Tag Archives: manufacturing

Skills USA Trip

Here is a summary post linking to all seven posts about our trip to Kansas City and the National Leadership and Skills Conference:

  1. (before the trip) Kansas City Competition
  2. Missouri Bound
  3. Orientation Day
  4. Opening Ceremony
  5. Competition Day
  6. Friday
  7. The Trip Home

Just wanted to have links to them all in one place!

A thousand thank yous go to all the supporters of our Indiegogo campaign, for helping make this trip possible!!! Also to the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, Patterson High School, and the Baltimore City Public Schools Office of Learning to Work, for providing the funds that enabled our students to attend this amazing competition and conference!

Hope you enjoyed the chronicle of our voyage. Next to come: more from my summer of travel, including the Blue Ridge Parkway, Florida, and US Rte 1!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Trip Home

After Friday evening, the National Leadership and Skills Conference was over. We decided to split the trip home into two ten-hour drives, rather than drive all the way through from Kansas City to Baltimore. We stayed the night in Louisville, Kentucky.

The other nice thing about splitting the drive up (besides just making for an easier and safer drive back) was that we got to spend some time in St. Louis and learn about the engineering that went into the building of the Gateway Arch!

Here was our first view of the arch, driving into St. Louis from the west:

First view, Gateway Arch

First view, Gateway Arch

And, less blurry, a few minutes later:

Gateway Arch

Gateway Arch

We parked on the riverfront, in a garage between the Martin Luther King Bridge

MLK Bridge

MLK Bridge

and the famous Eads Bridge.

Eads Bridge

Eads Bridge

Here are views of each from below:

One small arch of the Eads Bridge, St. Louis

One small arch of the Eads Bridge, St. Louis

MLK Bridge, St. Louis

MLK Bridge, St. Louis

We walked toward the arch:

Gateway Arch

Gateway Arch

Once inside, we watched a documentary on the building of the arch. It was terrific! Here are two smaller models of them putting the last piece of the arch into place to finish its construction:

Model in the arch's lobby

Model in the arch’s lobby

Model in the northern base of the arch

Model in the northern base of the arch

We had some time to kill before our ticketed time to ride the tram all the way to the top of the arch. We visited the museum of westward expansion, and the old-timey general store. Abhishek and Bhola played checkers in the store.

Then we made our way to the top of the Arch. We had to stand in line several times, during one of which they had exhibits about what St. Louis was like as a pioneer town in the nineteenth century. We spotted a box of oysters from Baltimore:

Signs of Baltimore, even half way across the country!

Signs of Baltimore, even half way across the country!

Here was the door to our tram:

Door # 3

Door # 3

On the ride up,

Bhola and Abhishek inside the tram -- the National Park rangers described the tram as a mix between an elevator, a train, and a ferris wheel

Bhola and Abhishek inside the tram — the National Park rangers described the tram as a mix between an elevator, a train, and a Ferris wheel

We could see the stairs (off-limits to pedestrians – we had to ride up in the tram):

Looking out the window as the tram heads up

Looking out the window as the tram heads up

From the top, we could see several different views of St. Louis,

St. Louis downtown and green-domed courthouse

St. Louis downtown and green-domed courthouse

the Mississippi River,

Mississippi River and two bridges

Mississippi River and two bridges

the park that the Arch is in,

Gateway Arch park

Gateway Arch park

and the little tiny people and cars down below.

Look at all the tiny people!

Look at all the tiny people!

The arch is 630 feet tall.

630ft tall at the top of the arch

After staying in Louisville, we headed on home. On Sunday evening, we made it back to Baltimore. And thus ended our 2200 mile journey!

1 Comment

Filed under engineering, teaching

Friday

Friday (6/28) was lighter on the official Skills USA activities, so we used some of our time to explore Kansas City.

In the morning was a debriefing with the Robotics & Automation judges and competitors. For lunch, we searched out an Indian restaurant, and ate from the buffet at Kansas City’s Taj Mahal Restaurant.

The Missouri team’s advisor had recommended that we, as fans of automation, visit the Federal Reserve bank & museum. So we did!

