Tidewater Community College’s Chesapeake Campus celebrated the opening of its new robotics lab on Nov. 18 at a community event that included the city’s mayor, Rick West.
“Once again, Tidewater Community College is leading the way in training, and this is especially important as we continue to grow in the manufacturing sector and other areas,” West said.
Also in attendance: Chesapeake Public Schools Superintendent Jared Cotton, a TCC alumnus; Shonda Pittman-Windham, program administrator, Chesapeake Career Center; Barry Brown, principal at Deep Creek Elementary School and a member of the TCC College Board; and Jim Spore, chief executive officer of Reinvent Hampton Roads and a member of the TCC Real Estate Foundation Board.
“This afternoon we are cutting the ribbon on a new robotics lab, one that will help our students master the modern automation and control technology used in today’s manufacturing industry,” said Corey McCray, interim executive vice president for academics and student affairs. “With the availability of manufacturing jobs in Hampton Roads steadily ticking upward, we continue our commitment to training skilled workers for competitive careers in the industry.”
The lab contains six state-of-the-art FANUC (Fuji Automatic Numerical Control) robots and training stations. The TCC lab is part of the FANUC Education Network, with students following the company’s curriculum and learning industry applications.
Faculty members Eric Beaver and Tyrone Goodman, both from the college’s Mechatronics program, designed the lab.
“We have some pretty impressive equipment in this lab,” Beaver said. “Each robot has a vision system and can track objects and be programmed to complete tasks. FANUC is the industry standard and these robots are exactly what students will see on the job.”
Interim Provost James Edwards invited McCray, Cotton, West and Beaver to share in the ceremonial snip.
Although Nov. 18 marked the official opening of the lab, TCC and CPS dual-enrolled mechatronic students have used it throughout this fall semester. The labs hum with activity daily with 16 students in each section.
“I’m pleased to be part of the opening of TCC’s robotics lab, a state-of-the-art addition to the Mechatronics program and a shining example of our shared vision to prepare students for STEM jobs of the future,” Cotton said.
Cotton also noted that the first cohort of 15 CPS dual-enrolled mechatronics students graduated in May 2019. Today, three of those students earn competitive wages and benefits in local manufacturing firms, while others are continuing at TCC to earn their associate degrees in just one year.
Tyjuan Jones, a current student employed at IMS Gear, refers to himself as the “robot guy” thanks to the knowledge he gained in the lab.
“It’s a lot to learn every day and always something new. I like it all, but the troubleshooting is my favorite part,” he said.
Cory Blume, also with IMS Gear, added, “This is definitely the most interesting class, and it’s a great opportunity to practice in a safe zone before taking it to the job.”