NSF-1003668 Project Overview

The proposed three year project aims to close the knowledge and skills gap through development of multidisciplinary educational materials/modules to improve students’ understanding of basic principles of Mechatronics Engineering Technology at the technician level. This project will engage students in real world technological problems and improve their understanding of modern interdisciplinary workplace and global technological challenges.

This initiative is through a triadic partnership among two year colleges in Illinois and Indiana, major industries, and a four year college. The partners are: College of DuPage (COD), Ivy Tech Community College (Ivy Tech), industry in both Illinois and Indiana, and Purdue University Calumet (PUC).

This project will generate interest among potential students in a strong interdisciplinary Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) related employment area. The three goals of the project are:

  1. Augmentation and modularization of courses to serve the changing needs of educational and industrial partners as well as other constituents. Modular offering allows certification at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels in Mechatronics that meets industry workforce needs while it facilitates receiving an associate degree,
  2. Incorporation of innovative delivery of lecture and laboratory materials to accommodate a flexible schedule, and
  3. Integration of experiential learning.

This project has the industry support and commitment to provide experiential learning. The packaging industry alone has committed 75 internships for the duration of the project. The project also has the support and commitment of participating institutions at the highest level.

The modules are mapped to existing courses in the Associate degree plan of studies at all participating institutions. This will allow students (both traditional and non-traditional) who complete the modules to receive course(s) credits towards associate level degrees at COD, Ivy Tech, and PUC. A yearly assessment will include;

  1. assessment of instructional materials, its objectives and outcomes,
  2. assessment of students’ learning,
  3. assessment of instructional delivery, and
  4. assessment of experiential learning including internship.

Intellectual Merit:

The proposed project addresses knowledge and skills gap identified by relevant industry and promotes understanding of multi-disciplinary field of Mechatronics technology. The faculty members involved in this project have extensive teaching and applied research experience, as well as industrial experience. Faculty have also developed partnership with industry professionals that would augment successful development and delivery of the proposed project.

Resources will come from all partnering institutions and industries. Additionally, resources are being requested from National Science Foundation through this proposal. Innovative aspects of this multidisciplinary modular curriculum are its flexibility and adaptability to:

  1. Meet student learning needs based on their diverse educational background,
  2. Provide multiple delivery options,
  3. Complete modules (rather than courses) to receive credit or certificate(s), and
  4. Provide seamless transition among partnering institutions in their respective degree programs

Broader Impact:

One of the focus areas of this project is to target the underrepresented populations (Hispanics, Asian, and African American) of Northwest Indiana and greater Chicago area. Currently, 33% of PUC students are in this group. Also, 57% of student populations at PUC are female. Enrollment at the College of DuPage consists of 32% underrepresented population with 55% of total enrollment is Female. Ivy Tech Community College has 59% female students and 34% of Hispanics and African American. Additionally, 54% of Ivy Tech State College (Northwest Indiana Region) students receive Pell Grants that mirrors the poverty of the area.

The project involves employers in both Northwest Indiana and the Greater Chicago area. However, the impact of this project will be much broader due to the participation of a national association that represents the packaging machinery manufacturers. Since the project also involves hands on techniques, internship in industry, and other forms of experiential learning, it will be attractive to a large number of students while promoting learning through innovative delivery and partnership.

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