Hunter Thomas

Hunter Thomas slides industrial robotic equipment onto a forklift driven by Braden Albright Tuesday at Southmont High School. The machines were donated to the West Central Indiana Career and Technical Education Cooperative by Vincennes University.

NEW MARKET — Robots once used to build Toyotas will now help train students for careers in manufacturing.

Vincennes University donated the equipment to the West Central Indiana Career and Technical Education Cooperative, which offers advanced manufacturing classes at Southmont High School. The machines are the latest addition to the school’s automation lab as the cooperative works to bring more industry-certified tools into the classroom.

“We’re certainly looking for industry partners to help us out as we continue to build our program here,” said Alan Clifton, Southmont advanced manufacturing director.

The two, 11-year-old resistance welders were given to the university by Toyota, which decommissioned the machines this spring from its assembly plant in Princeton. They come equipped with a removable end-of-arm tool or can be fitted with grippers or suction cups to pick up materials.  

The school hasn’t decided how to employ the robots, which could be used in the manufacturing, welding and fabrication programs.

“They’re fairly new for donated equipment, so they should have several years left on them,” said Vincennes robotics program chair Timothy Hedrick, as the 3,000-lb. robots were delivered to Southmont’s new career and technical education wing on the first day of classes.

Vincennes will use two other resistance welders from Toyota for its own programs. Cooperative students can apply for the university’s Advanced Internship in Manufacturing program, which offers a two-year degree in advanced manufacturing and industrial maintenance.

Next year, the cooperative plans to launch an industrial and automation robotics curriculum, serving students from Crawfordsville, North Montgomery, Southmont and Western Boone High Schools. Students also have access to a $40,000 training robot purchased through a federal grant last year.

Partnerships with Pace Dairy, Nucor Steel and Banjo Corp. help supply the school’s automation lab and manufacturing classrooms and provide hands-on training for students. 

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