A & B outside the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

A & B outside the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

Here is how to tell if a bill is counterfeit:

Exhibit: Counterfeit Bills

Exhibit: Counterfeit Bills

Here is $40,000,000 in fake money:

How much space is taken up by $40 million (in $100 bills)

How much space is taken up by $40 million (in $100 bills)

The most exciting part of the visit was seeing through windows into the functioning part of the bank. This included a machine that automatically sorts money into three categories: good (which is redistributed out to other banks), worn-out (which it then shreds), and suspected counterfeit (which is then presented to the Secret Service for further investigation). Also it was pretty cool to see yellow Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) moving around and carrying pallets of money, with no driver. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed in this section of the museum!

In case you’re interested, here’s a link to a video of some other AGVs.

When we left, we each got a bag of free money (worth about $165 before it had been shredded).

Kansas City calls itself the City of Fountains. In addition to the fountains outside our hotel,

Fountains near Marriott, KC

Fountains near Marriott, KC

and the fountains at the Federal Reserve,

Fountains outside KC Federal Reserve Bank

Fountains outside KC Federal Reserve Bank

we also saw several other fountains walking around near downtown:

These next two pics are actually from Saturday morning, not Friday, but fit in thematically with the content of this post

These next two pics are actually from Saturday morning, not Friday, but fit in thematically with the content of this post

This fountain and the previous one are both a few blocks north of our hotel

This fountain and the previous one are both a few blocks north of our hotel

Friday evening was the closing ceremony.

Closing ceremony

Closing ceremony

They had a lot of contests to get through, with gold and silver and bronze medalists from both high school and postsecondary in 98 categories. Here you can see them lining up the winners from three contests simultaneously on stage in the dark.

Getting ready to announce three contests onstage

Getting ready to announce three contests onstage

We cheered on all the Maryland medalists.

Go Team Maryland!

Go Team Maryland!

Afterward, we headed back to an ice cream social with the rest of our state. In this picture, you can see on his lanyard that Abhishek has traded and received a lot of pins from other states:

At Maryland's post-awards ceremony

At Maryland’s post-awards ceremony

Bhola & Abhishek got certificates of participation. Here is a picture of the three of us, posing together:

The Maryland Robotics & Automation Team

The Maryland Robotics & Automation Team

3 Comments

Filed under engineering, teaching

Competition Day

Thursday morning (6/27) we were up by 6:30am, off to get breakfast. The students had to report to their competition area by 7:30 to receive instructions, with the competition itself beginning at 8:00 and running for nine hours (minus a lunch break).

The official description of the Robotics & Automation Technology contest on Skills USA’s website is:

“Challenges two-person teams to demonstrate operation of a five-axis servo-robot along with a set of sensors and motorized devices to resolve a simulated production process problem. Teams set up and demonstrate operation of a robotic workcell from a word problem. Contestants are required to create a flow chart and sequence of operation. Teams are also judged on efficiency, speed and teamwork.”

Here are Abhishek & Bhola reading the specifications for the robot’s task, and drawing up plans:

Planning

Planning

After planning out the inputs/outputs, the system layout, and a flow chart of how the action will occur, the students had to bring up their plans to get approved by a judge:

B & A with the judges

B & A with the judges

The two students divided up their tasks loosely as follows: Abhishek is the electromechanical integration technician, and Bhola is the robot programmer. (These job titles were recommended by Skills USA.) Here Bhola has begun writing the program, and Abhishek is wiring some of the input/output devices:

At Work on the Robot Arm

At Work on the Robot Arm

Teamwork

Programmer and Electromechanical Tech

Though sometimes they reversed roles:

A & B switched

A & B switched

Or worked together on one piece of the task:

Teamwork

Teamwork

More Teamwork

More Teamwork

The contest had two tasks, though I only saw one high school team advance past the first task during Thursday’s competition. The first task was described to me by our team as follows. The student teams had eight blocks: half aluminum, half plastic; half with small hole indentations, half without; all of which would be loaded in random order into a pneumatic parts feeder. The program needed to send a block forward from the pneumatic feeder into loading position, get the robotic arm to pick it up, sense whether the block was plastic or aluminum using an inductive sensor, position the block to get a hole punched out with the pneumatic hole press, press the hole, then check with a limit switch whether the hole was done correctly, then (based on the information found out by the two sensors) sort the block to its final resting place—a bin if defective (i.e., no hole), a square outline if the block was good. All while flashing a red warning light if the robot was in motion, green if all clear, and yellow during the hole punch. You can see a green or a red light on in some of the above pictures. Also: every sensor, the pneumatic feeder, the lights, the emergency stop, the conveyor belt, all had to be wired correctly according to a wiring logic diagram, into a 12V power source, ground, and/or a programmable logic controller.

