MTSU and Motlow receiving workforce attention with mechatronics program

MTSU’s Walter Boles loves all the attention the Engineering Technology department’s mechatronics engineering program suddenly is receiving.

The chair of one of the state’s fastest-growing programs joined Motlow College’s Fred Rascoe for an “Inside Workforce Development” taping Tuesday (Sept. 6) at WTVF-TV in Nashville. The show will air at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 8, and Saturday, Sept. 10, at 7:30 a.m. — plus encore airings — on NewsChannel5+ on Comcast channel 250, Charter channel 182 and digital 5.2. It also can be viewed viawww.newschannel5.com.

Boles will participate in the seventh Tennessee Department of Education Technical Education Cluster Collaborative Wednesday, Sept. 7. It will be held at the Northfield Workforce Development & Conference Center in Spring Hill, Tennessee.

Mechatronics engineering is a multidisciplinary field of engineering with a combination of systems in mechanical, electrical, telecommunications, control and computer engineering.

Mechatronics is based on a three-level international certification program created by Siemens, a German engineering company. To date, MTSU is the only Siemens-certified Level 3 four-year program in the world.

Regarding the “Inside Workforce Development” TV taping, Boles said he wants to share how “automation and robotics have grown tremendously over the past 40 years and the growth/applications has exploded in recent years with no sign of slowing down.”

“Many existing engineers say that they obtained a traditional engineering degree and had to learn the basics of a different discipline on their own in order to do their job as it evolved to include more automation,” he said. “For mechatronics graduates, they will of course need continuous lifelong learning as technology changes, but they will at least have the basics of the discipline(s) needed for automation covered.”

Rascoe, dean of Career and Technical Programs at Motlow, said the Middle Tennessee region is seeing a growth in advanced manufacturing industries from automotive to appliances to food manufacturing and more.

“These companies employ the most advanced manufacturing technologies available and it is crucial to be able to supply the industries with a well-educated and trained workforce to meet the stringent demands today,” he added. “Training in the mechatronic technologies is vital today. From the maintenance personnel to the engineers, all need to understand these technologies and how to maintain, build and design them.”

From Rascoe’s perspective, the Motlow and MTSU programs “are addressing the needs of today and tomorrow to prepare students for a rewarding career,” he said. “It is a great program that serves industry and the student. It fits Middle Tennessee and the growth of the area.”

Boles said both schools “are fulfilling a critical need both at the AAS (associate of applied science from Motlow) and bachelor’s degree (MTSU) levels for students, companies and economic development efforts for the region.”

“Many companies make facility location and relocation decisions based on the availability of a technically educated workforce,” he added. “(The) Middle Tennessee (region) can take advantage of the current lead we have and expand capacity further.”

Bridgestone Americas, Nissan North America and General Motors are among area companies waiting to employ mechatronics graduates.

Boles and other experts will be addressing 50 high school teachers who teach in clusters of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), information technology, advanced manufacturing, architecture and construction, transportation, distribution and logistics at the Technical Education Cluster Collaboration.

In addition to sharing about their programs, experts are likely to field questions about 21st century skills and more. Organizers want the teachers to gain a clear understanding of the vision of career technical education instruction, ways to develop strategies and learn the expectations of future employees and how that can be shared in the classroom.

Motlow has produced mechatronics graduates from its two-year program since 2010. A $3.2 million federal/state grant is allowing Motlow to expand mechatronics at satellite campuses. MTSU’s first 13 mechatronics grads earned their degrees in December 2015. Professor Ahad Nasab coordinates the MTSU program, which has grown to more than 250 students.

To learn more about the MTSU mechatronics engineering program, visithttp://www.mtsu.edu/programs/mechatronics/ or call Nasab at 615-898-2052.