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Applying FANUC America’s CERT program to STEM and CTE programs.

Integrating industrial robotics into STEM and CTE programs has multiple benefits because an industrial robot is a great tool to show how math and science is applied in real time, while giving students instant feedback about what happens when values and settings are changed.

Students are captivated by taking control of a robot and directing its movements.  After their initial use, students want to learn how to make the robot perform more complex tasks.  Their first thoughts are about learning how to use the controls to move the robot.  They experiment by pressing buttons and seeing what happens.

Almost effortlessly they soon learn which buttons move the robot in different directions and which buttons open and close the gripper.  Very quickly students will reach the stage that they need to learn more about the robot to have it perform more complex tasks.

Observing students interact with an industrial robot:

Students walk up and grab the robot teach pendant and start figuring out how to move the robot.  After a short tutorial on how to operate the teach pendant a student will push buttons and observe how the robot moves.  More buttons are pushed and the robot moves in a different direction.  Eventually the robot is moved purposely in the direction the student wants it to move.  Next the student tries and learns how to direct the robot to pick up an object and move it to another location and drop it off.

During this time the student is completely engaged and focused on learning how to manipulate the robot.   As students start to master the basic movement of the robot they start to ask questions about how to do other tasks.  This is a good time to transition to a discussion / lecture format and talk about the industrial robot and its operation.

The teacher can discuss the main components and how they interact.  Examples with pictures and movies can be reviewed showing how industrial robots are used in manufacturing to produce most of the products we all use everyday.

The teacher can introduce questions about how robots can be used, do they know someone that works with robots, etc.  The teacher keeps the students curious about how the robot works. 

What’s in a Circle?

A circle is a geometric shape that can be expressed using formulas to define its size and location.  With the use of an industrial robot, the drawing of a circle can be used to demonstrate a vast amount of math and science related to a circle, while enhancing students understanding of the application and use of math and science.

Teaching students to program a FANUC robot to draw a circle

This example emphasizes the idea of engaging students in math and science learning by incorporating a skills task followed by a lecture or discussion about the math, science and CTE aspects of the skills task.

The example assumes the teachers use of a FANUC Robotics America CERT cart because of the built in capability and specific design for a classroom setting.  Once teachers successfully complete the cart safety test they utilize safe practices while demonstrating and operating the cart.

The level of detail and complexity of programming required to have the robot draw a circle will depend on the amount of training the students have had related to programming the robot and the level of math and science classes they have completed.

To introduce the topic of industrial robots the teacher can utilize the CERT cart for a demonstration.  The robot can be prepared in advance to have a pen mounted within the gripper and have a program pre-loaded that will later draw a circle.

The teacher can describe the robot and discuss how it moves and what makes it move.  This can be related to xyz coordinates and the simultaneous moving of the motors and joints to have the pen move to a location and then draw a circle.

Example initial discussion questions:

  • What moves the robot?
  • How does it know where to go?
  • How does it know when to start and stop?
  • What is a program?
  • How do you start the program?

This simple demonstration can be built upon by adding student assignments with increasing complexity by:

  • Requiring the student to create the circle drawing program
  • Defining circle sizes and positions
  • Programming the robot to pick up and drop the pen
  • Modify the program to request input to define the circle size
  • Use equations in the program to move the robot
  • Use computer RoboGuide simulation to create and validate the program
  • Download the program to the robot and validate the operation on the actual robot
  • Capture the simulation movie and create a presentation about all the steps in the project and present to the class.

The detail and complexity of the assignments can continue deeper by comparing theoretical to actual results, for example, calculate and look up results for each joint position, acceleration and deceleration values, velocity values, distance traveled, and moment of inertia and so on.

Table 1 shows an example of the student assignments that might be used for programming the robot to draw a circle.  The table progresses from the teacher demonstrating the circle drawing program up to some advanced examples requiring programming for user input and specifying circle sizes and positions.