Here’s a panorama of all the robotics teams:

The entire robotics & automation contest area

The entire robotics & automation contest area

Much of the day was spent teaching the robot positions, getting them just right, and troubleshooting the program to get it all to work together seamlessly. In the end, the Baltimore team did succeed in getting the workcell functioning, sorting out blocks based on material and holes. They called a judge over to evaluate the task with ten minutes to spare. However, when the judge finally made it over, there was a technical difficulty with the robot stopping mid-air soon after picking up the block. The robot produced an error message onscreen about “time duration”. The judge let them try it a couple of times, but finally said that they were out of time for fixing that problem (and for the day). It was time to pack everything up and clear the competition floor.

Our bad luck continued that evening. Soon after arriving for the “Worlds of Fun” amusement park, a thunderstorm broke out and everyone was sent home to the hotels!

More posts soon to come: Friday and our time as tourists in Kansas City; then the trip back to Baltimore.

1 Comment

Filed under engineering, teaching

Opening Ceremony

Wednesday included a start to most competitions. During orientation, they had split the Robotics & Automation teams in half, since there are fewer robotic arms than teams. So while some groups began competing Wednesday, Bhola & Abhishek will instead be at their contest all day Thursday.

With no robotics events, we spent the day checking out the Techspo (Technology Expo / Fair) and some of the Skills USA University classes. Abhishek & Bhola attended sessions on construction, automobile collisions, and cooking, while I checked out the Advisors’ Call to Action and a recruitment seminar.

A & B were invited to a luncheon with the Mike Rowe WORKS Foundation, which had provided them with travel scholarships that helped us be able to attend this conference/competition. At the luncheon, they met Mike Rowe, famous for hosting the reality TV show Dirty Jobs, who happens to be from Baltimore! More on Mike Rowe down below, since he was also the keynote speaker at the evening’s Opening Ceremony.

During their luncheon, I headed down to see some of the 98 different events already going on.

There was  everything from baking,

Baking

Baking

to collision repair,

Collision Repair

Collision Repair

to CAD-CAM-CNC manufacturing,

Automated Manufacturing Technology

Automated Manufacturing Technology

to airplane engine repair,

Aviation Maintenance Technology

Aviation Maintenance Technology

to masonry.

Masonry

Masonry

___________________________________________________

The opening ceremony was held in Kemper Arena, a large sports stadium. We heard that there are 16,000 attendees at the National Leadership & Skills Conference, which is why the ceremony was held in a sports arena instead of in a smaller auditorium. Here are Bhola & Abhishek posing outside the stadium in their Skills USA uniform and paraphernalia provided by the Maryland delegation: baseball caps, sunglasses, & light sabers.

B&A with Maryland paraphernalia

B & A repping their Maryland pride

Light saber fight!

Light saber fight!

Before the main event, states paraded around the stadium with state banners.

Kemper Arena & the parade of states

Kemper Arena & the parade of states

Here is Maryland’s delegation. Two of the blurry light sabers you see there belong to Abhi & Bhola.

Go Team Maryland!!

Go Team Maryland!!

As the paraders were returning to their seats, Maryland swayed with the music being played over the loudspeakers.

With everyone back up in the stands, the ceremony kicked off.

B & A in the stands of Kemper Arena

B & A in the stands of Kemper Arena

Most of the ceremony was run by students, the Skills USA National Officers. This included the High School Vice President, who is from Maryland and so got a big cheer from our section every time he spoke. Here are all the officers standing in a line:

Skills Officers on stage

Skills Officers on stage

Various awards were presented. The keynote speaker was Mike Rowe.

In his speech, Rowe mentioned jobs from his show from various states that he was working on during each of the last several years’ National Leadership and Skills Conferences. Each got a cheer from their respective section of the arena. However, when he told a story about growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, our state/section cheered louder and longer than any other state had.

