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South Texas College to Expand Manufacturing Robotics Lab and Unique Training

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Pictured (L-R) Rio-South Texas Education and Community Development Foundation board member, Aron Peña, Sr; Chief Executive Officer, Patricia Beard; Chairman of the Board, James Moore; Dr. Shirley A. Reed, President – South Texas College; Paul R. Rodriguez, Chairman, Board of Trustees – South Texas College; Keith Patridge, Board Member, Rio-South Texas Education and Community Development Foundation.
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Texas Border Business

Grant funds from the Rio-South Texas Education and Community Development Foundation will support the expansion of the Advanced Robotics Industrial Automation Program at South Texas College’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing (IAM). 

A grant award of $314,150 was set to provide advancements in digital technology with the addition of new equipment for STC’s Robotics and Automation lab. Improvements will include Fuji Automatic Numerical Control (FANUC) robots, cyber-physical inspection equipment, a forklift simulator, and laptop computers. Also included is specialized instructor training in advanced programming and vision systems.

Dr. Carlos Margo, South Texas College’s Associate Dean of Industry Training and Economic Development, said the expansion would increase IAM’s specialized training opportunities available to partners in the technology-dependent sectors of the manufacturing industry. 

It will enable IAM to become the only fully integrated Industry 4.0 lab in the state of Texas, as well as add an additional certification as a FANUC Training Center.

“In addition to the wide array of technology included in the grant, the funding will allow us to purchase the one remaining robot needed for us to become fully certified as a FANUC training center,” said Margo. 

FANUC is a leading supplier of robots, computer control systems, and factory automation, with products used by manufacturers in industries worldwide. Margo acknowledges that IAM’s existing business partners in the Rio Grande Valley, as well as those prospective businesses considering relocating to the region, utilize FANUC solutions in their facilities. 

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There is an increased interest from industry partners in the area, state, nation, and across North America for FANUC specialized training, Margo said. IAM would be the first in South Texas to receive certification as a FANUC Robot Training Center and would be the first training center in Texas to offer Collaborative Robot training using the FANUC CRX-10iA Collaborative Robot. 

“The timing of the grant was perfect,” said Margo. “I am also most appreciative of the Foundation’s trust in our ability to operationalize and deploy some of the most advanced automation equipment available to colleges today.”

The grant also supports IAM pursuing certification as a fully integrated Industry 4.0 training center. Often referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Industry 4.0, is transforming the manufacturing industry by delivering the digitalization of systems to enable smarter, safer, and increasingly efficient methods throughout the manufacturing process. 

This globally recognized standard allows manufacturers to improve the network synchronization of smart machines, robotics, and other critical data collection and communication tools throughout their facilities. 

The expansion and enhancement of IAM’s lab will provide increased specialized training opportunities as manufacturers strive to provide their workforce with the knowledge and skills to support efficient and quality production. 

IAM was the first in the nation to be a certified site with Festo, a privately owned German industrial control and automation manufacturer, and a leading global supplier of automation technology. Expanding IAM’s Robotics and Automation Lab with FANUC and Industry 4.0 equipment will increase additional opportunities to train the regional workforce with the high-tech skills necessary in the evolution of the industry.

The mission of the Rio-South Texas Education and Community Development Foundation is to ensure residents acquire skills and knowledge and have access to economic opportunities to enable them to pursue meaningful careers and live prosperous lives in Rio South Texas. 

Board Chairman, James Moore, said the foundation is thrilled to join STC in its effort towards helping students prepare for a career in advanced industrial manufacturing. He said workforce studies reflect, this is a field that not only needs the talent now but will continue to be a career with exciting opportunities. 

“The region has lost and continues to lose bright minds to other areas of Texas and the country due to the lack of job opportunities and quality of life issues throughout the region,” said Moore. “As a community, we need to come together to fix this. This program will not only prepare our students for advanced robotics but will also spur manufacturing companies throughout the world to look at this region as an area where they want to invest. 

“We’re proud to be a part of STC’s initiative in helping prepare our community for the future,” Moore said.  

The mission of IAM is to help identify, develop, and provide quality training programs to employers that are looking to upgrade the skills of their staff. The Institute offers a diverse assortment of courses that satisfy employer needs for customized training. 

The delivery of training courses is flexible and is tailored to meet the employer’s work schedules, including evenings, weekends, location, course content, and length.

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