Labor Dept. Gives $1.75 Million for Mechatronics Grant will fund new 2-year degree program and high school curriculum to supply workers to automation industry.
To help Utah's technology sector meet demands of changing workforce needs,
Utah Valley University
has received a $1.75 million grant from the
U.S. Department of Labor
to apply towards mechatronics education.
"We wanted to start this to stimulate more interdisciplinary growth," says George Stokes, assistant dean of UVU's school of technology and computing. "There is no workforce available to local manufacturers who are all automating."
in the Mountainland region, UVU is a regional university that serves 4,000 full-time students and close to 12,000 part-time students.
The grant is part of the
U.S. Department of Labor's, President's Community-Based Job Training Grants Initiatives
, a grant program funding initiative to prepare students in career and technical education programs for careers in high-growth industries. Nearly $125 million was given to select community colleges last month. Of the 341 institutions that applied for the grant, only 69 community colleges were selected, including the mechatronics program at UVU.
Utah has designated
as a key industry to focus economic development efforts, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's website. UVU's Mechatronics Degree is the first program of its kind in Utah.
According to Stokes, the three-year grant allows money for a new associate of applied science degree in mechatronics engineering at UVU. The goal is to educate and train mechatronics technicians. He says that with the increase in automating, there has been little workforce who understands all the functions of a mechatronic system.
The grant will also fund a new computer integrated manufacturing lab, a web assisted mechatronics learning tool, more than 60 scholarships worth $4,000 each and a program for implementing mechatronics into 20 local high school curriculums.
The two year program at UVU will include control and embedded systems programming, along with courses in electronic components, sensor control, digital design and computer architecture.
"Our goal is for students to teach students how to put mechanical sensors and control technology together through programming systems to create a mechatronic system," says Stokes. "We truly want to be training across the spectrum."
Stokes says that the grant will also help the university cultivate a strong interest in mechatronics, an area that has been overlooked, not only in Utah, but in the U.S.
"The U.S. has some mechatronics Master's degree programs, but in the workforce we have neglected mechatronics," says Stokes. "We haven't paid attention to the multi-disciplinary approach."
He says technicians are needed to fix the small part of the large automated system.
"They need to understand the breadth of the whole machine and process," he says. "An engineering technology degree can be the heart and soul of a small company."
IM Flash Technologies LLC
a 300 mm semiconductor manufacturing company located in nearby Lehi, Utah is an automated manufacturing facility that seeks out employees at UVU. They are a partner of UVU and last month, the
, through IM Flash Technologies, LLC donated $20,000 to UVU in scholarships to the new mechatronics associate of applied sciences degree program, says Stokes.
A starting technician with a two-year degree can earn around $40,000 says Stokes.
He says he hopes it is an incentive to incoming students. Over the duration of the grant he hopes to graduate 100 students. In efforts to get area students interested in mechatronics and educate them about this developing career area, part of the grant goes toward implementing mechatronics education into local high school science courses.
As part of the grant, 20 high schools in the region will be given
Lego MINDSTORMS NXT Kits
Capsela gears and motors,
an electronics kit and erector sets, along with a
NXT Intelligent Lego Brick
, used as the controller, Stokes says.
The goal is to get students interested in learning about interdisciplinary engineering in a fun way by creating small mechatronic gadgets.
"I think if they're having fun and learning is fun, then we'll have a better response to the introduction of mechatronics," says Stokes.
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