Oakland Schools and FANUC team up to provide teacher externships, promote manufacturing

I applied for the three-week FANUC externship because I believe that there needs to be options for students who are interested in areas such as engineering, robotics and manufacturing, but are not planning on attending a four-year college or are not sure what they want to do after high school.

Because of this, I wanted to gain first-hand experiences and learn what manufacturing is all about so, when I talk to my students, I have a better understanding of the field and what type of people companies are looking to hire.  I also believe having those “real world” experiences provides me with “street cred” in the eyes of my students.

The first week I participated in the HandlingTool Operations and Programming course which was a four-day, hands-on training. At first it was pretty intense mainly because I had no prior knowledge in working with the LR MATE 200i series robot. As the days went by and I had more experiences with using the teach pendent for programming, I became more comfortable and started to understand how it all works.

The second week I participated in the Advance Teach Pendant Programming, a five-day, hands-on course. It was set up for industry and integrators who are already using FANUC robots and want to be challenged to incorporate advanced programming into what they are currently doing. Therefore, the first two days I was able to understand as the class reviewed what was taught in the HandlingTool course during week one. However, when we started to get into the advanced challenges, it was over my head. I was fortunate to be in the class with a colleague, so we were able to go back and review what was previously taught to achieve a better understanding of what we learned.

I am currently in my final week which has been set up to shadow various departments within FANUC such as walking around the manufacturing floor and shadowing someone from the Materials and Handling department. As the week progresses, the plan is to shadow an integrator at their facility and ride along on a service call to a local business to experience what a technician does.

When people ask me what my favorite thing is, it’s really hard for me to say. I think because each experience I have had has been so different, it makes everything awesome. I never knew just how many different areas/departments are within manufacturing. I love to learn new things and this externship has been one of my best learning experiences I have had in a long time. I can’t wait to update or add new lesson plans highlighting my experiences and talking about all the career options students have beyond the ones most of them know about.

Thinking about it more, I guess my favorite thing was talking with everyone from the techs on the manufacturing floor to the CEO. Listening to their stories of how so many of them didn’t know what they wanted to do after high school and the paths they took to get to where they are now was really cool to hear. I heard from a lot of them who said if they had a class like mine in high school and a teacher who talked about manufacturing, it would have made a huge difference in the path they took to get to where they were now. Basically, they would have tried to get apprenticeships and gone to a two-year college, but they didn’t know that those options existed.

This externship is a great program and I hope they continue to do offer it each summer so several teachers in the area, possibly throughout Michigan, can have the experience that I did. I have learned a lot, way more than I thought I was going to for someone that teaches a related field. It has expanded my knowledge and understanding of all of the various opportunities, not only with FANUC, but manufacturing in general.

Because I have learned so much these past three weeks, I feel refueled, so to speak.  I am energized and excited to implement various projects into my lesson plans. To start, I can’t wait to look into the Robotics for Education – FANUC CERT programs and what it can offer my students and I at Lake Orion High School. I look forward to sharing all of this information with my students, the district and the community.

Sharon Spencer is a Architecture and Engineering CADD instructor at Lake Orion High School.

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