Tennessee high school targets future careers

McMINNVILLE, Tenn. – Motlow College, Tennessee College of Applied Technology and Warren County High School have all worked together to improve technical education in Tennessee. 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.

The Motlow State Community College Automation and Robotics Training Center was recently opened to provide robotic certifications to industry employees, train post-secondary students for good jobs, and expand regional STEM and Mechatronics courses to include robotic training.


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.

There are reportedly 7,000 robots within 75 miles of McMinnville’s new robotics center. 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.

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.

Warren County High School’s technical education is also worth knowing more about.

Tracy Risinger is director of Career and Technical Education at WCHS. The goal here is to prepare students to enter the workforce, continue education at the postsecondary level, and to have students enter society as well-rounded individuals who can face changing educational and work environments.

Academies within WCHS cover: automotive, structural and advanced manufacturing; biological sciences; business, law and marketing; and culinary arts and education. Within advanced manufacturing, students can study principles of manufacturing, mechatronics, welding, machining technology and robotics.

The McMinnville high school is also concentrating on mechatronics, the study of engineering and electronics in manufacturing. WCHS students taking welding and robotic instruction can also apply those credits toward classes at Motlow State.

Charlie King is an instructor at Motlow College who visits WCHS every day to teach courses. Rick Mace, welding instructor at TCAT McMinnville, is also at WCHS in the mornings when classes are held. WCHS received a governor’s grant to purchase three weld stations and welding equipment for 30 students in that area.

Mechatronics is teaching students for jobs that don’t exist today, King said.

During a recent visit, King described training that includes motor controls, gear drives and hydraulics, PLC troubleshooting, and pneumatic instrumentation. Risinger also organized a “STEM on wheels” to bring technical education to other schools. Also here is 3D printing capability and a milling machine, and plasma cutting table.

WCHS offers nursing and health science program, and is planning training for a certified patient care technician and certified medical assistant. The culinary arts program and its 75 students caters local events and prepares meals for students in their licensed kitchen.

Warren County schools also received a Perkins Grant in 2013 to purchase mechatronics components for level one instruction. Two new Motoman welding robots were donated by Yorozu and placed in a new perimeter guarding system supplied by Accu-Router. These labs became operational in 2017. For more information see http://warrenschools.com.

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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].