By Rebecca VanderMeulen, Reading Eagle
What is Mechatronics?
- It combines mechanics, electronics and computer technology. Engineers design robots for use in manufacturing and create computer programs to make them work.
- Many mechatronics jobs are in food and drug packaging. Average annual salaries in the field are $76,000 in the Reading area, according to Indeed.com, a job search Web site.Students interested in robot design now can start their training at Reading Area Community College and finish up at Purdue University.
A recent agreement between the schools allows students to obtain an associate degree in mechatronics at RACC and then use those credits toward a bachelor’s degree from Purdue.
Mechatronics combines mechanics, electronics and computer technology. Basically, it involves designing robots for use in manufacturing and making them work, said Louis J. Nawrocki, a RACC lab instructor.
Such equipment is used heavily in the food and pharmaceutical packaging industries.
Officials said the agreement is the first in the nation allowing for a seamless transfer of mechatronics credits from a community college to a four-year school.
RACC and Purdue started mechatronics programs this fall. RACC has about 20 students and Purdue has six. Purdue’s main campus is in West Lafayette, Ind., but the agreement with RACC applies to the university’s Calumet campus in Hammond, Ind., near Chicago.
“I’m interested in getting some good high school students that have good math and science background and understand trigonometry to get into this program and go on to Purdue,” said John M. DeVere, RACC’s dean of work force and economic development.
Equipment used in RACC’s mechatronics program includes conveyor belts and robotic arms that can retrieve parts. Students write computer programs to make the apparatus do different things.
If they go on to pursue a bachelor’s degree, they’ll learn how to design the machines. Purdue professor Jim Higley said the collaboration with RACC makes sense because the Chicago and Reading areas are centers in the packaging industry.
“In the Chicago area, there are several dozen companies doing this kind of work,” said Higley, who teaches mechanical engineering technology at Purdue. “We looked around and said, ‘This is the future for our students.’ “