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The Alabama Robotics Technology Park.


Amazing! Wonderful! State-of-the-art! One of a kind! These words were among those heard to describe the November 10, 2010, grand opening of The Robotic Maintenance Training Center, Phase I of the new Alabama Robotics Technology Park (RTP). Close to 1000 business leaders, chambers of commerce and economic development officials, educational leaders, and representatives from dozens of robotics vendors from around the world witnessed the ribbon-cutting and official opening of this "crown jewel" in training facilities.

The vision and brainchild of former Alabama Governor Bob Riley, the RTP is a collaboration between the state of Alabama, Calhoun Community College, Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT), and robotics industry leaders across the nation. Once complete, the RTP will consist of three individual training facilities each targeted to a specific industry need. The three buildings will have an investment of approximately $73 million, including over $40 million of the latest equipment donated from dozens of robotics vendors.

Phase I: The $17.6 million, 68,385 square-foot Robotic Maintenance Training Center houses an industry training program where technicians are being trained to work on robotic machinery. The facility is staffed by trainers supplied by top robot builders and is now home to several major robotics and automation brands.

Phase II: The Advanced Technology Research and Development Center will feature a test facility for companies currently in the robotics manufacturing industry. The $8.5 million, 35,000 square-foot facility will be used by for the purpose of research, development and testing of leading edge robotics used for military projects and space exploration. The structure will have appropriate infrastructure to support these activities with substantial outdoor areas for testing in a variety of environments. Currently under construction, the Phase II facility is expected to be complete in June 2011.


Phase III: The Integration and Entrepreneurial Center will be a collaborative consolidation of technology involving higher education and industry. This facility will allow companies to build and adapt robots for new industries. Start-up plants will be able to set up manufacturing lines to integrate software and equipment, test systems and train maintenance and production staff. Funding is currently being sought for this facility.


In June 2008, Governor Riley announced the selection of Calhoun Community College's Decatur campus as the site for the state's new Robotics Technology Park. In making the announcement, Riley noted that "Because the Huntsville (AL) area is considered to be among the leaders in robotics, north Alabama is the logical place for a robotics center. Construction of this center at Calhoun Community College will take Alabama to a new level while making a fundamental difference in the state's workforce development."

"This (Park) will make Alabama the nation's leader in robotics research and development. It will make Alabama the national leader in robotics technology education. The benefits will be remarkable for our economy, for our workforce and for our future," Riley added.

Robot vendors with a presence in Phase I of the RTP include Omron STI, Kawasaki Robotics USA, ABB Robotics, Rockwell Automation, Motoman Robotics, Staubli, Mitsubishi Automation and Fanuc Robotics. Currently, short-term, non-credit training classes are being offered by instructors through AIDT. Starting fall 2011, Calhoun will begin offering credit courses toward a certificate or associate's degree in robotics.



"This robotics complex is an integral element in the state of Alabama's quest to be the world leader in manufacturing technology, continued research and development of cutting edge robotics technology," commented Ed Castile, executive of AIDT.

A 12-member executive board of business and education leaders appointed by the Governor advise RTP Director Terry Griffin and his staff on the Park's operations. The mission of the RTP is to provide a technically- trained, highly-skilled, and educated workforce for current and future automation and robotics technologies, to assist public and private entities in developing new robotics systems and technologies, and to promote the growth and expansion of companies through new robotics technologies.

"This project ensures that the state of Alabama will continue to be a leader in workforce and economic development, both of which are keys to our state and national economies," said Calhoun President Marilyn Beck.
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Author:Kincherlow-Martin, Janet
Publication:ATEA Journal
Date:Mar 22, 2011
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