(WACO) – Texas State Technical College in Waco’s Welding Technology program recently received a Kuka welding robot valued at $150,000.
The gift was made by ARC Specialties in northwest Houston, a company that designs and builds automated machinery for welding, pipeline manufacturing and the oil and gas industries.
“It’s important that the students get access to the newer technology,” said Jim Walker, a welding technologist and certified welding inspector at ARC Specialties. “It doesn’t do any good if they don’t ever touch the equipment and have to learn about it once in the industry.”
Mark Watson, a TSTC Welding Technology instructor, said the robot will give students a way to learn technology they may encounter in the industry. He said a robot like the one from the company can be used in the automotive industry on assembly lines.
“I want them to be able to operate it,” Watson said. “You also have to learn how to program and repair it.”
Robots typically perform about 10 percent of tasks across the manufacturing spectrum, but this is expected to increase to 25 percent worldwide by 2025, according to the Boston Consulting Group, a private global management consulting firm specializing in business strategy.
“It’s taking over the skill level of your welders,” Watson said. “Nowadays, it’s hard to find the skilled welders. Students need to be on the global playing field with technology.”
Watson’s welding students are excited to start learning about the machine.
Rhett Fuller, 20, of Cedar Park and a 2014 graduate of Cedar Park High School, said the robot combined his interests in welding and computers. He said the donation made him glad he chose TSTC to study welding.
“A lot of the things Mark is doing is for the students,” Fuller said. “He wants to teach a new generation of welders.”
Taylor Otte, 20, of Lexington and a 2014 graduate of Lexington High School, is studying for an advanced pipe welding certificate. He said he enjoys learning how robotics and his knack for mathematics fit into the welding field.
“My aunt is the high school principal in Lexington and she told me about a tour of TSTC when I was a student,” Otte said. “I learned about other programs and took an instrumentation class here. It made me want to be in the field doing work. I want to do underwater welding.”
Walker, along with Dan Allford, the company’s owner, and Randy Ellington, project manager and process specialist, all have associate degrees in welding technology from TSTC in Waco.
“We all enjoyed going through the program at TSTC,” Walker said. “We are still involved in welding and deal with welding on a daily basis. It’s been something all three of us have loved to do.”
ARC Specialties is also represented in the Welding Technology program’s Advisory Board.
Watson envisions securing more technology through partnerships with other companies in the future so students can be more competitive for jobs.
“Good things are going to come to us in the future,” Watson said.
For more information on the Welding Technology program, log on to tstc.edu.