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The first response from most people when they hear that Bay College is going to start a Mechatronics program is basically this, “What the heck is Mechatronics?” Just looking at the word, you might figure out that it is a mixture of mechanical and electronic systems, and this was the original source of the word.
However, as systems became more and more complex, the term has expanded to include computers and system controls.
Mechatronics is present in any automated system, from heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to robotic assembly lines.
One basic example of a mechatronics system is the automatic garage door opener. The heart of the system is a mechanical system of gears or pulleys that is driven by an electric motor to open or close the door. Early systems were hardwired to a pushbutton so basically they were simply a mechanical and electrical system. Later, remote controls were added to allow the door to be opened from inside the vehicle. Modern systems are required to have sensors installed that will prevent the door from closing if an object is in the way. These features added more complicated control systems to the earlier mix of electrical and mechanical systems. The newest feature to be added is control of the door via a cell phone application that literally allows control of the door from anywhere that you have an internet connection. So the modern garage door opener is a mechatronics system that includes electrical, mechanical, control, and computer technologies.
Students in Bay College’s new mechatronics certificate will learn the basic principles and skills to install, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair mechatronic systems. Courses taken will cover the fundamentals of fluid power, basic machine tool operation, electrical motors and their control systems, and programmable logic controllers. Recent grant awards will also allow the students to work on models of a multi-stage assembly line, including building to print, configuring the hardware, and programming the operation.