Perfect pancakes are as easy as 1-2-3 when you use Pensacola State College’s Pancake Robot.
Students in Wilson Rook’s robotics-mechanics and controls course recently outfitted an industrial robotic arm with two prosthetics that pour and flip pancakes.
On Nov. 28, the students tried out the apparatus and were treated to a dinner of golden pancakes complete with maple syrup and orange juice.
“We simply modified the robotic arm to be able to pick up a ladle and spatula,” explained Rook, an engineering technology instructor. “We started working on the project in late October and started by conceptualizing and designing the parts.”
After coming up with the design for the prosthetics, the students made the attachments using a 3-D printer.
“It took us about 12 hours to come up with the designs,” said Michael Miller, a second-year engineering technology and advanced manufacturing major. “There was a lot of fine tuning of our designs but we kept at it until we got it.”
Miller, 25, said he works full time at a local chemical plant but is pursuing the degree in order to advance his career.
“I work in maintenance right now but I want to be able to move up in the company. I first became interested in the field after I saw a 3-D printer in action,” he added.
Rook said robotics are the future – especially in jobs that require repetitive motion. However, humans must program and service those robots.
“I know there is a lot of talk about a $15 per hour minimum wage but in many industries, it will be cheaper for a company to purchase a robot to do the work,” he said. “A person who knows how to program those robots can earn a lot more than $15 an hour. It’s a growing field with a great future.”
He added the end-of-semester project allowed the students to use what they learned in the class and see it at work.
“Next semester, I’m going to ask my students to create a Pancake Robot that cooks two pancakes at one time,” he said with a laugh.