New Mechatronics program keeps students ahead of constantly changing technology
What is Mechatronics? It's a new word to many. "This technology is the cutting-edge discipline of building, troubleshooting, and maintaining the industry of tomorrow," according to Travis Thul, Minnesota State College Southeast Dean of Trade and Technology.&
Students are applying now to start this brand-new program in Fall 2019, which is housed on the college's Winona campus. Students will learn a range of skills spanning electronics, mechanics, hydraulics, and motors.
"More and more, manual labor is being replaced by robotics and the mini-computers that control them. Jobs require people who can work with the computers that run the production line," explained electronics instructor Marc Kalis. "Technology keeps on going forward -- you've got to keep up on it or try to stay ahead of it if you want to grow in your career."
In advanced manufacturing, everything in the production line is controlled by PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers). The college's PLC lab is dedicated to teaching students how to program and operate these machines.
"PLCs control everything from conveyor belts to robotic arms," Marc continued, pointing out a model intersection next to a PLC. "Stoplight controllers like this can monitor cars, determine when the lights should change, and adjust to changing conditions. The Department of Transportation is always looking for technicians with the skills to install and maintain them."
Travis Thul noted that the Mechatronics Technology program is being launched as part of the college's larger Advanced Manufacturing Infrastructure Initiative. "Over the summer, Mechatronics facilities will benefit from this $600,000 investment fund, allowing for hands on experience with state-of-the-art robotics, automation, and electro-mechanical systems."
The new laboratories will house modern and uniform automation suites, hydraulic and pneumatic training platforms, robotic computer numerical control (CNC) systems, brand new precision machining tools, and rapid prototyping capabilities, including additive manufacturing/3D printing.
"Our facilities will be ready to welcome the first cohort of Mechatronics majors in August!" said Travis Thul. "Prospective students with an interest electro-mechanical systems and engineering technologies should apply now for admission to the program."