A group meeting was conducted on Aug. 16 to review the status of Mechatronics and Robotics at Motlow State Community College (Motlow) in McMinnville. In attendance were Larry Flatt (ARTC Director), Walter McCord (Dean of Career Readiness) and Todd Herzog (BRAC Chair). Mechatronics began at Motlow-McMinnville in January 2010 and steadily progressed thereafter. We were the first in Tennessee to have Mechatronics – a combination of computer technology, electronics, mechanical devices, and pneumatics & hydraulics usually in a system. An associate’s degree in Mechatronics began being offered in August 2012. The advanced robotics center was an outgrowth of industry meeting monthly for over a year and a half at Yorozu Automotive. A finely tuned strategy was put together that led to the Robotics Center we have today. It is the only one in the state of Tennessee.
Mechatronics and advanced robotics both involve “hands-on” training. The COVID pandemic of 2020 and 2021 caused a drop in the number of students in both areas. For the fall 2022 semester, there are 121 students registered for Mechatronics. This is broken down as follows:
• 54 Level One students
• 57 Level Two students (Associate’s Degree)
• 39 Motlow-Smyrna campus
• 38 Motlow-McMinnville campus (22 in Level Two & 16 in Level One)
• 18 Motlow-Fayetteville
• 19 Oakland High School (Murfreesboro)
• 11 Warren County High School
• 3 MTSU – Level Three
• 3 TSU
There are six full-time Mechatronics instructors and 4 adjunct instructors. Of these, four full time instructors are based in McMinnville, one in Fayetteville, and one in Smyrna. There is a 92% placement rate for Mechatronic graduates. These graduates continue to be in high demand by area industry.
Two Mechatronic trainers were recently installed at Fayetteville with two more on back order. Two new Motoman robots were purchased for the robotics lab at Warren County High School. There are also three new Motoman robots in place at the Automation & Robotics Training Center (ARTC). Most of the Mechatronic instructors have been trained on PLC automation as well as SolidWorks CAD.
The ARTC robotics instructor has now been certified to do the training classes for Fanuc Robots – programming & vision as well as nine different courses with Motoman.
The ARTC expects to train 100 people from industry this year. Training started to pick back up again about nine months ago. The new Hampton Inn has been a huge plus.
A major building addition is being planned for the ARTC. In the final design phase is a new 7,000-square-foot building to house Mechatronics and Cyber Security. Planned for a spring 2023 start, there will be 3 labs and 3 class rooms. The new building will be attached to the current ARTC. It will be funded by Motlow. Classes are planned to start in the spring semester 2024. The expansion will be a milestone event for Motlow and Warren County.
Walter McCord was appointed Dean of Career Readiness & Technology on Dec. 13, 2021, replacing the late Fred Rascoe. Walter holds an undergraduate degree in Information Technology from MTSU as well as a MBA degree. Walter was a director with a multi-state consulting company for 11 years dealing with IT. Walter also was an instructor with TCAT in Shelbyville. More recently Walter has served as a cyber security educator. Walter is based at Motlow-Lynchburg.
Motlow and BRAC will collaborate on a Mechatronics students meeting on October 13th at the Robotics Center. The purpose of this meeting is to showcase Mechatronic students – their skills and hiring desirability. More information will be available soon.