Retailing at around $26,000, the ABB 120 is a welcome addition to the school, thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign. Technology teacher Peter Coulter says it was his background in architecture which led him to dream big for his students.
“We’d been going down the road of the mini robots and ... I had attended some conferences on robots in architecture, and part of this whole story on the fourth industrial revolution is so much about connecting these areas of engineering, architecture and augmenting with digital production and digital manufacturing,” he explains.
Students had already been tinkering with Owi robots, which cost less than $50 each. Coulter says while these robots involve a lot of the same principles as their bigger industrial brothers and sisters, they are grossly inaccurate and unable to hold tools.
So Coulter had a thought, “we want a bigger one, how do we get that?” . “Being a public school, we don’t really have those funds.
We looked at the possibility of crowdfunding and it seemed like an exciting possibility ... We didn’t go for the whole amount, because I think the whole amount was about $26,000, we went for $17,000, and we eventually got all of that together.”
Coulter and his students are on a steep learning curve with the new piece of technology, but after initial experimentation, he says its capabilities are “remarkable”.
“If you can imagine the human body and the capability of an arm, and how with great control and dexterity you can pick things up and move them around and twist. “But there is kind of a limit to how far you can bend back and how much you can pick up and how much you can do,” he says.
“So, of course we invented tools to give us extra strength, to drill or shape or shave or carve, that sort of thing. “And basically a robot arm is just that, except it’s under a programmed control via your computer.”
Coulter says the arm can wield a variety of tools, including a screwdriver, soldering iron, 3D printer head, drill bit or welding tip, to name a few.
Students are starting out with pencil drawings using the arm, but Coulter has plans to eventually see them doing origami-like, light metal work. “They’re so excited about it!” Coulter says. “Robotics and electronics is really well sponsored by students, they can see how apt it is and that it does have a future.”