RCC students enter Fourth Industrial Revolution with Mechatronics
Welcome to the fourth industrial revolution, a revolution characterized by the fusion of technologies between physical, digital, and biological spheres. The future is mechatronics, and today students at Robeson Community College are busy learning about the tools of the trade for the industry of tomorrow, for the shift to maximize productivity, sustainability, and overall well-being to what we call life.
What is mechatronics exactly? Although it sounds like something you might have seen on Back to the Future, it’s actually a branch of engineering that brings together multiple disciplines – mechanical, electrical, computer, and robotics engineering – to connect different stages of design and production processes into a single, streamlined system.
It’s robots, artificial intelligence (AI), programmable logic (PLC), and industrial automation. And, most importantly, it’s a lot of fun.
“Our students really enjoy learning about the different elements that go into mechatronics,” said Heath Worriax, discipline lead for the mechatronics engineering technology program at RCC. “We get to learn how the automation process works and they get to see the end results through robotics. It keeps students interested in learning more.”
Students who get enroll in mechatronics are introduced to exciting career opportunities in a real-world environment. The knowledge and skills gained from this program can open doors that lead to high-paying jobs with just a two-year degree.
“This program is for those who want a hands-on approach to learning mechatronics engineering technology, as compared to straight theory,” said Heath. “This program prepares students for the workforce in mechanical, electrical, or artificial intelligence.”
Students also have an opportunity to learn about different machinery and equipment, and then they get to learn how to troubleshoot components of those systems.
“With AI, the PLC is included, where two components of a system are talking to each other through ethernet inputs and outputs…. It’s all very advanced,” said Heath. “These types of systems are needed in nearly every industry, not just manufacturing, and jobs are in high demand.”
Heath adds, “Take a look around, artificial intelligence is all around us from self-driving cars to drones to virtual assistants.”
Even the retail industry is using AI to boost sales for shop owners while improving customer experience by providing smart recommendations. Stores are becoming cashier-free, using chatbots for customer service, and using algorithms to make price predictions and forecasting. There are even virtual fitting rooms coming soon to a store near you.
With the remarkable speed of the transforming power of technology, there is an urgent and growing need to fill positions that require specialized knowledge and training throughout our community and all across North Carolina and the Southeast.
Many in manufacturing are especially finding it hard to fill vacant positions.
“In just our area, companies such as Campbell Soup, Dupont, Graphic Packaging, and Elkay Manufacturing are looking for qualified candidates to fill open positions,” said Heath.
A recent graduate placement survey found that RCC graduates of the MET program had an average salary of $40,599 and with additional experience, graduates could expect to earn up to $70,000 per year or more.
Graduates of the program should qualify to obtain occupations such as technical service providers, materials and technologies testing services, process improvement technicians, engineering technicians, industrial and technology managers, maintenance technicians, or research technicians.
“Our program gives students very diverse skills in the mechatronics field,” said Heath. “Career opportunities are endless.”
RCC will be hosting a virtual information session for its mechatronics program for prospective students that are interested in learning more about the program. The virtual session will be held on Monday, August 9 at 3:00 p.m. via Blackboard Collaborate and can be accessed through this link: https://tinyurl.com/mechatronics-rcc. The program offers an associate of applied science degree, in which students complete 72 credit hours, as well as a 15-credit hour certificate.
“Our goal is to increase awareness of our mechatronics program and get the word out as much as possible,” said Heath. “Mechatronics is the fastest-growing field of engineering and the training you need to get a job is available right here at Robeson Community College.”
For more information on the mechatronics engineering technology program, please contact Heath Worriax at firstname.lastname@example.org or (910) 272-3469. Fall 2021 classes in Mechatronics begin August 16.