Guest Writer

Mechatronics Engineering Technology prepares students for diverse careers in high-speed packaging

BY DAVID MCLEES
Technology Administrator, School of Technology

Adapting to the growing need for trained engineering technologists within the high-speed packaging industry is the emphasis of the Purdue Calumet bachelor’s degree program in Mechatronics Engineering Technology. The program combines mechanical design, manufacturing and electrical control within a foundational context of packaging machinery.

Automation Equipment inside the Nick and Nancy Wilson Mechatronics Engineering Technology Lab.
Automation Equipment inside the Nick and Nancy Wilson Mechatronics Engineering Technology Lab.

“This program prepares students for careers as machine designers, packaging engineers, automation specialists and service technicians among others, in the field of high-speed packaging,” Purdue Calumet Professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology James Higley said. “Students will gain a broad electrical and mechanical background in preparation for outstanding careers designing, installing and troubleshooting the complex equipment that produces and packages items consumers purchase daily.”

Future employees add value in two areas

Most manufacturing companies – particularly packaging machine companies – need people who have expertise in mechanical and electronics technology, added Masoud Fathizadeh, associate professor of electrical engineering technology. “But rather than hire two individuals, they would like to have someone who has competency in both areas, because that’s what they need for machine development.”

Automation Equipment inside the Nick and Nancy Wilson Mechatronics Engineering Technology Lab.
Automation Equipment inside the Nick and Nancy Wilson Mechatronics Engineering Technology Lab.

A critical component of the program has been the development of three Mechatronics Engineering Technology laboratories. Industry partners have been very supportive of this program. Sixteen industrial corporate partners have contributed nearly $700,000 in equipment to support these labs. The department is extremely appreciative of these equipment gifts—which range from entire packaging systems to individual components and software, according to Niaz Latif, dean of the School of Technology.

Program graduates are a new breed

Corporate sponsors say they believe the degree program will create a breed of graduates with more practical engineering knowledge. “They will come out with an understanding of production, manufacturing and development of control schemes,”  said  Imran Ishaq, senior manager for technical support centers at Mitsubishi Electric Automation, Inc.

Students shine at competitions

(left to right) Rick Rickerson, faculty advisor, Gautam Agarwal, George Dalka and Kenny Beckett
Purdue Calumet’s First Place Team from the inaugural Student Design Contest held at PACK Expo. The team consisted of (left to right) Rick Rickerson, faculty advisor, Gautam Agarwal, George Dalka and Kenny Beckett.

This outstanding level of industry support and dedication of the faculty involved is having a direct impact on the students in the program. A three-student mechatronics team from Purdue Calumet received the top prize in the inaugural Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI) Student Design Contest at Pack Expo in Las Vegas. The team put on a solid performance in front of industry leaders. All team members felt that the knowledge learned and the experience of seeing their future careers in front of them was very rewarding. For three consecutive years, a School of Technology student team was among the top three winners of the national design collegiate competition at the PMMI annual trade show.

Purdue Calumet’s Mechatronics Engineering Technology program has 29 students. The program is entering its fifth year and the first two graduates are successfully working in the mechatronics field.  George Dalka received his degree in Spring 2011 and is employed at Electro-Motive Diesel.  Harmanjit Singh graduated last fall and was hired at Ford Motor Company