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University of Memphis awarded $1 million grant to establish Mid-South Advanced Automation and Robotics Center

UofM Herff College of Engineering will be home to the AARC.
Credit: WATN

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The University of Memphis Herff College of Engineering has been awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to establish the Mid-South Advanced Automation and Robotics Center (AARC), an automation and robotics training center of excellence.

Memphis is home to a high concentration of jobs in sectors like transportation and logistics that are increasingly becoming automated. The AARC will address these concerns while also creating a resource for the wider region to cultivate high-paying jobs for Mid-South citizens and help with re-training to ensure opportunities for all.

The AARC will be a major step forward in the workforce development efforts of the city, and supports recent corporate initiatives addressing workforce needs. Certificate-based training will be provided to local veterans, those looking for new opportunities and students from the UofM, Southwest Tennessee Community College (STCC) and other partner institutions.

Training will be provided across a range of automation technologies that are critical to the continued success of local material handling and manufacturing companies such as FedEx, Hytrol, Nike and Carrier. To support the efforts of the AARC, the center will deploy the training opportunities through collaborative partners including STCC, the Greater Memphis Chamber and the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce.

Altogether, the AARC will service the populations of eight counties in three states. Support will be provided to ensure low or no cost to the trainees for those who qualify.

“The AARC addresses a critical need in our workforce pipeline,” said Greater Memphis Chamber President and CEO Beverly Robertson. “The opportunity to bring an automation training solution to our city will help ensure that local residents are able to compete for future jobs in Memphis and guarantee our competitive advantage in attracting top tier technologically-driven corporations to the city.”

The AARC will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology to ensure viable training solutions for the next several years. Yaskawa-based robot training and Amatrol Skill Boss Logistics supply chain automation training units will prepare training participants with the necessary skills and certifications to improve their earning potential and provide a pipeline of local talent for companies in need of these skills.

Dr. Kevin Berisso, an associate professor in the Department of Engineering Technology, will serve as the lead PI for the project. With a background in warehouse management software, manufacturing and automatic identification (barcodes, RFID, etc.), Berisso joined the UofM in 2013 and has been teaching robotics and automation since 2003.

“The AARC will be a significantly positive addition to not only our University but also our City,” said UofM President M. David Rudd. “It will provide vast opportunity for our students, local employers and relevant workforce growth within Memphis. It’s a grant we are honored to accept and a mission we very much look forward to executing.”

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Through this project, the UofM establishes itself as a leader in robotics and workforce development training and research, and helps ensure Memphis is prepared to meet the rising challenges of automation in a way that ensures the continued growth of opportunities for everyone in the city.

The long-term results of this grant will be a local workforce that is certified on the types of equipment being used by local companies, and an improvement in the ability of the UofM and STCC to provide high-quality training to students.