Investing in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) is a priority for Komatsu Mining Corp.  Across the globe employees mentor students, host facility tours and visit classrooms to promote STEM careers and encourage the next generation of innovators. 

With the school year just underway in the United States, Komatsu Mining Corp welcomed members of the Mukwonago Bears FIRST Robotics Team 930 to the National Avenue facility in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The team is a high school level team that competes in the FIRST Robotics competition each spring. FIRST Robotics is an international high school robotics competition that requires students and mentors, under strict rules, limited resources, and an intense six-week time limit, to raise funds, design a team "brand," hone teamwork skills, and build and program industrial-size robots to play a difficult field game against like-minded competitors. It’s as close to real-world engineering as a student can get.

From its headquarters in Milwaukee, Komatsu Mining Corp has been supporting several local teams as well as sponsoring regional competitions in Milwaukee and Duluth. The teams are supported both financially and with mentor support from Komatsu employees. Chuck Payne, Team Lead and Senior Engineering in Advanced Automation, has been a mentor to the Mukwonago team for three years and he helped organize the recent visit.

“The FIRST Robotics Competition is designed to simulate, as much as possible, what it is like to design and build a real product, with the goal of competing in an exciting robotic game. The design challenges include a very tight schedule, strict budgets, and very precise game rules and requirements. In addition to the obvious technical experience the students gain, they also must learn about teamwork, leadership, and collaboration in order to be successful. FIRST teams are organized and run very much like small businesses” explained Payne.

“We took advantage of a unique day off of school at the start of the year to have the team visit the Komatsu facility. It was my hope that by visiting, Team 930 could see how similar what we do here at Komatsu is to what they do in building their robots. Plus, the team wanted to thank Komatsu in person for being a very important sponsor in supporting their efforts.”

Robotics team text 2

The students were given an overview of the company as well as a safety orientation before touring the electrical lab, the machinery factory and the advanced automation lab. Following the tours the students gave a presentation and robot demonstration to members of the Advanced Automation team as well as Komatsu Mining Corp leaders including President and CEO, Jeffrey Dawes and Vice President-Engineering, Surface Products, Dan Schlegel. 

“FIRST Robotics teams are encouraged to present not only during the competition, but also throughout the year.  It’s one of the key skills the students learn by participating in the program. Having the students present to our leadership and engineering team gives the students the opportunity to showcase everything they have learned” shared Manager-Social Responsibility, Cathy Stagmer. “The students demonstrated strong presentation skills but also shared that their involvement in FIRST allows them to develop skills in project management, budgeting and conflict resolution. They gain not only the technical skills we want to see in an employee, but the soft skills that can be harder to develop.”

The benefits of participating in the FIRST Robotics program were seen first-hand by  Manager-Human Resources, Melissa Wilcox who also supports the engineering function.

“It is really exciting to see what these students have accomplished in such a short timeframe.  Not only are they building technical skills, but they are also learning about the business side of development, problem solving and overall teamwork. Everyone has a role on the team and contributes to their success. These experiences and the skills these students have gained will put them a step ahead as they further their education and start their careers. “

Robotics team text

The FIRST Robotics season kicks off at the start of the new year but teams are meeting year-round to further develop their knowledge surrounding everything from electrical engineering, coding and mechanical design. Teams support their local community with service projects as well as work to educate students in elementary and middle school, inspiring the next generation. Komatsu Mining Corp is proud to support the FIRST organization and several local teams that will compete in 2018.