How Colleges & Manufacturers Are Enticing Students to the Industry

As the skills gap continues to be a pressing issue in the manufacturing industry, it’s imperative that organizations try to entice students to pursue these career paths. Several colleges are adding robots to their programs to allow students hands-on experience with the growing technology. Companies are donating robots or even offering scholarships. Tons of high schoolers can compete in robot challenges. Below are just a handful of examples of the promoting of manufacturing and robots. What can your company do to encourage students into the industry?

Industry Organizations

The Technology & Manufacturing Association (TMA) Illiniois and the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA) both contribute significantly to promoting careers in the manufacturing industry. In the past decade, IMA provided more than $250,000 to help pay tuition and fees for students learning manufacturing skills. The TMA Education Foundation raises, manages, and grants funds for deserving programs that accomplish the following goals: increase the pool of qualified candidates for careers in precision tooling, machining, and manufacturing; encourage men and women to pursue these careers; improve the image of manufacturing; and sustain, improve, and expand manufacturing technology education.

CNC Machines Scholarship

CNC Machines, based out of Florida, recently offered a $2,500 scholarship to students pursuing a certificate or degree in a manufacturing-related area of study. “CNC Machines is committed to doing its part and this scholarship…is our way of stepping up to the plate to help the industry grow,” said CEO Curt Doherty. 1

Automation & Robotic Training Centers

Another development in the industry is schools investing in robots and offering certifications in a variety of manufacturing areas. The recently built Automation & Robotic Training Center, at the Motlow State Community College in Tennessee, is equipped with six ABB robots and controllers, all the necessary software, and peripheral equipment to teach students how to program and operate the robots.

US General Manager at ABB Robotics said “The answer in creating the manufacturing jobs of the future lies in education. We must train the workforce of today and adapt education for the workforce of tomorrow.” 2

Knotts Company

The Knotts Company has provided a Universal Robot to County College of Morris Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering for students to familiarize themselves with the most innovative robotic technology on the market while creating new courses.

“Students will learn the ease of flexible deployment, in a safe nature, delve into ‘behind the scenes’ programming and perform various manual labor operations with the robot which is pertinent to automating factory floors today,” said Suzanne Tracey, business development manager and marketing manager at The Knotts Company.3

Omron Automation Americas

The UH Cullen College of Engineering and Omron Corp. recently celebrated the official unveiling of the Omron Senior Design and Robotics Laboratory with cookies, punch and a wide variety of robots. 

Robert M. Black, president, CEO and COO of Omron Automation Americas, said partnering with UH was key to building up future generations.

“We believe the generation graduating today is going to be entering the workforce tomorrow so we want to bring the skills they have learned in school into the manufacturing sector,” said Black.

Joseph W. Tedesco, Elizabeth D. Rockwell Dean of the Cullen College, referred to Omron’s most recent gift as a milestone.

“The Omron Senior Design and Robotics Lab is truly a game changer for the electrical and computer engineering department because it gives our students the opportunity to work with the latest technology, the latest equipment and the latest software – all provided by Omron,” Tedesco said. “We’re proud to have the Omron name displayed in our college and I look forward to continuing this relationship into the future.” 4

General Motors

General Motors donated two heavy-duty industrial robots to Rochester Institute of Technology to be installed in the Materials Laboratory located in RIT’s College of Applied Science Technology. 

“The donation is part of an annual effort by GM to get robots that are no longer needed due to process changes into the hands of students who are training to be the next generation of engineers and technicians,” said Bob Berger, manufacturing robotics engineering at GM’s Warren Tech Center in Warren, Mich. “These are hard-to-come-by robots that allow students to learn controls engineering and other robotics-related jobs by actively working on actual robot technology used in the automotive industry.”

The donation came about from a discussion between Manian Ramkumar, department head of RIT’s mechanical and manufacturing engineering technology department, and Finch, who has been involved in GM’s regional efforts to support STEM initiatives in grade schools and universities. Donations such as this are steps to help develop the next generation of workers. 5


Twelve student robotics teams in Jefferson County Public Schools received a big boost from AT&T Kentucky, as a $15,000 donation was unveiled during a ceremony held at Central High School.

“Our company’s future, as well as the country’s, is dependent on today’s young people,” said Hood Harris, president, AT&T Kentucky. “Through Aspire, we support programs that invest in students, especially those who need it the most, so they can walk across the graduation stage ready for their future.” 6

Unipres USA

Unipres U.S.A. donated a welding robot to the Tennessee College of Applied Technology Nashville-Portland Campus (TCAT Nashville-Portland). The donation will allow the college to offer more advanced robotics training. The estimated cost of the robot was between $12,000 and $16,000.

The robot will be used in the Advanced Manufacturing class, and will give students industrial-like experience. The class is taught by Tracy Carvell, who came to Portland from TCAT Pulaski, where he taught for 17 years.

Carvell said, “We look forward to adding the welding robot to our curriculum to extend our robotics training. This robot is a production line welding robot and will give students the opportunity for real world training applications.7


NASA has a variety of Robotic Competitions for kids as young as 7 years old all the way through college.8

BEST Robotics

A middle and high school robotics competition whose mission is to engage and excite students about engineering, science, and technology as well as inspire them to pursue careers in these fields.


The Botball Educational Robotics Program engages middle and high school aged students in a team-oriented robotics competition, and serves as a perfect way to meet today’s new common core standards. By exposing students to an inquiry-based, learn-by-doing activity that appeals to their hearts as well as their minds, Botball® addresses our nation’s need for a well-prepared, creative, yet disciplined workforce with leadership and teamwork experience.

