County schools kicks off robotics program

Xavier Smith • Updated Nov 2, 2016 at 11:00 AM

Watertown High School is now home to one of two Wilson County Schools industrial robots that will help boost the district’s STEM program as school officials held an unveiling ceremony Tuesday.

Watertown and Mt. Juliet, which will have its ceremony later this week, are home to the new Fanuc robots, which are used in more manufacturing and industrial facilities than any other brand in the world.

Each machine cost $37,000 and school and district leaders said the impact it would have on current and future students is invaluable.

“This is not for us. This is for you in preparing you for down the road,” said Bill Moss, Wilson County career technical education supervisor. Moss said he recently learned that by 2025, it is projected that 90 percent of the U.S. population will have a robot in their household and be exposed to it at work.

“Somebody – you guys – has to program them. This is the first step,” he said.

Moss thanked G.C. Hixson, Wilson County Joint Economic and Community Development director, for his work in continually providing information and guidance to the school system about evolutions in industry careers and industry technology.

Wilson County Schools Director Donna Wright said the robots boost the schools into lead positions for STEM education and robotics in the state.

“When you look at STEM education, you’re going to get an opportunity here that we’re not going to see in many places in the state,” she said. “You’re going to have an opportunity to not only be on the cutting edge, but you’re going to be able to participate and set a tone when you look at robotics in the state of Tennessee at your level.”

Watertown principal Jeff Luttrell said the technology would benefits students who choose a STEM-related career path or otherwise.

“We discussed something that would not only be on the cutting edge, but something for our students. One of the big misconceptions that a lot of people don’t get about education is the end result is a career. I think sometimes we lose focus of that,” said Luttrell, who said Tuesday marked the fruition of a 5-year vision. “If you look at reports from around the world – not just the United States – we need to send you out of here college or career ready. Those should be interchangeable words.”

Luttrell credited the work of Matt Hallmark, Watertown Honors STEM Design I teacher, for his work and impact at the school. Hallmark demonstrated the robot’s capabilities during the ceremony as he programmed the machine to write “WHS STEM” on a piece of paper in just a few seconds.

Each school will be able to train 20-25 students per year once the programs are fully up and running. Hamilton County has the only other high school in the state with a FANUC robot and certified training program on-site at this time. 

Mt. Juliet High School will hold its unveiling ceremony Friday at 9 a.m.

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