'Connecting the Bots': At Wake Tech, learning to work beside robots

Posted September 4, 2018 6:10 p.m. EDT
Updated September 4, 2018 6:12 p.m. EDT

There are those who worry that automation in the workplace will push humans out of their jobs. And then there are the Wake Tech students working to find ways to teach people to work with robots, instead of against them.

They learn to work with Yumi, a collaborative robot, one of three purchased as part of a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

"It's not a matter of a push a button and walk away," said instructor Jay Reaves, "you still have to know what the machine is doing, how to program it and that kind of thing."

Wake Tech is developing a pilot program for Collaborative Robotics certifications, for operators, technicians and programmers.

Larry Bowyer is a full-time machinist, but he's back studying with the bots for another degree and, he hopes, a higher paying job.

Getting collaborative is a drop in the bucket for bigger paydays for everyone. Reaves says the demand for trained, technically-skilled people is creating more jobs.

"It's not that you're replacing people with robots, but you're becoming more productive, and the people working with it are going to have to up their skills to interface with it," Reaves said.

The goal is to create a curriculum that can be shared with other community colleges in North Carolina, even nationwide.