Alabama Power officials on Thursday announced that the company is giving the department $300,000 to buy industrial robots to replace the current 18-year-old models. Students will be able to program the new equipment to do more complex tasks, said Terry Marbut, who heads the department.
"It will help the students tremendously," Marbut said. "When they step out into their job as an engineer in industry, they will already have experience with the exact type of equipment” that they will use in the workforce.
Julia Segars, vice president of Alabama Power’s Eastern Division, wrote in a statement that the company provided the donation because it wants to prepare students for the workforce.
“Connecting students with technology means connecting them with opportunity and preparing graduates to meet the current and future needs of manufacturing industries in our region. Alabama Power believes in the power of education and its role in propelling us into the future,” Segars wrote.
The donation to JSU was given to support the university's capital campaign, a fundraising effort by the JSU Foundation. Last year foundation officials said they plan to raise $35.1 million for the university through the campaign.
The foundation identified four main fundraising priorities last year, including the music program, scholarships, athletic facilities and technology upgrades.
Charles Lewis, vice president for university advancement, will present an update on the capital campaign at the JSU board of trustees’ quarterly meeting Monday.
Marbut said it is unclear when the university will use the money to buy the robots, but said he hopes to have them as early as this summer. University officials must buy the devices through the bid process, he said.
JSU's technology and engineering department has three academic programs: applied manufacturing engineering, applied electronics engineering and occupational safety and health management. Students in the applied engineering program learn to use the latest industrial manufacturing technology, Marbut said.
The department bought its first robots in the mid-’90s. The equipment is designed without frames to expose motors, belts and pulleys that make the machines work.
Students learn computer coding with the current robots, but the devices can only be programmed to pick up lightweight items, Marbut said.
The new equipment will be more like that used in automated manufacturing plants, Marbut said. Faculty members and students will program the devices to paint, weld and prepare metal for production, he added.
"It's going to give all of our students the opportunity to get some real hands-on experience," Marbut said.
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.