous grant!”

 

Students working on arm
Students begin work on the arm.

When second semester kicked off, none of the Robotics II students knew how to solder or had any experience assembling electronics, but that didn’t stop them.    They worked as a team to create the 6-axis robotic arm from a pile of machine parts, switches, wires, stepper motors and microcomputers.  They learned to build, wire, solder, assemble, troubleshoot, and configure the arm – start to finish, and their skills paid off. 

GCAMP Logo on Plexi
Look closely! GCAMP received a special shout out in the bottom corner of the plexi.

 

 

By the end of the year, the Hampshire High School lab had a working, industrial robotic arm.   Not only that, but Weger’s students’ skills were evident when they were named State Champs and Runners Up in the SkillsUSA Mechatronics and Robotics competitions.

 

Mr. Weger bragged, “These students learned how to build this arm from nothing!   So very proud of them and grateful for such an awesome first group!”

 

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!!   Kudos to Mr. Weger’s students and to their amazing teacher on a job well done! 

 

Lab

Dawn Curran

Dawn Curran
Executive Director
Valley Industrial Association/GCAMP