As more medical devices come on the market and rolling down the production line, the companies that make them are looking to robotics as a means of simplifying and expediting their production. Scott and Rob Hanowski, the owners of Lino Lakes-based Minnesota Robotics, built their company around this growing demand.     

Minnesota Robotics is a custom automation provider, Rob explained, “We build the equipment that builds what our clients produce.” Their robotic solutions are designed to assist human workers, not replace them. These machines take on the repetitive or straining tasks that could otherwise lead to human injury. 

In this field, the type of work that Minnesota Robotics receives is varied. Sometimes a client will come in with a pre-designed machine that just needs assembly. Sometimes they come to them with a task or motion in mind, and it’s up to Minnesota Robotics to create a robot capable of accomplishing said task. No matter the project, and there have been many, business growth has come from word-of-mouth referrals through the medtech and manufacturing communities.

The teacher becomes the student
To help stay on top of their growing workflow, Scott and Rob decided to hire a summer intern and they used the SciTech Internship Program to do it.  

“The advantage of the program is we’re getting help at a subsidized rate,” Rob said. When small companies like Minnesota Robotics hire through SciTech, they receive an end-of-internship wage reimbursement, getting 50 percent back whatever they paid their student in gross (up to $2,500). They also get access to an exclusive talent pool, which comes in handy when you’re looking for someone with specific capabilities.   

In a specialized field like robotics, it’s understood that a fair amount of on-the-job training is involved. In order to invest that much time in an intern, Scott and Rob were looking for someone who could bring value to this position.

When Adam Schliesmann applied, he stood out right away. In his interview, Schliesmann talked about how he’d taught himself to program prior to learning it in school. He also knew how to work in Python, something Rob was eager to learn himself.

“Adam will be training me on that before he leaves,” Rob said.

In the end, it was Schliesmann’s initiative and interest that really sealed the deal. “We’re looking for people who enjoy what we do as a hobby,” said Hanowski, and Schliesmann was checking all the boxes.  

Programming robots
As an automation/robotics technologist intern, Schliesmann applied his mechanical engineering skills when learning to program the machines.

Everything was taught in stages. The first week of his internship, he learned how to program using a programmable logic controller (PLC).  Then he learned all about assembly and standards. Next was how to use mills and laser printers.

“I just love learning,” Schliesmann said, “I didn’t know what to expect when I applied for this job. But it ended up working out and I’m proud of myself.”

His biggest takeaway, Schliesmann added, was “having learned how companies work and the process of making something from the ground up. That’s not taught in school.”

Although Schliesmann’s summer internship came to end, his time at Minnesota Robotics did not. He’s still working there part-time while he wraps up his final year at the University of Northwestern.

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