Flying robots, 500 Kids and foreign direct investment!?
You had us at “hallo.”
When German-based Festo, a multinational expert in automation, announced the move of its North American logistics center to Mason, we were excited for the possibilities of this unique partnership. Little did we know three years later, we would have established an annual Mason Innovation Week with Festo and our regional education partners to bring their advanced technology into our community and stimulate interest in STEM education.
Through its Bionic Learning Network, Festo showcases its mastery of automation technology showing how the company recreates movements found in nature to learn how they can be applied in various manufacturing settings. For example, by studying how a chameleon’s tongue grasps objects, Festo created a FlexShapeGripper that could handle fragile objects and others difficult to grip with a traditional tool.
As the first company to decipher and recreate winged flight, Festo built the SmartBird, modeled after the herring gull, and the BionicOpter, modeled after the dragonfly, both of which use wing power only to fly. We kicked off our first Innovation Week with a welcome from the City’s mayor and a demonstration of these two bionic animals at our City Council Meeting. Then, Festo engineers spent the week demonstrating to thousands of local elementary and high school students, wrapping up at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Engineering and Applied Science where their robotics were also displayed.
In year two, the excitement continued when Festo hosted its international press conference here as part of its grand opening week and brought in the company’s airbus (blimp) and hot air balloon, offering rides to invited guests and Mason residents.
It’s clear to us that Mason Innovation Week is an incredible demonstration of how public-private partnerships (P3) can advance community STEM programming to build our professional talent pool from the ground up and advance collaboration among business leaders.