New automation and robotics center opens in Tennessee

McMINNVILLE, Tenn. – A new training center will provide robotic certifications to industry employees, train post-secondary students for good jobs, and expand regional STEM and Mechatronics courses to include robotic training.

The special ceremony was attended by more than 250 people (and several dozen robots). Motlow State Community College Automation and Robotics Training Center’s grand opening provided a chance to thank the many different organizations that made this new operation possible.

The event also showed the excitement and passion of those involved – an excitement that will be shared by students who have to opportunity to train for tomorrow’s careers.

The new ARTC is adjacent to the Motlow State and Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) locations in McMinnville.

Speaking at the event, Dr. Michael Torrence, president of Motlow State, said that goals for the training center included student success and workforce development.

Dr. Michael Torrence, president of Motlow State, cuts the ribbon to open the new robotics center.

Motlow’s goal is to position itself to meet the needs of tomorrow’s workforce, and to benefit Tennessee residents and industry.

Other goals include extending high school robotics programs into higher education, attracting new industry to the area and drawing training funds from outside the area.

One speaker at the event said that there are 7,000 robots within 75 miles of McMinnville’s new robotics center. And there is not a similar training center like this one within 500 miles.

Three heavyweights in industrial robotics are part of the training center. ABB, Fanuc and Yaskawa-Motoman all had training robots on display for the opening event, and representatives from each of these companies spoke at the opening.

This is reportedly the only training center that has all three major robotic manufacturers.

ABB, Fanuc and Motoman will offer courses on programming, electrical service, operations and programming, and material handling. Courses will be conducted by instructors certified by each robotic manufacturer, and will include classroom instruction and hands-on training.

A.A.S. degrees in Mechatronics with a concentration in robotics will include robotic safety and operation, robotic design and maintenance, end effectors and tooling, welding with robots, and other applications.

Robotics companies will offer courses on programming, electrical service, operations and programming, and material handling.

The ARTC building itself has five classrooms, six high-bay robotics labs, along with offices, conference room and foyer area for events.

In an interview after the opening event, Larry Flatt, executive director of the Automation and Robotics Training Center, said that they will be teaching basic programming, vision systems and troubleshooting.

Flatt said that training at ARTC can be part of instruction for college credit, or training for industry and job seekers.

In the academic area, first-year Motlow College students will take classes in the Mechatronics program. In the second year, they can concentrate on robotics, including basic programming, safety, end effector use, and take a class in welding in conjunction with TCAT. Later, they will come back to Motlow and learn robotic welding.

In addition, the ARTC will offer industry training. More than 80 percent of training will be for people already working in industry. Flatt is working with Yorozu to set up a training cell in their nearby factory, where welding training will be provided in the fall.

It’s important to note that Motlow College, TCAT and Warren County High School have all worked together. On the academic side, this includes a consortium of TCAT and BRAC -- Warren County’s Business Roundtable Action Committee, chaired by former Accu-Router president Todd Herzog, who is a great supporter of technical education in the area. County government donated the land this training center is located on.

In partnership with Warren County High School, students can take Mechatronics courses and start at Motlow College as sophomores. WCHS also has a Motoman robot. They learn Mechatronics, robotics, and can receive industry certifications. Instructors and portable STEM carts with small robots travel around to each of five middle schools in the area.

Motlow’s Mechatronics A.A.S. graduates can earn good salaries after several years of work experience as industries expand use of robotics and automation systems. Courses include hands-on systematic training in automation and improving individual technical skills.

Also, students who finish the mechatronics program can go to Tennessee State and participate in a bachelor’s level program, leading to a full four-year degree in industrial technology.

Regional employers who hire these graduates include Bridgestone, Nissan, Yorozu Corp. of Tennessee, Volkswagen, Yaskawa Motoman, Universal Logic, Kasai North America, Sonoco and Jtekt North America Corp.

ARTC is working to raise money for additional automation capabilities. Flatt said the vision is another building, not only for robotics, but also to teach networking and cybersecurity. Also, a new partnership with Irby, distributors for Allen Bradley controls, has just been announced.

Those interested in robotics courses can receive short-term industry certifications, customized training, or a two-year Mechatronics degree with a concentration in robotics.

If interested, go to, or On Wednesday, May 8 ARTC will host an open house event in McMinnville.


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About the author
Karl Forth

Karl D. Forth is online editor for CCI Media. He also writes news and feature stories in FDMC Magazine, in addition to newsletters and custom publishing projects. He is also involved in event organization, and compiles the annual FDM 300 list of industry leaders. He can be reached at [email protected].