For students of electronics, mechanical courses, and robotics, the Surry Community College course of mechatronics may be the perfect marriage of those divergent interests.
Doug Slate, mechatronics lead instructor at Surry, explained that mechatronics takes the electronics, mechanical and robotics part of advanced manufacturing and teaches students how they tie together.
“Mechatronics students are highly skilled, high-tech trouble shooters. They need to be self-motivated individuals who are inquisitive and want to know how things work and like to work with their hands,” Slate said. “Some mechatronics students are landing jobs with large manufacturing companies in the Piedmont Triad before they even complete their degrees. Companies also want workers who understand predictive maintenance, which is a key focus of mechatronics. The field of study pays well – workers skilled in mechatronics start at an average of $25 per hour.”
Forty-six students are enrolled in the program – 27 at the Dobson campus where it has been taught since fall 2014; and 19 at The Yadkin Center where it’s been available since fall of 2016.
Students have employment opportunities in a wide variety of manufacturing fields, according to the college.
Many companies’ names are displayed on banners in both campus classrooms saying: “Employers Who Value SCC Mechatronics Engineering.” Those companies highlighted are: Advanced Electronic Services, Inc.; Ashley Furniture Industries, Austin Electrical Enclosures, B&G Foods, Inc., CK Technologies, Continental Structural Plastics, Insteel Wire Products, Lydall, Inc., Pittsburgh Glass Works, PVH Corp., RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, Sonoco Display and Packaging, Unifi Manufacturing Inc., United Plastics Corporation, WestRock, and Weyerhaeuser.
Armed with a mechatronics degree and a welding diploma from Surry Community College, C.J. Rice landed a job as an automation technician before he even walked across the stage to graduate. Rice graduated on May 14 and then began working at Ashley Furniture in Advance nine days later.
“It’s fun and challenging. I like to troubleshoot and make processes work correctly. I like seeing the behind-the-scenes view of how things work,” Rice said about his time spent in the mechatronics classroom at Surry. “We had simulations with PLC class. It was really cool. I enjoyed it.”
Through the mechatronics classes, students work with thermal imaging and ultrasound guns and learn how these devices help technicians troubleshoot and prevent maintenance problems. They also learn how to program Programmable Logic Controls, or PLCs, which make different processes run such as assembly machine controls, conveyor systems, and sorting processes. Students also operated multi-meters to test electrical circuits.
This curriculum prepares students to use basic engineering principles and technical skills in developing and testing automated, servomechanical, robotic, and other electromechanical systems. The program includes instruction in prototype testing, manufacturing and operational testing, systems analysis and maintenance procedures.
Slate sees a growing demand for people skilled in ,echatronics. He says transportation costs for goods along with the increasing pay in China are two obstacles for American companies to go overseas to manufacture products, so jobs are coming back to the U.S.
Mechatronics Engineering Technology graduates will be qualified for employment in industrial maintenance and manufacturing including assembly, testing, startup, troubleshooting, repair, process improvement, and control systems, and be able to sit for the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI) mechatronics or similar industry examinations.
Mechatronics students at the Dobson campus are: Matt Payne, Benjamin Robertson, William Davis, Katie Guynn, Juan Lopez, Landon Holmes, Cameron Southern, Keith Jarrell, Alex Golaszewski and Matthew Sechrist of Mount Airy; Caleb Holder and Elliot Smith of Ararat; Ryan Whelan, Alexander Wilmoth, Winston Poplin and John Marshall of Elkin; Trevor Wall of Jonesville; Jarrett Slate of Westfield; Jordan Wagoner of Jonesville; Carl Hedrick of Statesville; Izzy Nunn of Pinnacle; Austin Stone of Roaring River; Anthony Love of Ararat, Va.; and Wesley Wood and Alejandro Flores of Dobson.
Mechatronics students at The Yadkin Center are: Jared Collins, Brice Merritt, Davis Crater, Jesus Fuentes, Jeffery Gammons, Kevin Hernandez, Salamon Maya, Alan Nieto, Andrew Overby, Andrew Robertson, Ezequiel Rojas and Dalton Sizemore of Yadkinville; Bryant Gibson of Rural Hall; Seger Mounce of Elkin; Steven Munoz, Frederick Neise and Damon Gibbons of East Bend; Cody Reavis of Boonville; and Angel Romero and Timothy Scott of Hamptonville.
High school juniors and seniors benefit by being able to take mechatronics classes – tuition-free – through the Career & College Promise at the both the Dobson and Yadkinville locations. Fall registration for all students is April 3 through Aug. 1.
Anyone with questions can contact Doug Slate at (336) 386-3302 or [email protected]