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Yaskawa Motoman introduces students to robotics

Yaskawa Motoman played host Tuesday to about 100 area high school and college students as part of an effort to attract more young people to the expanding robotics field.

“Robotics is growing up and to the right,” said Erik Nieves, Motoman’s technology director, comparing it to a rising graph line. “We have real needs right now for more technicians, programmers, engineers and maintenance personnel,” he said.

Motoman hosted tour groups as part of the fourth annual National Robotics Week. Initiated in 2010 by the U.S. Congress, the educational event is intended to raise public awareness about robotics and inspire young people to pursue careers in robotics and other science, technology, engineering and math-related (STEM) fields, Nieves said.

Motoman Robotics, a division of Yaskawa America, provides robots for the automotive manufacturing, heavy equipment construction, and material handling and packaging sectors. The company added 33 workers last year, and employs more than 350 locally, said Tim DeRosett, Motoman’s director of marketing.

Students from Wright State University and Chaminade-Julienne High School, among other area institutions, toured Motoman’s manufacturing floor, training classrooms and demonstration lab, where numerous industrial, service and entertainment robots are put through their paces.

“To see the robots function like this is quite awe-inspiring as an engineer,” said David Flick, a Wright State mechanical engineering student from West Chester. “I would like a job in the robotics field,” he said.

The median annual salary for a robotics engineer is $77,400, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A robotics technician’s median annual salary is $49,550. Both fields require a college degree.

Dean Elkins, Motoman’s senior general manager, stressed the importance of science and math skills, which are required to work in robotics at almost any level. Officials also discussed the impact of robotics beyond the factory floor, including agricultural, medical, military and home applications.

The Chaminade-Julienne students have worked on robotics projects in engineering class, said Meg Draeger, the school’s STEM coordinator. “For them to be able to see the real application and the folks who, on a daily basis, work with robotics and do the programming will be beneficial,” she said.

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