Partnering with Carnegie Mellon University and Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU Poly), this project creates a product design/mechatronics technology center (MTC) that will provide hands on training in emerging mechatronics product design. Technician education must be aligned with industry practice in order to maintain global competitiveness in the new and growing field of mechatronic product design and development. The MTC provides students a framework of fundamental design knowledge with hands on cross disciplinary activities that allow them to develop an interdisciplinary understanding and integrated approach to product design. This project engages and prepares students by adapting the well established Robotics Academy of Carnegie Mellon University curriculum and teaches the various aspects of mechatronic product design with embedded systems using a concurrent engineering approach.
More than 360 post secondary students are to be educated in concurrent design through three programs: mechanical engineering, electro-mechanical engineering, and industrial design. Fifteen faculty members undergo extensive professional development in robotics curriculum development that incorporates elements of the CMU Robotics Academy. The project also provides robotic training for 300 high school students and fifteen teachers at the partnering schools through summer, certificate and after school programs. The robotics laboratory housed in the MTC builds on technology adopted by FIRST Robotics because of its open architecture and the use of the LabVIEW programming language. City Tech students who have been taught with FIRST technology serve as mentors to local high school students. MTC also works with the Division of Continuing Education at City Tech to create a certificate program in mechatronics/robotic technology for incumbent workers and high school technology teachers. The project articulates with four year programs in Computer Engineering Technology, industrial design technology, and career and technology education at City Tech and other institutions. In addition, NYU Poly extends opportunities for qualified graduates of the program to pursue baccalaureate engineering degrees. By leveraging strong industry partnerships, this project expands internship opportunities for participating students.
The hands-on mechatronic design projects have opened up a new frontier for the students to engage in mechatronic technology activities and through which to develop new ideas and new devices/products while in school. More and more students from many different engineering technology and science fields were eager to participate in the hands-on mechatronics design activities. Many students won prices in numerous college level mechatronic design competitions using the work of mechatronic design projects. The multidisciplinary nature of mechatronic product design helped students to realize the importance of interdepartmental collaboration and teamwork for creating any new product or device. Since the engineering design activities are experientially based, it takes time for students to acquire the knowledge and skills for them to achieve the level of maturity in the design/development fields. If the students can be exposed to hands-on mechatronics technology/robotic technology when they were in middle schools, these hands-on engaging mechatronic/robotic design activities will give students more incentives to learn STEM and relate the STEM knowledge to the mechatronic engineering design activities. It will also give the students more time to accumulate the needed knowledge and experience and give them confidence and clear goals on what major to pursue when study in colleges and universities. There is no short cut in learning technology. It took numerous semesters for the college students to experience different aspects of mechatronics technology to reach a level so that they can work independently. Hands-on design activities helped students to learn what worked and what did not and gave students much better perspectives on understand the nature of product design and development. While creating mechatronic projects and design activities and incorporating them into the existing courses in the mechanical engineering technology and computer engineering technology departments, the faculty members realized the limitations of existing courses that lacked certain aspects of scaffolding elements that students needed to be exposed earlier in order for them to finish their design projects successfully and smoothly. Since the mechatronic technology reflects the cutting–edge technology in the product research, design, and development fields, there are so many things for the students to explore and to experience. To address the important issues of proper scaffolding, in fall 2014, faculty members in the computer engineering technology proposed three new courses designed to address the needs for its students to be exposed to Microcontroller Technology, C/C++ Programming for Embedded Systems, and Computer Networks. At the same time, faculty members in the mechanical engineering technology proposed four new courses in Embedded Systems Fundamentals in Mechatronics, Sensors and Actuators in Mechatronics, Mechatronics Systems Control, and Mechatronics Systems Design and Applications. These four new courses are designed to give the mechanical engineering technology and industrial design technology students needed background and knowledge for them to engage in mechatronic technology research and design, and give them tools and insights in creating new innovated products. Faculty members from electrical and telecommunication technology have also created a course in mechatronics to address its students needs for incorporating mechatronics into its curriculum. Overall, over 450 college students and over 500 high school and middle school students were exposed to the mechatronic technology through various hands-on design activities, summer classes, and weekend workshops. Once the new courses proposed by various engineering technology departments are implemented, we believe it will tremendously increase our studentsâ€™ ability to engage in state-of-the-art mechatronics design and research activities, collaborate in a more professional and efficient ways, and create more winning entries for various engineering design competitions and create new innovated useful products for consumers. It will attract more students to study STEM related fields and allow the college students armed with state-of-the-art mechatronics technology knowledge and skills to better serve as mentors to middle school and high schools students in various extracurricular engineering activities.