HANCEVILLE, ALA. – Wallace State Industrial Electronics student Alan Andrews is on the verge of graduation, yet is somewhat jealous incoming students now have the opportunity to learn from the new mechatronics system added to the department last month.
“It’s impressive. I would almost come back and take another course after I graduate just to see how things are going to change and what’s involved with the mechatronics classes using this equipment,” said Andrews, 23.
The new equipment is the result of a partnership between the Cullman Area Career Center and Wallace State’s Industrial Electronics Department. They are cooperatively sharing equipment to better utilize resources and avoid duplication of equipment at the two institutions.
“This is what we’ve always wanted and asked for. This equipment ties all of our concepts together. When this opportunity became available, we had to jump on it. It incorporates everything that we’ve taught in our program into a system that works together. It’s going to be invaluable,” said Joe Hendrix, Wallace State’s Industrial Electronics Instructor. “In a plant everything is tied together, which is mechatronics. We’re hoping this will help our students leave here and not be overwhelmed by something complex when they walk into a plant. It simulates a manufacturing process from start to finish. If we can have skilled production workers that understand not only the troubleshooting and repair, but understand how this stuff works, they are going to be a much better operator.”
Mechatronics is a new approach to product design and development, combining electronics and mechanical engineering components, along with control, computer and telecommunications engineering.
Wallace State’s mechatronics system has nine components, such as the delivering of parts, the installation of parts into the valve body and having a robot add the screws.
Each station on the mechatronics equipment can be pulled apart in order for Hendrix to instruct about certain aspects such as hydraulics or programmable logic controllers (PLC’s).
“Everything included in this piece of equipment has been taught in the past. We’ve just never taught it working together. This allows us to teach it as a systems approach instead of a discreet component. For instance, we had separate courses in areas like PLC’s, sensors, pneumatics and hydraulics. We are still going to teach all of the individual parts, but the interaction of these parts is what you are able to do with this. We are going to do it very early in the program,” Hendrix said.
“This equipment is sending the program to the next level. It’s bringing it to the most current level of industry standards and providing our students with an experience that replicates an assembly line. It gives our students an opportunity to work on all of the systems together or each component individually,” said Jimmy Hodges, Wallace State’s Dean of Applied Technologies.
Andrews believes the new mechatronics equipment is priceless because it lets students see first-hand how each station is complementary of another.
“Some of these areas we learned previously on the computer. This allows you to see things piece by piece and how it communicates and performs with each other. Maybe you need to make adjustments to the cylinders as you go along. This helps you put the pieces together and watch it go down,” Andrews said. “You see machines like this inside an automation plant. I think having this at Wallace State will help the students be even more prepared when they try to find a job. It helps you tie things together easier.”
Hendrix added that representatives from local manufacturing industries like Rehau, Yutaka and Topre have commented the new equipment is like a smaller replica of equipment utilized in their respective plants.
The mechatronics option is one of the latest additions to the Industrial Electronics associate degree program. Graduates from the program will be maintaining, installing and repairing automated systems, including robotics and automation controllers.
“Our graduates will be prepared to be mechatronics technicians. This person will be able to troubleshoot and repair any automated system, whether it involves censors or PLC’s or other components,” Hodges said. “Almost every company has a need for a mechatronics technician.”
Wallace State’s partnership with the Cullman Area Career Center has aided the mechatronics option.
“We have partnered with the Cullman Area Career Center in the past and thought this was another great opportunity. They helped us with this equipment selection and they have pneumatic trainers at their facility that we’ve used here for years. The cross utilization of training equipment is important for both of us,” Hendrix said.
Ray Brauer, a mechatronics instructor at the Cullman Area Career Center, is pleased such a strong rapport has been established between both parties.
“We want the partnership to continue to grow. Joe Hendrix has been a tremendous help through the partnership, sharing equipment, curriculum and material with us,” Brauer said. “The new equipment at Wallace State is like a mini manufacturing line. It allows the student to learn about all of the different components and technologies. It’s just a tremendous piece of equipment.”
Last December, Hendrix spent two weeks in Berlin, Germany, attending the Siemen Mechatronic Systems Certification Program training at the Siemens Technik Akademie. Hendrix hopes to tweak areas of the mechatronics curriculum in order to fulfill what Siemens considers Level 1 and Level 2 certifications. Level 1 is an advanced skilled production worker, and Level 2 is a skilled maintenance worker.
“Through the different levels, if a students’ goal was to be an operator at a production facility, they could come here, take a couple of semesters and become a skilled operator. They are going to learn about electricity, censors, motors, fluid power and PLC’s, among other things. It’s going to make them a much more valuable operator, so they’ll rise to the top when it comes to job selection,” Hendrix said.
For more information about the mechatronics program, contact Hendrix at 256.352.8154.
For more information about Wallace State, visit wallacestate.edu.
Wallace State’s new mechatronics training equipment will allow Industrial Electronics students to learn different concepts all within one system.
Wallace State Community College
P.O. Box 2000, Hanceville, AL 35077
1-866-350-9722 256-352-8443 direct
Visit us online at www.wallacestate.edu
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Wallace State Community College
801 Main Street NW | Hanceville, AL 35077
Office: 256.352.8118 | Cell: 256.339.2519 | Toll Free: 866.350.9722
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