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High-tech Fanuc robot 'Hal' unveiled at MJHS

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One of two in Wilson, only three in state

Yellow, programmable Fanuc robotic art, affectionately named Hal, made his debut lat week at Mt. Juliet High School, unveiled to the sound of "Star Wars" music reverberating in the school's auditorium.

Hal's "twin sister" made her debut at Watertown High School earlier in the week.

The twin industrial robots are a first for Wilson County, and only Hamilton County joins Wilson to employ the FANUC robots as part of the ongoing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program implemented statewide to more students onto the science track.

Director of Schools Dr. Donna Wright told students, faculty, visiting school board members and county commissioners the system bought the two robots for $37,000 each.

Career Tech Educational Supervisor Bill Moss highlighted the robot encased in a Plexiglas container and said they are used more than any other robots in manufacturing across the world.

Key to Hal 200 at MJHS is teacher David Haines. He is in the height of putting together courses with the robot soon available to MJHS students on the science track. And students will receive a Handling Tool & Operations Certificate that will open the door immediately into the job force when they graduate.

Haines said students would be trained on how to program and utilize the technology for real world manufacturing.

"Why just MJHS and WHS?" Moss asked. "Because they are the two schools in the county which have the strongest student program."

He said soon 90 percent of all households will have a robot, or residents will work with one.

"Somebody has to program and control, and build these," he said. "If our students complete the training and pass certification, they will start in the work force above entry level. They won't need a traditional degree."

The officials talked about a cornfield at Lebanon High School that was recently harvested by an intentional tractor "that didn't have a driver."

"The person operating it was nearby in his truck, telling it where to go and what to do," he said. "It takes critical-thinking skills."

Wright was pumped up about Hal 200 and said local students will have such an opportunity to learn, expanding into the fields of not only manufacturing, but medical and science as well. She talked about robotic hand prosthesis', coded by students in the future.

"This is real world, outside of the textbook," she said. "We are one of only two counties in Tennessee with these robots. This is huge."

Hal had fun showcasing his pleasant voice, humor and dance moves with Haines operating him from what appeared to be a cell phone-type device. Wright had a chance to interact and work with Hal, as well.

While Haines is working diligently preparing courses that showcase Hal, he said most likely it will be Fall 2017 before any offerings will be available for students. They will have a chance to take ongoing courses in the technology once they are available.

Schools PIO Jennifer Johnson said statics show 80 percent of manufacturers report a shortage of skilled workers.

"Over the next decade, there will be a shortage of 2 million skilled workers worldwide," she said.

Wright noted the investment in the robots will "pay big dividends for students as they pursue their long-term career goals."

"Clearly, this is a highly sought after skillset," she said. "I'm thrilled we are able to offer our students 'this opportunity...

"This is the kind of training that will give Wilson County students a leg up over the competition."

Writer Laurie Everett can be reached at

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Donna Wright, education, Mt. Juliet High School, robot, robotics
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