The Engineering Technology Degree: Expanding its frontiers beyond the sunshine state

FLATE-created Engineering Technology (ET) degree has struck a positive chord and gained additional ground within the engineering and technical education community. The ET degree curriculum frameworks was duplicated/modeled as part of the TechReadySC™ program in Fall 2008, and is currently being offered as part of a common curriculum by a consortium of colleges (Spartanburg Community College, Greenville, Piedmont, Tri-County and York Technical colleges) in upstate South Carolina. The new program combines elements of electronics, pneumatics, hydraulics, mechanics, information technology, computers and robotics.

David Just, vice president of corporate and community education at SCC said they adopted the FLATE-created engineering technology degree model with the MSSC skill standards embedded into its curriculum framework. “We looked at your program/curriculum model, and basically duplicated that. We’re using Amatrol and ToolingU as the web-based component to deliver the MSSC program."

About TechReadySC
The TechReadySCTM program is currently offering two certificates under the program umbrella. One is a basic Mechatronics Technology I Certificate that gives current high school students and/or recent high school graduates an opportunity to enroll under a dual enrollment program. The second is an Advanced Mechatronics Technology II Certificate for incumbent workers who already have experience in a manufacturing environment.

Similarities with the ET Degree
Similar to the FLATE-created ET Degree program, students in these certificate programs can earn up to 9 credits that can be applied towards an Associate degree in mechatronics. When these certificates are coupled with other related classes, a student can receive an Associate Degree in Occupational Technology with a major in Mechatronics Technology. The entire program is made up of 70 credits. Level I comprises of a total of 31 credits; while Level II comprises of a total of 26 credits.

Another similarity between the FLATE-created ET degree and the Mechatronics program is the use of a common curriculum and use of same equipment in each of the five colleges. Students can transfer credits between all five colleges without any problems, at the same time use similar equipment so that “a student in Greenville Tech is going to have the same kind of instruction, lab experience at another college”.

In keeping with the ET degree’s emphasis on industry alignment and the embedding of the MSSC skill standards as part of the ET degree frameworks, the mechatronics program is projected to be offered under the dislocated worker programs as part of the economic stimulus program. To get the ball rolling, the consortium has established a partnership with BMW—a major manufacturer in the area—to offer training/certification of their current employees in the supply/manufacturing chain. “We have about 1900 job opportunities coming to the area and we’ve gotten all the suppliers and manufacturers to agree that if a person earns that Production Technician certification they will at least be guaranteed a job interview”. Indeed it has been a “really good selling point” and is an avenue for area manufacturers to improve the skill set of their production workers. “That’s the whole part that we saw down in FLATE and we wanted to duplicate a way of creating a feeder system into this mechatronics program” Just added.

Crunching the numbers
The program made its debut in Fall 2008 as a “General Technology” degree, and is currently in the process of being approved as a stand-alone A.A.S degree. Since its inception the program has experienced significant growth. To put the numbers into perspective, there were approximately 130 students enrolled in the old industrial maintenance program last spring. Since the transition/reformatting to the new program, that number rose to 160 students in the Fall, and to 271 this spring which is more than double within a period of one year. To that effect Just added “Once we get the MSSC certification in place at the other career centers this coming Fall, that’s going to create a better link and a better feeder system than what we have right here. I’m certain there is going to be added interest”.

For more information about the Mechatronics program at Spartanburg Community College please contact David Just at JustD@sccsc.edu/ 864.592.4805, or visit www.techreadysc.com. For information on the ET degree created by FLATE, please contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org/813.259.6578, or visit www.madeinflorida.org/ ET_Degree.