STC announces first cohort of FANUC-certified robotics operators
South Texas College recently announced its first cohort of dual credit students to become Certified in Level 1 FANUC Handling Tool Operations and Programming. Students from Mission Veterans High School received training with real-world industrial robots, and received an industry-recognized certification after completing the course. Students from L-R: Marco Rivera, Salim Guizar, Manuel Salinas, and Alvaro Barrera; Juan Abrego (not pictured)
For Marco Rivera, it was never a question that a lifelong fascination with technology and constantly tinkering with machines would guide his future career choice.
Fresh out of high school and now headed to college, Rivera begins to gauge the benefits he received entering South Texas College as a dual student, and becoming familiar with the Fuji Automatic NUmerical Control (FANUC) FRC-01 robot for the first time.
In the process, Rivera, 18, said having the opportunity to enter STC’s manufacturing dual credit program enabled him to become certified to handle all of the robot’s processes. Rivera became especially adept at 3D-printing, programming, and being able to operate the technology in a safe and efficient manner, he said.
“I do see myself in a career utilizing the skills I learned here,” said Rivera, a graduating senior at Veterans Memorial High School in Mission who plans to major in mechanical or electrical engineering when he enters the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley in the fall.
“I have been around technology my whole life, and I always enjoyed finding out how things operated and how they were made,” Rivera said. “Being able to be behind the scenes and actually begin learning how to make different things made me interested from the start.”
Rivera was one of six students that joined STC’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology (AMT) – Mechatronics Program and enrolled in the Robotics Fundamentals course through a dual credit partnership with Mission CISD.
The course prepared the students from Veteran’s Memorial High School to earn the national certification and become the first students at South Texas College to be Certified in Level 1 FANUC Handling Tool Operations and Programming. The certification program allows schools to train students how to use the latest robotic automation while utilizing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
“It’s not just a simple program about making the robot arm move, it is extensive so that if something goes wrong with the technology the students are able to troubleshoot it."
The program is intended to enhance student learning as well as provide training with real-world industrial robots. Students receive an industry-recognized certification upon course completion.
As part of the testing process, students underwent a three-hour, 150 multiple choice exam which covered everything from maintenance of the robotics, operating procedures, motor attachment, and digital input.
“It’s not just a simple program about making the robot arm move, it is extensive so that if something goes wrong with the technology the students are able to troubleshoot it,” said Erika Guerra, instructor in the AMT Program.
Guerra is currently one of three instructors at STC to complete the requirements for FANUC Operator Level 1 Certification, and the first to do so with a cohort through Advanced Manufacturing Technology.
“This helps in several ways. If students are going straight into the industry, then being certified is something employers will definitely look at over those who don’t have the certification,” Guerra said. “This is a national standard, and if you’re going into the industry it is definitely important to have.
“These students here, who are all engineering students, they can put this on their resume and if they want to work part-time in the field while they are going to school, this is something they can use to get job experience that is very different from perhaps working at a fast food restaurant.”
In order to be able to test and certify individuals, the college required the addition of being designated a testing site by the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI). South Texas College’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing (IAM) held an official recognition ceremony when STC received the FANUC designation as a testing site and training center in December 2020.
FANUC is a leading supplier of robots, computer control systems, and factory automation, with products used by manufacturers in industries worldwide.
The addition of FANUC robots at STC increases specialized training opportunities to technology-dependent sectors of the manufacturing industry. It is also a boon to existing business partners in the Rio Grande Valley, as well as prospective businesses considering relocating to the region which utilize FANUC in their facilities.
Instructors Felix Zamarripa and Ernesto Avila also possess the certification, and are currently teaching FANUC Operator Level 1 training to local industry partners through the college’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing (IAM/ITED).
In addition to the college’s Advanced Manufacturing Program, STC offers a variety of certifications for industry professionals through IAM.
Training programs are tailored to meet employer needs, with certifications in everything from automation and robotics, business management, electrical and HVAC, welding, manufacturing, logistics, cold storage, and manufacturing related industries.
This type of certification is beneficial for a variety of individuals, whether they are professionals already working in the industry, or they enroll in one of STC’s academic programs, as Rivera did.
“For students entering this type of degree, I would tell them to do it, have fun with it, and you just might end up enjoying what you are doing,” Rivera said.
For more information about STC’s Advanced Manufacturing Program, please visit https://bt.southtexascollege.edu/manufacturing/
For more information about IAM please visit https://www.southtexascollege.edu/cpit/iam.html .