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Electrical Engineering Lab Becomes New Robotics Hub

Industry 4.0 is a commonly used term that refers to the fourth industrial revolution that is currently underway globally. The pledge of this transformation is the effect of digital technologies such as the internet of things, mechatronics, robotics, cloud computing, cyber security, AI, and others have on the way we make things and teach the field of engineering. In response to Industry 4.0 and student demand, a lab that was once considered obsolete by modern industry standards was recently upgraded with new equipment and new opportunities for USF electrical engineering students.
Due to the need to stay up-to-date with modern engineering trends, the Department of Electrical Engineering introduced the Mechatronics, Robotics, and Embedded Systems Track in 2015. This track offered students the chance to enroll in courses that focused on embedded systems, digital circuits, control systems, mechatronics, applied robotics, and more. Students were assigned hands-on projects to create more experiential learning experiences.
This new track also formed the need for more modern robotics equipment to help prepare students for working in today’s industry. Electrical Engineering Instructor II, Alexandro Castellanos, spearheaded the layout of the lab once funding was greenlighted to acquire new equipment.
Professor Castellanos said, “It’s a wonderful feeling to see our students collaborate and learn within the Mechatronics, Robotics, and Linear Controls Lab. Beginning in 2015, the lab has been transformed into a hub that teaches engineering models that embraces Industry 4.0. Some of those models include the following: NI Labview, MATLAB Simulink, Automation Studio, ABB Robotstudio, PLC programming, 3D design/printing, and much more. The layout of the lab was something that also needed to upgraded. This included the creation of a new LAB’s board, a LAB’s robot work cell, and an applied robotics lab area.”

WAMI Students

Electrical engineering students examine a new robotic arm inside the upgraded WAMI lab. 

Within the last year, the introduction of 12 new robots has fully solidified the lab as a modern hub for electrical engineering students. The applied robotics area is now home to 10 robotic platforms (Niryo Robot Systems) including the Niryo One – a 6-axis collaborative robot. In addition, this year saw the introduction of two ABB irb-120 industrial robotic arms. A new robot/conveyor work cell was also installed within the lab for the ABB robots.
Professor Castellanos is proud to see this lab shape the future of electrical engineering students. He said, “It makes me feel great because as a faculty member you always think of how we can make a better impact in our society and industry within the Tampa area. Having students that are able to go out there and be ready to work after graduation is extremely important today. With the type of robotics programs being taught in the lab, our students will immediately be ready to apply their newfound skills. Due to this lab, robotic companies have already contacted us to establish relationships because they offer robotics services in the states and internationally. They are on the lookout for new talented electrical engineers and we can help make that connection between industry and student.”

ABB Robotic Arm

An ABB irb-120 industrial robotic arm is set up for use within the new robot/conveyor work cell.

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