Students building automated assembly lines

Chris Polk’s CIM class helps students develop key problem-solving and teamwork skills that employers desire.
Posted on 02/11/2020
Student Ryan Galloway adjusts part of the automated assembly line as Kirsten North looks on during a recent Computer Integrated Manufacturing class.By Gary Weckselblatt

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.”

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or gweckselblatt@qcsd.org.

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