Wallace and June Fong p ’18, ’22 Help Enhance Robotics Program

Engineers from FDT Limited program George School's new industrial arm to pick up and release a ping pong ball. (Photo by Alyson Cittadino)

When robotics students return to class next week, they will have a new and unique opportunity to interact with an industrial arm, a machine that can be used in a variety of ways throughout the school year.

The arm, which was donated by FDT Limited, owned by Wallace Fong p ’18, ’22, will add new challenges to the robotics curriculum, explains Chris Odom, one of George School’s robotics teachers. “Our program is student driven,” he said. “Once the students finish their book work, they are free to develop their own individual projects. I suspect a good number of them will work with this machine and do some really cool stuff. The strength of the George School robotics program really is the intelligence of the machines we build.”

Chris explained that the arm is a “highly precise” machine meaning that if it is trained to pick up a ball and then release it after a specific time or distance, it will. George School students, however, work to develop really smart machines, a machine that will turn the heat on if the room meets a specific temperature or to turn the lights on if someone enters a room, for example. “Combined we can build highly precise, really smart machines,” he said.

In addition to developing machines that work in tandem, students can also 3D print different grippers to help the arm achieve success. “Each gripper has a different function; pick up a tennis ball, pick up a golf ball, write, etc. Students can print them in the lab and apply them to the arm before programing it,” said Chris.

The Fongs have also provided funding to renovate the basement of the Spruance-Alden Science Center to become a workspace for students. The arm will eventually live in that location. “I think it would be great for our students to train the arm to write a message on the window as prospective students are coming by for a tour. It could give the official ‘Welcome to George School’ message,” Chris said.

The new center will become the arm’s permanent home, as well as provide a robotics competition space and additional science labs.

“We are very fortunate to have the support of the Fongs to help enhance George School’s robotics program,” said Doug Seaberg, chief development officer. “A lot of schools do not even have a robotics program. With the support of the Fong family, George School is far ahead.”