The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Wahkiakum 4H tours robots at Wauna


R. Wright, guides Tim on the far left and Chuck second from right side standing, with parents and members of the FTC team. Courtesy photo.

The Wahkiakum 4H Robotics club took a field trip to the Wauna Mill to look at their robots on April 28. Older members of the Wahkiakum 4H Robotics Club visited the Georgia Pacific plant at Wauna to see real robots in action. It was amazing to see the real thing after building our own with kits.

We started with a half-hour safety briefing and test then donned our safety gear and entered the plant. Tim Wiese and Chuck Barton Sr were our guides. For security reasons, visitors have to be at least 13 years old, and we were not allowed to take photos of what we saw.

There were automated devices as small as a table and others larger than a good sized living room, all moving and doing their work with no human intervention. Afterwards we talked about their most favorite part. Said Damaris: "The sharp knives that cut the paper towel rolls to size ... they were so fast!"

Other stand-out images were the forklift-sized robots doing their thing and just missing each other as they moved stacks around the warehouse. The very large robots automatically carrying huge rolls of paper from one building to another. The stacking robots that very quickly took paper towel rolls off the line and built them into pallet-sized blocks ready for shipping. Said one parent: " I could watch this all day. It's hard to believe there isn't some person hiding somewhere actually controlling this whole operation."

Along with seeing the robots in action we also learned some amazing factoids about the plant. They recycle enough of their chemicals to be 97% efficient. They actually employ more people now than they did before the robots were introduced, though many are in different types of jobs. The students were encouraged to get an AA degree in robotics maintenance, complete an electrician apprenticeship, or earn degrees in electrical or mechanical engineering.

Retired teacher Ron Wright said: "Every kid should see this place in action - the real world of manufacturing right in our own backyard. It's why we are doing what we are doing in robotics classes and after school. "

--Submitted by Ron Wright


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