Table 1 – Example of student robot programming assignments

Skill Level
Student tasks


Pen is already in end of arm tool (EOAT)
Circle drawing program is already created Program is debugged and ready to run using the teach pendant


Pen is already in robot EOAT
Circle drawing program is already created and tested
Students select program
Students run program in teach mode
Students run program in automatic mode

Intermediate 1

Pen is already in EOAT
Students create circle drawing program using teach pendant
Students demonstrate the program they have written

Intermediate 2

Students create program to pick up pen
Students create and demonstrate circle drawing pen

Intermediate 3

Students create program in RoboGuide to draw circle
Students debug and demonstrate circle draw program in RoboGuide
Students download program to robot
Students debug and demonstrate circle draw program

Intermediate 4

Trace circle on fixture
Look up robot motion information and report distance traveled, cycle time, acceleration, deceleration

Advanced 1

Specify size of circle to draw by radius, circumference or area
Specify location of circle

Advanced 2

Draw two circles with a specific size and distance from each other

Advanced 3

Draw one circle inside another circle.  Specify the size difference by radius, circumference, area, percent or scale

Advanced 4

Specify minimum or maximum time to draw a circle

Advanced 5

Utilizing appropriate fixture, specify drawing a circle on a different plane

Advanced 6

Specify acceleration at start, velocity for main, deceleration at end

Advanced 7

Specify to draw circle with a specific size and the program must be the formula of a circle to specify the x/y coordinates

Advanced 8

Specify a program to draw a circle based on the number entered on the teach pendant representing the radius, circumference or area.
Program should limit range of possible entries


CERT enhances student learning

At first glance a casual observer may see the robot drawing a circle and think nothing of it.  Even at the basic level the student will begin to understand how geometry, algebra, computer programming, xyz coordinates and 3-D simulation are related and how learning the equation of a circle is applied.

Students are required to learn new information to be able to use the robot and RoboGuide simulation software.  The training materials and tools provided with the FANUC Robotics America CERT program are the exact same training and tools used in industry. 

The students will need to use technical documents to look up information about working the teach pendant, what programming commands are available, how to enter and debug a program, how to use simulation software to prove the program will work, and how pneumatics are used to manipulate the end of arm tool.  Assignments can be created to have students work together in project teams and plan their work to meet a schedule and learn about estimating the amount of time to design, program and test a robot program.

The circle drawing example shows how quickly and easily using the FANUC Robotics America CERT cart can be integrated into STEM and CTE curriculums.  It is also clear the there are a multitude of ways for the CERT cart to be integrated into a curriculum. 

Table 2 is a summary of the likely STEM and CTE content that is directly related to teaching and having students program the robot to draw a circle.  The list is a compilation of information and is not meant to be all inclusive or apply to a specific track.

Table 2 – STEM and CTE content related to industrial robot training



  • Analyze characteristics and properties of two-and three dimensional geometric shapes and develop mathematical arguments about geometric relationships.
  • Specify locations and describe spatial relationships using coordinate geometry and other representational systems.
  • Apply transformations and use symmetry to analyze mathematical situations.
  • Use visualization, spatial reasoning and geometric modeling to solve problems


  • Understand patterns, relationships and functions.
  • Represent and analyze mathematical situations and structures using algebraic symbols.
  • Use mathematical models to represent and understand qualitative and quantitative relationships.
  • Analyze change of variables in changing environments


  • Position - Time
  • Velocity - Time
  • Frames of Reference

Statistics and Measurement

  • Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems and processes of measurement.
  • Apply appropriate techniques, tools and formulas to determine measurements
  • Understand converting of measurements in relation to size of project

Additional STEM Related topics

  • Number Theory (ratio, proportion)
  • Data Interpretation (graph, table, chart, diagram)
  • Computation in Context (whole numbers, decimals, fractions, algebraic operations) 
  • Critical thinking and systems thinking: Exercising sound reasoning in understanding and making complex choices, understanding the interconnections among systems 
  • Problem identification, formulation, and solution: Ability to frame, analyze, and solve problems
  • Creativity and intellectual curiosity: Developing, implementing, and communicating new ideas to others, staying open and responsive to new and diverse perspectives
  • Interpret Graphic Information (forms, maps, reference sources)
  • Recall Information (details, sequence)
  • Construct Meaning (main idea, summary/paraphrase, compare/contrast, cause/effect) 
  • Evaluate/Extend Meaning (fact/opinion, predict outcomes, point of view)


CTE Related Topics

  • Read, interpret, and analyze technical materials, discerning information and concepts 
  • Use appropriate safety techniques, equipment, and procedures 
  • Participate effectively on a team 
  • Identify patterns, relations, and functions of an organization or a workplace
  • Engage in a large variety of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics experiences to determine personal interest in respective pathways
  • Use mathematics, science and technology concepts and processes to solve problems quantitatively in engineering projects involving design, development, or production in various technologies 
  • Access, test, record, organize and evaluate information needed to alter the design of a product, system or service 
  • Understand how science and mathematics function as an active component of the real world


For more information about integrating industrial robots into STEM and CTE programs, or for more information about the FANUC Robotics America CERT program please email us at or visit the CERT Webpage.