Mike Rowe

Mike Rowe

The story was about a meeting with his high school guidance counselor and a poster hanging in that counselor’s office that says “Work Smart, Not Hard”. Instead, Rowe says, we should work both smart and hard. That vocational programs, technical schools, and community colleges are valid and important options for students, who will come out of those programs with valuable skills that may not be taught at a four-year college.

This is the core of Rowe’s message: the dignity of work. That jobs, though they may be dirty, may also be worth doing, and help build the foundation of our society. There is a “Skills Gap” in our country: even though there are many people who are unemployed, there are also many skilled jobs sitting vacant since the employers can’t find the people to fill those jobs with the skill set they need. According to Rowe, it is very difficult to find people who are willing 1) to learn a skill, 2) to master that skill, & 3) to work their butts off doing a job based on that skill. He says our society is “Profoundly Disconnected” from the work it takes to keep that society running.

Mike Rowe

Mike Rowe

At the end of the ceremony, they held a ribbon cutting:

Ribbon Cutting

Ribbon Cutting

And, with that, the conference was officially opened! Tomorrow: the robotics & automation contest!

1 Comment

Filed under engineering, teaching

Orientation Day

After arriving on Monday, we had a Maryland statewide delegation meeting and dinner. There are lots of other competitors from Maryland, for many of the 98 different contests Skills USA is hosting this year.

Tuesday was orientation to the different contests that will be happening Wednesday and Thursday. Orientation for the Robotics and Automation Technology contest lasted 8am-4pm. When we arrived at the contest site, there were 12 robotic arm workstations, all lined up in two rows:

Line of robots

Line of robots

After the judges went over the rules, the work uniform requirements, and the schedule, the twenty teams were split into two groups. One group took the written exam, while the other got hands-on practice with the robots.

Abhishek & Bhola got to work at one of the robotic work cells, reading the documentation and wiring up the various devices that connect with the robot arm.

Beginning a practice session with the arm & related input/output devices

Beginning a practice session with the arm & related input/output devices

As devices were wired up, they checked each one to make sure it worked correctly and to see if they could use it in an automated program.

Wiring some of the peripheral devices

Wiring some of the peripheral devices

After three and a half hours of practice on the arm, there was a lunch break, and the groups switched. Bhola and Abhishek took the written exam on robotics & automation.

On Wednesday, half of the competitors will perform the contest tasks on the arms, while our students attend a career fair, tech expo, and conference sessions. Thursday is the big day for them – they will be competing for over eight hours, from 8am-5pm. Wish them luck!

After the orientation was over, we found a middle eastern restaurant, where the students got to try new foods. There were several small restaurants, cafes, and groceries from many different countries, all arranged in storefronts around what looked to be a former train station.

Site of Habashi Restaurant, among others

Site of Habashi Restaurant, among others

In the evening was “Champions Night” at Kansas City’s Power & Light District. There was live music.

Concert @ KC Live, Power & Light District

Concert @ KC Live, Power & Light District

Our hotel lights up at night.

Light pattern on KC Marriott Hotel

Light pattern on KC Marriott Hotel

This week it displays a message welcoming Skills USA:

All in all, an interesting & fun first day!

2 Comments

Filed under engineering, teaching

Missouri Bound

We made it! We arrived in Kansas City this morning, almost 20 hours after leaving Baltimore. That was a long drive.

Too tired for a long post (more to come the next few days as the competition and conference get underway).

Here are Patterson’s two competitors posing in front of the Pennsylvania hillside:

Abhishek & Bhola in rural PA

Abhishek & Bhola in rural PA

We stopped in St. Louis for an early-morning breakfast and to see the Gateway Arch:

The top of the arch

The top of the arch

A & B looking up at the arch

A & B looking up at the arch

Full moon over St. Louis

Full moon over St. Louis

Here’a a panoramic view of the Mississippi River & the foot of the arch:

Panorama: River, Arch, & Students

Panorama: River, Arch, & Students

After getting into Kansas City at 11:00 this morning, we all took naps since none of us had gotten much sleep in the car.

This is the view from my hotel room:

Courtyard with fountains

Courtyard with fountains

1 Comment

Filed under engineering, teaching