Global Conference on Educational Robotics

The Global Conference on Educational Robotics (GCER), produced by KISS Institute for Practical Robotics, is a professional conference designed for elementary, middle and high school students, their teachers and mentors, technology education professionals, robot enthusiasts, and invited professional guests. The GCER gives attendees the inspiration and experience of a professional conference, encouraging students to further their knowledge, network with other students from around the world and pursue related careers. Teachers and mentors have many opportunities to network, exchange best practices and develop new approaches to STEM education.

EARLY Robotics Competition

A robotics program for elementary school students.

FIRA RoboWorld Cup

FIRA is mostly for above BA/BS level students and companies to develop their research in the robotic field though robot soccer.

FIRST LEGO League, FIRST LEGO League Jr., FIRST Robotics Competition, FIRST Tech Challenge

FIRST LEGO League is the most accessible, guided, global robotics competition, helping students and teachers to build a better future together. The program is built around theme-based challenges to engage children ages 9 to 16 in research, problem solving, coding, and engineering.

International Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Competition

Creates hands-on educational experiences that empower students, igniting their creativity to find innovative solutions. Beginning with a SeaPerch or SeaGlide program kit, they show students the why and how to build, while giving educators the tools and training to guide their students through the process.

International Robot Olympiad

IROC is for students from under 8 to undergraduate students. It has been one of most popular robot competition for a decade.

Junior Botball Challenge

This interactive program was developed to teach STEM fundamentals and help students of all levels achieve subject mastery through engaging and exciting hands on robotics activities! The JBC curriculum was developed by teachers for teachers and the KISS Institute provides all educators with professional development to help ensure the successful integration of this STEM education opportunity.

MATE ROV Underwater Competition

MATE’s international student underwater robotics (remotely operated vehicle or ROV) competition consists of an international event and a network of 40 (and growing!) regional contests that take place across North America, Asia, North Africa, the Middle East, and Australasia. Hundreds of student teams from upper elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, home schools, community colleges, universities, and community organizations, such as the Boys and Girls Club and 4-H, participate.

Moon to Mars Ice & Prospecting Challenge

With the Moon to Mars Ice & Prospecting Challenge, NASA will provide university-level engineering students with the opportunity to design and build prototype hardware that can extract water and assess subsurface density profiles from simulated lunar and Martian subsurface ice. Multiple teams will be chosen through a proposal and down-select process that assesses the teams’ concepts and progress throughout the year.

Up to 10 teams will become finalists and travel to the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA during the summer of 2020 to participate in a multi-day competition where the universities’ prototypes will compete to extract the most water from an analog environment simulating a slice of a combined lunar and Martian surface, while simultaneously using system telemetry to distinguish between overburden layers and create a digital core of the various layers.

National Robotics Challenge

Started in 1986, they are committed to open robotics and building the pipeline for our future innovators and engineers. 

NURC, National Underwater Robotics Challenge

The National Underwater Robotics Challenge is a remotely controlled underwater robotics competition. It is an extracurricular science, technology, engineering and math program. The competition emphasizes real-world hands-on activities that motivates students.

Robo-Expo Competition

The Robo Expo is an event for students of all ages, with a shared interest in robotics, to come together to pursue similar goals or express themselves uniquely. Participation in Robo Expo is open to schools, home school groups, clubs, and any children sponsored by an adult. Robo Expo exhibits are open to all robotics kits—NXT, EV3, VEX, Arduino, Wedo, Hummingbirds, and anything else.

RoboCup Challenge

RoboCup is an international scientific initiative with the goal to advance the state of the art of intelligent robots.


Robofest is a festival of competitions and events with autonomous robots that encourages students to have fun while learning principles of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), and Computer Science. Students design, construct, and program the robots. Any robotics kits are allowed in the construction of robots. Robots can be programmed with any programming language. Robofest programs support Computer Science for All.

Robot Sumo

Through building robots, the students and public will acquire robotic technology fundamentals and research skills, be given the opportunity to demonstrate their creativity, and learn the joy of engineering.

Robotics Education & Competition Foundation

Our regional staff utilizes our online resources, curriculum, and programs to support robotics and technology events and initiatives aimed to inspire and motivate students to excel in STEM education. In addition to operating and supporting competitions for some of the world’s leading robotics platforms and organizations, including VEX, TSA, and BEST Robotics, the foundation also provides program support and workshops focused on technology and professional development for educators.

Sea, Air and Land Challenge

The Sea, Air and Land Challenge is an Office of Naval Research sponsored program, in which teams of high school students learn the engineering process through the design of a system relevant to the Department of Defense.  The systems are then used to compete in challenges that mimic missions encountered by the military, national security agencies, and first responders.


Hundreds of competition events are held annually around the world. Experiencing STEM in a competitive context increases student engagement and makes lessons feel more “real”. Beyond robotics, students learn lifelong skills in teamwork, leadership, communications, and more.

VEX Robotics

The world faces an unprecedented need for new innovators, thinkers, and problem-solving leaders. Their goal is to create engaging, affordable, and powerful solutions that immerse students in STEM through the excitement of building and programming educational robotics kits.


1 Midwest Manufacturing News

2 Industrial Machinery Digest

3 Tap Into Randolph

4 University of Houston

5 Rochester Institute of Technology

6 JCPS – Jefferson County Public Schools

7 Lebanon Democrat

8 National Aeronautics and Space Administration