In 1969, the term “mechatronics” was introduced for the first time in Japan. The term, itself, means the integration of mechanics and electronics. Now this new discipline is understood across Europe and is generally recognized by engineering professionals in the United States.
As of 2006, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) recognizes 42 undergraduate mechatronics engineering programs around the world.
David Mott, chair of engineering technology at Lone Star College- North Harris, said employment projections indicate a need for electro-mechanical technicians in the Greater Houston and around the state. “Projections indicate an average of 40 job openings for mechatronics technicians in Harris and Montgomery counties,” he said, “and local manufacturing companies surveyed during our focus group meeting expressed an immediate need for workers.
“These workers would need fundamental training in control systems, robotics, mechanical, electronics, computers, welding and advanced manufacturing as well as industrial maintenance,” he pointed out. “Our advisory council members have told us current technology makes it necessary to hire technicians who are generalists–who have skills in several areas–which has led to the term “mechatronics” to describe these positions.”
Beginning in August with the fall 2009 semester, LSC-North Harris will offer two credit certificate programs in the field of mechatronics. Credit Certificate I will include 32 credit hours of study. Credit Certificate II offers 51 credit hours of training.
“Basically, these two programs will train professionals to repair manufacturing equipment and drilling products that incorporate electro-mechanical, hydraulics and pneumatics technology,” Mott said. “Because industrial applications are increasingly multidisciplinary, today’s technicians need skills to analyze, isolate and resolve problems across a variety of disciplines. Our Mechatronics Credit Certificate programs will combine various disciplines to teach students a holistic approach to isolating the problem, analyzing it and finding solutions. Then, they may have a repair team available or they contract repair people.”
Students in the program will also learn fundamentals of mechanical, electrical, control systems and their integration. They’ll also learn strong team skills to solve problems that cross into various disciplines.
According to findings from the LSC-North Harris Mechatronics Advisory Council, most existing job categories currently or will soon require mechatronics skills, particularly among workers who work with a wide array of equipment. Companies, particularly in Texas, also will be recruiting bilingual mechatronics technicians and team leaders with mechatronics training.
Mechatronics does not map any particular trade or job category, Mott emphasized. “Rather, it covers many different skills that can be applied in a variety of jobs. Skills incorporated into mechatronics technician training include integration of electrical systems, fluid power, electronics, computer controls, instrumentation, robotics, and information technology.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for electro-mechanical technicians is in the range of $48,120 a year, based on 2007 wage and earnings reports. “A technician with mechatronics training in the North Harris-Montgomery county area will be able to find employment in modern advanced manufacturing companies, working as a trouble-shooter for an assembly line or large manufacturing machinery. Field service technicians would apply many of the same skills, working in the energy industry.”
Mott said the program is allied with a number of large companies in the Houston area who hire their students.
Typically, mechatronics technicians are involved in robotics, automated manufacturing and packaging, automobiles, airplanes, gas pumps, vending, gaming, ATM machines, heating and cooling systems, renewable energy systems.
“The best people to train in mechatronics are those who are enthusiastic and energetic, enjoy a challenge, problem-solving and enjoys working with equipment,” Mott said. “These are people who have good kinetic skills and are good with their hands. In a perfect world, I would love to see someone with an electrical background, mechanical experience and loves to work on old cars!”
Mott went on to say, “We are aware of no other programs in mechatronics in the Gulf Coast region. The only other opportunity for training in this area is currently being offered at Texas State Technical College in Harlingen, so we see this is a great opportunity for interested individuals in the Houston area.
Lone Star College-North Harris is located at 2700 W.W. Thorne Drive, one-half mile south of FM 1960 East, between Aldine-Westfield and Hardy Roads. For more information about the college, call 281.618.5400 or visit: NorthHarris.LoneStar.edu.
Lone Star College System consists of five colleges, including CyFair, Kingwood, Montgomery, North Harris, and Tomball, six centers and Lone Star College-University Center. It is the largest college system in the Houston area, and third largest community college district in Texas. To learn more, visit LoneStar.edu.
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Lone Star College-North Harris
2700 W.W. Thorne Drive
Houston, TX 77073