Alabama Robotic Technology Park: Moving Alabama to forefront of education, training, and technology
"The possibilities are endless"
Last month, Alabama opened the doors of the first phase of the Alabama Robotic Technology Park (RTP) to rave reviews. What an idea! What an enormous impact this will have on people’s lives for years to come. This will certainly be one of the most influential economic development projects in the state of Alabama and quiet possibly the country! What is RTP and how can it have so much of an impact? The RTP being built in the north Alabama communities of Decatur and Athens is a concept unlike any other, anywhere. It’s simply a dynamic approach to developing new technology and training workers in robotics and automation technology.
Alabama RTP is a three Phase campus approach to training workers, developing technologies and integrating those technologies and workers into companies. Phase 1 is designed for educating and training robotics and automated technologies. Phase 2 is designed for research and development of ground-breaking robotics and automation technologies and Phase 3 is designed to integrate the new technologies into existing companies or grow the new technologies through a manufacturer.
Phase 1 is a collaboration and partnership with almost all the robotic and automation vendors in the world housed in one facility with each having their respective training areas to train on their latest technologies. In addition, and this is the difference, a manufacturing line that allows all of the robot and automation brands to communicate and work together on the same line. Therefore, technicians will not only learn the intricate technologies associated with one brand, they will learn them for multiple brands. They will learn how to make all the technologies talk to each other in a manufacturing setting, making a product. It is the ultimate hands-on training. This will allow companies to quickly replace retiring maintenance techs or to increase staff with as little training time as possible, so they can begin making profits sooner.
Phase 2 is a research and development facility that will include a large outdoor testing facility and test track. It will provide space and infrastructure for companies in the form of individual suites and high bay space. In order to accommodate the current technologies, the facility will include wiring, cable and fiber. As technology changes, the ability to make appropriate changes as necessary will be available. Companies developing these new robotic and automation technologies may submit application to reserve the suites and outdoor track soon. Manufacturers, missile defense, health-related, or virtually any business or entity that is involved with developing new robotics and/or automation may be eligible.
Phase 3 is an integration and/or entrepreneurial facility designed for companies who may want to set up their new technology, integrate all the systems and train their employees before they disrupt their normal production. When the new technology is ready, the company can stop production and with little time lost be back into full production by using the space in Phase 3. Phase 3 can be used by an entrepreneur who wants to manufacture newly developed robotic or automated products on a smaller scale as a trial, with the hope that they can move to a larger more permanent facility later.
So why is this important? Well it’s been said that the only “constant” is “change” and nothing has changed quite so rapidly and dynamically as technology. In the last five years, cell phone technology, computer technology, and robotics technology have all been evolving at an exponential rate. Think about the next 5 years, the next 10 years even and how rapidly such technology will continue affect our lives, and Robotics Technology will play a major role in advancement of such technologies. Contrary to popular belief, robotics technology is not about cutting jobs. It is about creating more sophisticated opportunities that require a more advanced skill-level. In today’s fast-paced manufacturing world, robotics and automation technology are changing just as rapidly as the cell phone technology. Of particular importance is the safety and defense of our nation, which depends highly on technology in order to combat ever-evolving threats. Missile defense and the threat of chemical warfare alone are enough to underscore this importance. We MUST have a workforce that is highly trained and skilled in robotics and automation technologies. This is why the RTP is so important.
Every level of education may be involved in this concept. Two-year colleges such as Calhoun, Northwest Shoals, Drake State, and Wallace/Cullman and others from around the state will be able to send students and use this resource. UAH, UNA, Athens State, and A & M can send co-op students and interns for hands-on training at any point of their education, as appropriate. K-12 may send students as co-ops or apprenticeship students. There will be industry-specific training and student education at every possible level. The possibilities are endless!
Now that’s a WOW concept!Alabama is stepping to the forefront of this technology boom and is positioning itself to be the frontrunner in developing its workforce to meet the demand. The Alabama workforce will lead a new generation of workers.