Tormach Owners Help Robotics Teams Win

At Tormach, our mission is to not only empower people to make things, but to also embolden them to make a difference.   It is invigorating to see how our customers cultivate creativity, foster ingenuity and encourage the development of their own industry and businesses, as well as the lives of future innovators.  Recently, a Tormach machine owner led me to a pristine winter landscape of stretching farmlands and an exceptionally resourceful robotics team in central Minnesota. 

Joseph Gerads is widely known, not only among Tormach users, but also in his rural community, as ‘that guy who can genuinely make or fix anything’.  As soon as I crossed the threshold of Joe’s home/shop, a repurposed Creamery building in Greenwald, MN, I realized that this statement is not an exaggeration. From custom tooling to animated fixturing and creative equipment modifications, it was evident that impossible is not a word in his vocabulary.  His reputation and craftsmanship is apparent throughout the community, as we traveled through local cities that displayed his handiwork, from benches and custom signs to farm equipment that was operational only because of Joe’s skill and ambition.

This established local repute is what led him to another group of remarkable tech pioneers in Cold Spring, MN.  FIRST Robotics team 4728, The Rocori Rench Reckers, may not be a team that is vast in size, but they are certainly one that is immense in aptitude, character and tenacity.  Their hard work, skill, and dedication contributed to bringing this team to the FIRST World Championship in Detroit, MI last spring. And this year, it brought Joe Gerads, who was asked by a team mentor if he could lend a hand with his experience, a shop full of equipment, and two Tormach 1100 mills.

In less populated, rural areas – it can be a challenge for teams to find the resources and sponsors to facilitate in ambitious endeavors like FIRST Robotics.  However, upon meeting the vivacious crew from 4728, it was immediately apparent that they embrace this obstacle as just another opportunity to demonstrate their initiative and fervor for invention.  I had the privilege of joining Joe and Team 4728 for a few evenings of robot building, but we were soon joined by Wade Wendorf, another local Tormach machine owner and tech enthusiast.

With the use of their high school machine shop, the Rench Reckers have access to a plethora of equipment to assist them in building a capable robot for the competition, but they do not currently have CNC capability.  While this has not hindered the team’s success, the utilization of the Tormach CNC equipment has brought in a new level of technology and emerging skill to this year’s build. With Joe’s assistance, the students have been designing parts and creating programs to machine some of their more complex components in his shop.

One of the most rewarding aspects of working with a team like Rocori’s is that it is not just the students who benefit from organizations like FIRST. I have found, as a volunteer and mentor through my career, that I have learned just as much, if not more, from those who I endeavor to educate.  

A young woman on the Rocori team, while creating a CNC program for the mill, introduced us all to a geometric shape that was new to us: a Squircle. A quick Google search for the term revealed that squircles are a legitimate shape, commonly used in design. The rest of the evening with this group of high-spirited students and mentors also revealed that the word squircle was a lot of fun to use regularly in conversations.  The laughter, learning, and friendships that evolve through STEM programs create a lasting foundation and network for not only the student’s success, but for the future of our technology industry.

At Tormach, we are not only proud to support FIRST Robotics and all the teams that keep us inspired through their outstanding accomplishments.  We are also grateful for the exceptional display of collaboration and contribution throughout our community of machine owners, educators, and advocates. 

In this spirit, we are ecstatic to be a part of FIRST RISE (sm) 2020, powered by the Star Wars: Force for Change philanthropic initiative.  Together, we RISE.

We want to challenge any Tormach owners with a little free time on their hands to help out your local FIRST Robotics team, like Joe and Wade! These kids are the future of our industry, and they really are inspiring. If you need help finding your local team, go to https://www.firstinspires.org/about/contact-us. Look to the lower right area of the page, where you can select what program (age group) you’d like to support and your region. Then FIRST will provide you with contact info for the regional leadership in your area, and they can get you started!

For more information on FIRST and how you can help to make a difference in the future, check out: 

https://info.firstinspires.org/first-rise-2020

Jennifer Bannink

Jennifer has more than a decade of CNC machining experience, and is a staff machinist and technical support specialist at Tormach. She has a passion for sharing her career experiences with students through STEM events.

Jennifer Bannink

Leave a Reply