BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. - Last year, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam provided Northeast State Community College with an $843,000 grant to enhance Advanced Technologies programs.
Now, ten new robots sit in the manufacturing, engineering, and technology room on campus. "Pretty much anything that a human hand could do, you can teach a robot to do," instructor Brad Stufflestreet says.
They function just like your own arm. "These remotes are the operators interface, and it goes thruogh here, whatever you put in, the robot will do," Stufflestreet says.
The operators programming these robots are students at Northeast State Community College, who are using the same technology as professionals. "Students can work with them, they get to work programming, maintenance, setup, troubleshooting, all those different things that they are going to do in the industry," Stufflestreet says.
Thanks to the near-million dollar grant, the college that started with just a few robots now has 14. Stufflestreet says these machines are found in all sorts of industries. "One of the most popular is the automotive industry, and probably the most visible. But they're being utilized in manufacturing for machine tending, any place that may have an assembly line," he says.
And because Northeast State students get hands-on time, they're ready for the real world. "Out of the students that graduated last semester, most of them actually had a job before they were graduated," he says.
This fall, a new dual-enrollment program will allow high school students to learn as well. Chelsea Rose, coordinator of high school programs, says students from Sullivan and Washington Counties can earn high school and college credit. "They're getting exposure to college coursework, and they will be learning a career skill that they can hopefully use in the future," she says.
To Stufflestreet, it's all about educating students for high-skilled jobs. "When they go into the industry, they can walk up to a robot, understand not only what it's doing but how it's doing it," he says.
There are ten spots left in the high school dual-enrollment program at Northeast State. Students must enroll through the regular college application process.