Students building automated assembly lines

Quakertown Community High School stu­dents in Christopher Polk’s Computer Integrated Manufacturing class cre­at­ed mini auto­mat­ed assem­bly lines, a project that encom­passed many of the skills today’s employ­ers are seek­ing — problem-solving, team­work, and being able to apply what they’ve learned.

“They’ve tak­en basic pro­gram­ming to the next lev­el,” Mr. Polk said. “This is about recre­at­ing an assem­bly line that is used every day in indus­try, food plants, pack­ag­ing facil­i­ties. They have items to make it more real­is­tic and things to inte­grate with robot con­trol.”

The class, which runs for the full school year, employs Project Lead The Way cur­ricu­lum. The pre-engineering course empow­ers stu­dents to devel­op in-demand knowl­edge and skills they need to thrive. In addi­tion, Mr. Polk was able to obtain a Dobot, a robot­ic arm, par­tial­ly paid for with a $500 grant from the Quakertown Community Education Foundation to enhance the mini assem­bly line.

The auto­mat­ed assem­bly line loads box­es with parts and has robots pick them up, Mr. Polk said. Students use VEX robot­ics to build the bulk of the project, and have free rein to use a 3D print­er to help. This year, stu­dents had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to incor­po­rate pneu­mat­ic cylin­ders and sole­noids. The VEZ and the Dobots are pro­grammed using dif­fer­ent soft­ware, so stu­dents had to learn how to incor­po­rate “Handshaking” into their pro­grams. Handshaking is the process of send­ing sig­nals back and forth so mul­ti­ple com­put­ers can “talk” to each oth­er.

One stu­dent group includ­ed Dan Boice, David Carr, Ryan Galloway, Joey LaFlura and Kirsten North. Another group includ­ed Aldan Halteman, Carson Jefferis, Tanner Poster, Andrew Proffit and Isaac Snyder.

“If one piece mess­es up, noth­ing will work so every­one needs to get their parts right,” Ryan said. “Sometimes it takes mul­ti­ple designs and ren­di­tions to work.”

Dan said “It’s about design­ing a prod­uct and ship­ping it out. It’s a chal­lenge try­ing to get the con­sis­ten­cy to make it reli­able.”

Mr. Polk, who also teach­es the pop­u­lar chef’s cours­es, said “There are a lot of mov­ing parts, so there’s def­i­nite­ly a lev­el of excite­ment when it works. You can see it in their faces. Definitely a sense of accom­plish­ment.”