Intersecting courses come together as BSC builds mechatronics program | Bismarck State College

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Intersecting courses come together as BSC builds mechatronics program

Posted: Nov 18 2020
Intersecting courses come together as BSC builds mechatronics program
Mechatronics: mech·a·tron·ics/ A multidisciplinary field integrating control systems, electronic systems, mechanical systems, and computers into a unified discipline that focuses on the engineering of both electrical and mechanical systems, as well as robotics, electronics, computer, telecommunications, systems, control, and product engineering.

Entry level salaries for mechatronics engineers: $48,000-$68,000 (ZipRecruiter.com)

It’s an interconnected world – complex and comprised of dynamic and interacting systems and people. The same can be said for the direction BSC is taking its technical programs.

Reynold Miller, Associate Professor, NECE, leads BSC’s Energy Services and Renewable Technician (ESRE) program. He’s also a key player in BSC’s move into mechatronics – the first of the new integrated polytechnic programs BSC is developing. Thanks to the courses already part of ESRE, Miller says the first cohort of ESRE/mechatronics students can begin in Fall 2021. “We already have the two-year technician program plotted out, and we will be building out the third and fourth year in the coming months.”

Mechatronics is an intersection of mechanical, electrical, computer and software skills preparing students to work with robots, guided systems and manufacturing programs. Nearly all the elements of a mechatronics curriculum already exist at BSC – it’s just a matter of bringing them together to create something new. ESRE courses like Automation and Control; Analog Systems, Hydraulic Fundamentals, and Applications and Troubleshooting will be part of a curriculum that also includes existing BSC electronics classes, cybersecurity courses and CAD programs taught in Engineering Tech.   

Together, this intersection of programs and classes will teach students networking, smart systems and how to integrate new technology and automation into existing systems. The classes will “feed into other tech courses and train students who will be ready for the rapid advances in technology in industry 4.0 leading right into industry 5.0,” Miller says.

Students in BSC’s mechatronics program will combine online and in person delivery with lectures and quizzes online. Moving forward, Miller is working with BSC’s Curriculum Development Center to incorporate augmented and virtual reality simulators to the labs offered. “This may lead to third- or fourth-year courses dealing with creating and programming AR and VR environments,” Miller says.

Mechatronics professionals assist in the design of robotic and intelligent equipment, develop products and build protypes, manage electrical and mechanical systems, test equipment and develop projects ranging from ATMs to large manufacturing plants. This kind of work requires people trained as robotic technicians and programmers; and people who understand mechanical drive systems, electronic and analog sensors and programmable controllers. All skills that will be taught in BSC’s mechatronics program.

BSC mechatronics graduates will serve automated physical distribution and storage facilities, process technologies, manufacturing, and other advanced technology-based industries. In North Dakota they’ll find roles in food processing (think Baker Boy in Dickinson and Cloverdale in Mandan), or be able to support logistic systems in large plants such as the new Amazon processing center in Fargo or the Simplot plant in East Grand Forks where potatoes are processed into French fries in an oxygen-free facility and distributed worldwide.

According to Alicia Uhde, BSC Polytechnic Program Outreach Director, through research and industry dialog, BSC has found more than 1,300 current job openings related to mechatronics in the region. 

“Manufacturing and construction companies are very vocal on their continued needs for ‘multi-skilled maintenance workers’ now and in the future. As we develop our program into a BAS our graduates will be ready to install, maintain and repair modern technology thanks to a diverse set of skills in electrical, mechanical, automation, coding, fabrication, hydraulic/pneumatic, and other process skills along with critical thinking, troubleshooting and complex problem solving. Few colleges can provide the technical and the soft skills that can advance this industry. BSC can and we are excited move our program forward,” Uhde said.

BSC has applied for a National Science Foundation grant help develop the mechatronics program adding certificates, two and four-year degrees.

“I am very excited about what we can build here at Bismarck State College,” Miller says.

For more information about BSC’s polytechnic programs, contact Alicia Uhde, Polytechnic Program Outreach Director or visit bismarckstate.edu/polytechnic.