Mechatronics /Automation Education on the move in Florida and Around the Country


The spring and summer of 2017 have been full of “mechatronics” activities for FLATE and our partners not only in Florida, but also across the country.  July was a highlight with a 5-day workshop for high school teachers hosted by Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) which is one of the co-PIs of the CollaborATE, NSF ATE project awarded to the College of Lake County, IL in 2016. This incredible grant project has developed the first stage of a “low-cost” mechatronics trainer (under $1,000) intended for high school manufacturing, mechatronics, automation programs.  The three partner colleges (College of Lake County (CLC), Ann Arundel Community College (AACC) and (FSCJ) are implementing associate degree programs in mechatronics, by enhancing and updating existing electrical, mechanical and/or electromechanical programs to include the now ubiquitous communication systems that have become integral to all automated systems.

In addition to upgrading the degree programs at the three colleges, the project PI’s are working with their local high schools to develop articulated pathways and/or duel enrollment programs.  To support the high school programs involved (3-5 per college), the grant team will complete the development of the high school mechatronic trainers in three stages. Each summer during the grant, the partner high school teachers are traveling to FSCJ for an the intensive 5-day workshop taught by Tim Callahan, mechatronics instructor at AACC.  This summer the workshop focused on wiring and programing programmable logic controllers (PLCs).  The next two years will have the same high school teacher return to continue the training adding more complicated subsystems that include motors, mechanical, pneumatic and hydraulic components.

The 11 high school attendees rated the “Southern Working Connections” as excellent and could not wait to get access to the first stage of the trainer that they worked with this summer. The trainers will be loaned to the teachers from grant colleges so teachers can continue to work with them during the coming school year and use them with their students. All of this year’s participants are expected to return the next two summers to continue to learn more advanced applications.  Margie Porter, CLC CollaborATE PI, was very excited about how very engaged the teachers were in their work and how excited the teachers were to have focused time with hands-on learning in mechatronics. She says “they are hungry to learn and eager to have access to equipment.  We are hopeful that this intensive strategy will help build enrollment in both high school and college programs.” FLATE participated in the workshop, mentoring the teachers in their work and making lunchtime presentation on various resources, recruiting females, and industry credentials. For more information about the Mechatronics Community in Florida, contact Dr. Barger (


The week before the Mechatronics Southern (SWC) Working Connection in Jacksonville, FLATE hosted half-day Mechatronics workshop at the HI-TEC Conference in Salt Lake City. Partnering with Dan Horine from Virginia Western Community College and the NSF ATE PACE-ME grant and Doug Laven from the South Central College (MN) and the NSF ATE iMEC grant project to present the workshop.  These two experienced mechatronics educators led the eighteen attendees through wiring, troubleshooting, programing basic commands to solve fundamental problems. Wiring the hardware allowed participants to trace the communication flow through the system.

The growing need for mechatronics and automation technicians across the country and in an array of industry sectors including manufacturing, supply chain, energy, utilities, aviation and aerospace, chemical processing, continues to attract students into these high skill, high wage careers. This was the third year this team presented a PLC focused mechatronics workshop at HI-TEC. With one, or two persons per trainer, this workshop “turned theory into reality” said one attendee.


FLATE also hosted a panel about Mechatronics Industry credentials.  Over 80 attendees crowded into the breakout session room to hear representatives from Siemens, PMMI and NIMS present the basics of their mechatronics-related credentials, how each are administered, , how schools can get involved, curriculum and costs, and program alignment. The presentations stimulated a large number of questions from the audience and a lively discussion closed the session. Presentations from the speakers are posted at: (select FLATE presentations, 2017).


Also at the HI-TEC conference, FLATE hosted its 5th annual “Mechatronics Moments” reception with about 40 mechatronics-minded attendees.  The casual networking event provides attendees an opportunity to share information about their program in an “open mic” / “karaoke” style session.  This year’s theme was “student projects”. About 15 educators shared a project idea and outcomes. The famous FLATE audience “applausometer” helped determine the best project of the evening.  The winner walked away with a modest gift certificate.


FLATE, the CollaborATE, PACE-ME and iMEC projects, Mechatronics program at Gateway Technical College have partnered to support a monthly online gathering /call for mechatronics educators called the Mechatronics Community Exchange” (MCE).  The group meets once a month during the academic year on a Friday afternoon from 3-4 pm.  Monthly session topics are identified by the attendees and have included FabLab integration with mechatronics; student recruitment; industry credentials, various mechatronics components/equipment; laboratory “setup”; student projects, etc. The schedule for this fall is 3-4 pm on Fridays: September 29th, October 27th, and December 8th.  Contact Dr. Barger at if you are interested in joining this conversation or visit the MCE Website.

FLATE recently partnered with Quanser (, supplier of mechatronics and engineering education laboratory and research equipment, to add 2-year mechatronics program information to their new online Mechatronics Education Forum. Educators can join the forum to find and post mechatronics events, programs of study, projects, and discussions about issues related to mechatronics education.  Special sections for the 2-year programs will be available on the forum later this fall.

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