FCDI board members trekked to beautiful Pittsburgh, PA recently, to attend the 2nd annual ARM Institute member meeting, where we had the pleasure of meeting some amazing companies and individuals working hard to improve human capacity and public impressions about 21st century manufacturing. We also enjoyed the pleasure of seasonably cool temperatures and fall colors, an extra perk for our Florida crew!

We joined about 150 other members from around the nation to hear about ARM Institute’s accomplishments in its second year, learn about what other members were working on, and to network and connect with potential partners and resources for our own work here in Tampa.

The ARM Institute

Chosen by the Department of Defense to allocate the investment of $80 million to grow U.S. manufacturing, the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute is one of 14 Manufacturing USA institutes and consists of dedicated staff and resources focused on spurring innovations in robotics technologies and workforce development.  ARM is guided by a consortium of members in industry, government agencies, economic development, academia and technology who are experts in advanced robotics and education

Manufacturing USA  goals are to increase U.S. competitiveness, facilitate technology transition and train the manufacturing workforce. Manufacturing USA advances manufacturing by connecting people, ideas, and technology, with a network of institutes, including ARM, that reach across manufacturing, government, and academia. These public-private partnerships breathe life into promising early-stage research, propel new products to market — and secure the United States’ future.

ARM seeks to lower barriers to adoption of robotics by advancing technology, expanding the robotics workforce with new and better career pathways and convening and leveraging a nationwide consortium of innovators, educators & supporters of their mission. We’re excited to be part of that consortium.

Education and Workforce Initiatives

ARM Institute has three workforce focus areas:

  • Micro-Credentialing Programs
  • Work and Learn Programs
  • Talent Attraction Programs

All three are areas of focus for FCDI as well, hence the reason for our membership in ARM.   The main method of propelling these workforce initiatives are through ARM Institute Technology and Education Workforce Development project calls. We got to learn about some of the projects from last year’s call at the meeting. A couple that really caught our interest was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Teach-bot  and Carnegie Mellon University’s SMART project.

Teach-Bot is a table top robot outfitted with actuators, sensors, and embedded systems and connected to the MITx online learning system.  The interactive robot is designed to teach manufacturing workers about various aspects of robotics from construction, to communications and operations .  It can also analyze learner response data and alter instructions accordingly.

SMART stands for Smart Manufacturing and Advanced Robotics Training, and is a pre-apprenticeship program that works with education and industry partners to create micro-certifications designed to foreground industry recognized knowledge, skills, and attributes.  This program works closely with the FIRST youth robotics program, which we’ll be supporting at AMRoC Fab Lab.

Another project that we found powerful is one collaboratively developed by Carnegie Mellon University,  Greenville Tech, and others in South Carolina that centers on the creation of modules to facilitate stackable credentials in robotics and automation culminating in a Robotic Systems Certificate. In addition to student-focused modules, the project includes a careers pathway focus to educate students, counselors, and parents about careers in robotics-enabled industries.

We also enjoyed hearing keynote addresses by Dr. Robert Sadowski, the United States Army’s Senior Scientist for Robotics within the Research, Technology and Integration Directorate at the United States Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) in Warren, and Dr. Martial Herbert, a Professor of Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University and Director of the Robotics Institute.

Bringing it all Home

Talent is knowledge embedded in people, observed Dr. Mark Johnson, Director of the Clemson University Center for Advanced Manufacturing, and a distinguished speaker at the meeting, who provided an overview of the Federal Ecosystem.  To build our talent pipeline, we need to invest in people, specifically in the time and costs of providing quality education, mentoring,  and training needed to ensure the necessary skills for 21st century “new collar” jobs.

This is work we believe in and that we have long served through our K-20+ academic and career talent pipeline efforts. The AMRoC Fab Lab is the place where we’re bringing it all together, providing a home base for the tools, resources, people and the collaborative partnerships needed to nurture the scientific and tech talent that is a natural asset in our community.  Mechanical, engineering, and computer science are all necessary skills in manufacturing, and with the strong entrepreneurial component present in Tampa Bay, we have a complete innovation pipeline

ARM Institute is helping make a lot of great things possible for American manufacturing initiatives, from training and education through research and development, and we’re glad to have a role in helping the next generation new collar workforce find its place in Tampa Bay.We already have a strong entrepreneurial and  talent rich ecosystem, top notch universities and colleges and all the elements of affordability, climate and community that make Tampa Bay so wonderful.

It’s just a natural next step to  bring all the promise and potential of Tampa Bay innovators, and our amazingly talented and creative workforce to the forefront of American manufacturing and industry, and we look forward to working with other ARM Institute members and local area partners to help develop and support those career pathways and talent development programs for all ages.