The funding of five Robotic Arms by United Way of Southern Kentucky will benefit the school’s Engineering College and Career Readiness Program. Robert Oliver, President of the Glasgow-Barren County Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the group to the conference followed by an explanation of the United Way/ Barren County Schools partnership by Debbie Hills, President and CEO of United Way of Southern Kentucky, and Bo Matthews, Barren County Schools Superintendent. Next, an explanation of the equipment and impact to the students was made by Alicia Page, Barren County Schools Engineering Teacher. Greg Mattingly of SpanTech also spoke on the importance to and impact on industry that will result from the funding. Finally, a student led demonstration of the equipment was held including an interactive question and answer session.

A total of $9,640 was allocated to Barren County schools during United Way’s volunteer funding allocations process in June for the purpose of supporting college and career readiness initiatives for Barren County high school students through the expansion of the current Project Lead the Way engineering program with the inclusion of a Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) class and robotics equipment for the engineering lab. As a result of this funding, Barren County students will have more hands-on applications for those interested in pursuing careers in engineering. Without the funding provided by United Way for this purchase, the program would have had to have been altered to withdraw the CIM from the program.

Bo Matthews, Superintendent of Barren County Schools, says, "The United Way Grant funding of the robotics equipment for the Computer Integrated Manufacturing course is great news for our school district, its students, and the community.  Manufacturing is an important part of our local and regional economy and we are committed to helping prepare our students for success in highly-skilled positions in the engineering and manufacturing fields.  By helping students discover their interests now, we can cultivate their talents and skills to meet the demands in this critical field in the future."

At the press conference and Chamber Ribbon Cutting, students demonstrated the use of the arms and allowed for audience interaction with the arms. Specifically, the Robotics Arms are AL5D Lynxmotion arms. The AL5D Robotic Arms deliver fast, accurate, and repeatable movement. The robot features: base rotation, single plane shoulder, elbow, wrist motion, a functional gripper, and optional wrist rotate. The AL5D robotic arm is an affordable system with a time tested rock solid design that will last.

Alicia Page, Barren County Schools Engineering Teacher agrees that, "Students encounter manufactured items everyday but have not been introduced to the technology and innovations required to actually manufacture them.  The Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) class  provides opportunities for my students to learn about manufacturing processes, product design, robotics, and automation.  It has been rewarding to see students both excited and engaged when working with the robotics arms and other robotics equipment."

Amy Irwin, College and Career Counselor at Barren County Schools, says, "The Barren County High School PLTW Engineering Program would like to extend our sincere appreciation to United Way for making the Computer Integrated Manufacturing class possible for students in this area.  The CIM curriculum will have a tremendous impact in exposing students to the critical STEM skills needed for manufacturing in today's complex and high tech world. Our industry partners in the region are seeking employees with this skill set.  Exposure to this curriculum during high school will help meet the goal of recruiting our youth into high tech fields such as engineering. "

Funding of programs such as this support United Way of Southern Kentucky’s work in College and Career Readiness focused a goal of students graduating high school prepared for college or other post-secondary training, work and life. Specifically, United Way has set a Big Bold goal to increase BRADD College and Career Readiness Scores from 65% when the goal was first established to 80% by the year 2020.

Keshia Ingram, Director of Community Impact for United Way of Southern Kentucky, says, “The funding of these Robotic Arms is exactly the type of project United Way had in mind when we established our Community Impact Platform. Our ‘IMPACT’ criteria for funding seeks projects and programs that are Innovative, Measured, Partnered/Collaborative, Accountable, Community-centered, and Transformative. This Computer Integrated Manufacturing Class with the Robotic Arms fits perfectly with this criteria. Having this type of technology in our region for our students to utilize is beyond thrilling and something that I hope can be emulated throughout Southern Kentucky. This equipment gives students hands-on, real life experience that will serve them well once they enter the workforce or go on to further their education. The benefits of this program will truly make a lasting impact in lives of students.”

For more information about United Way’s work in College and Career Readiness, log on to the United Way of Southern Kentucky website at www.liveunitedtoday.com.  

United Way of Southern Kentucky (UWSK) is a local, independent, non-profit organization that works to identify and address the issues that matter most, change conditions and improve lives. The mission of United Way of Southern Kentucky is to be the leader in bringing together the resources to build a stronger, more caring community. United Way is focused on the building blocks for good quality of life – Education, Income, Health and Safety Net. Therefore, the vision of United Way is a Southern Kentucky where all residents are educated, healthy, and financially stable. Incorporated as a charitable non-profit entity in 1956, UWSK has long served a major role in the community by bringing people together to create opportunities that make a measurable difference in the quality of life for people where they live and work.

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