Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/6/2019 (725 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A new research and learning space at Red River College opened its doors Friday morning with a twist on the traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony — it was done by three of the college’s robots-in-residence: Baxter, Sawyer and UR10.
Located inside the college’s Skilled Trades and Technology Centre at the Notre Dame campus, the Smart Factory is a hands-on learning facility and technology-demonstration site that will showcase emerging technology in robotics, automation and imaging systems.
"It was almost two years ago today that we stood here in what was still an active construction site," RRC president and CEO Paul Vogt said.
The facility will also combine new technology in metals-additive manufacturing, collaborative robotics and autonomous factory vehicles, flexible robotic work cells, industrial automation, high-speed 3D laser metrology and industrial networking.
"Students will be exposed every day in their programs to what’s coming in robotics, AI, networking," Vogt said. "We all know that represents the future."
The facility is the result of $10 million in federal funds announced in 2017 through Western Economic Diversification Canada.
This funding will also support the phase 3 expansion of the college’s Centre for Aerospace Technology and Training located at StandardAero by providing enhancements such as cold-spray technology, robotic welding seam tracking, compressor blade profiling systems, non-contact inspection using high-speed laser scanning and upgrades to the existing digital industrial X-ray NDI system.
The college also received financial support from StandardAero, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Research Manitoba and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada for the new space.
Friday morning’s ribbon-cutting was set in motion by second-year electrical engineering technology student Riley Cornelius, who programmed the voice command that allowed the robots to do the job.
"Baxter, it’s time to cut the ribbon," Cornelius told one of the robots in front of the expectant crowd gathered in the innovation lab.
First, there was nothing. A hush fell over the room. Then, methodically, the robot raised its arms, using one to hold the ribbon steady and the other to snip through. After about 20 seconds, the crowd applauded as Baxter cut the ribbon and Sawyer and UR10 held it taut on either end.
The ribbon-cutting looked like a seamless operation — but even with such advanced technology, there’s room for error, Cornelius said.
"We practised a bunch of times beforehand. We made sure it works. It worked every time, but I was still nervous," he said. "I was like, ‘please, please work.’"
The ribbon-cutting is one of many voice commands — like hugging, crying, smiling, dancing and waving — programmed into the robot, which is covered with sensors allowing programmers to manipulate its movements, Cornelius said.
The facility’s labs all feature massive windows big enough to see everything going on inside — which Christine Watson, vice-president academic at the college, said was a strategic design choice.
"One of the things we’ve realized as an education institution is often, people don’t really know what happens in the classrooms," Watson said.
"We’ve created this space where there’s these huge windows, and you can actually see the students working in the trades and working with the robotics, so that there’s an immediate connection between education and what they’re training for."
The Smart Factory will allow students to experience and work in factory settings, and will provide Manitoba companies with access to state-of-the-art equipment and research and innovation expertise, Vogt said.
"We’re very excited about the opportunities this facility brings for our students to learn and develop their skills through industry partnerships we support here, and to accelerate innovation across all sectors of manufacturing and aerospace here in Manitoba," he said.