Sam Hoff and Scott Grasman

In March of this year, Patti Engineering and Kettering University announced they will create an Industry 4.0-enabled collaborative robotic cell for a new classroom lab. The goal of which is to teach engineering and computer science students about real-world situations with manufacturing automation technologies they may experience during their co-ops and future careers. Below, Scott Grasman, Kettering’s dean of the college of engineering, and Sam Hoff, Patti Engineering’s founder and CEO—and proud Kettering University alumnus—discuss what this means for the future of engineering and software development services.

MPT: How did this partnership take shape and what are some of the goals of the new lab?

Scott Grasman: Patti Engineering has been a longtime supporter of Kettering University and has generously helped us design this new lab and develop related coursework. We are thrilled to incorporate real-world applications into a single robotic cell for our students to learn industrial robotics, control systems, the internet of things, wireless communications, and data analytics. 

Sam Hoff: We are excited for the opportunity to develop a new lab for the students at Kettering. The lab’s real-world challenges of collaboration across all disciplines will provide an excellent space for students to put their classroom knowledge into practice, preparing them for the obstacles they may face in their careers. By solving these challenges while still in school, students will be better equipped to navigate and solve problems in their future endeavors.

MPT: How would you describe the main focus of the project?

Sam Hoff: Patti Engineering was involved with the design of the new classroom lab, along with developing the baseline program. The new robotic cell incorporates technology from some of the university’s corporate sponsors including Mitsubishi Electric for the PLC, HMI, and collaborative pick-and-place robot, and Keyence for the vision systems and area scanners. 

Scott Grasman: Together with our industrial manufacturing, electrical, and computer engineering students, computer science students will work side-by-side on the different learning opportunities presented by the robotic cell. We will even integrate our 3D printing course into developing the end-of-arm actuators for the collaborative robot. It’s a comprehensive system designed to be utilized by all of our engineering and computer science programs.

MPT: How does the lab simulate real-world experiences students could expect in the field?

Sam Hoff: To facilitate learning and experimentation throughout the semester, the robotic cell was specifically designed to enable students to work with and modify the code. At the end of the term, the staff resets the code to the baseline program, ensuring the same opportunities to the next group of students. This thoughtful approach ensures that every student who utilizes the robotic cell is able to delve deeply into the material and achieve the cell’s full potential.

MPT: How will the lab be integrated into these students’ overall education?

Scott Grasman: Currently, the university has separate labs to correspond with different courses. The new lab will be integrated into existing courses and will be available for use in future courses. The Kettering University faculty is creating additional curricula including capstone experiences centered around the new lab, which is scheduled to open during the summer of 2023.

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