Field trips are fun at any age.
Members of the county’s Budget and Finance Committee took a field trip to Motlow State Community College in McMinnville on Monday to review its Mechatronics program. Offering the tour was Fred Rascoe, Department of Career Readiness director.
“One of the philosophies we have is teaching students the basic physics and the basic math and the basic engineering,” Rascoe said. “Then, we take it to the training and show them how it actually works. We show them the real stuff. Then, we go back to the classroom and study. More importantly, we learn how things don’t work so we can change it or repair it.”
Motow offers two levels of Mechatronics training – Level One, which is a basic level certification to be a maintenance technician, and Level Two, which is a two-year technology degree to be an engineering technician. Motlow students can then transfer to MTSU for Level Three training and obtain an engineering degree.
Students can stop at any level.
“A student can come in and they can decide when they want to exit,” Rascoe said. “They can come in and take basic certification and exit as a maintenance technician, or they can do two years and exit as an engineering tech, or they can go on to Level Three for a four-year degree and exit as an engineer. They can go as far as they want and everything they study adds to the next level, so they don’t lose anything.”
Warren County was the first county in Tennessee and the fourth program in the U.S. to offer Mechatronics, developed by the Siemens Corporation of Germany for its international workforce of 500,000 people. The education protocol combines mechanical engineering, electronics, and computer technology in a total systems discipline.
Rascoe demonstrated the PLC (programmable logic controller) – especially important technology to local large employers Bridgestone and Yorozu Automotive – and the electric motor instruction/ demo station. These two stations complement the centers that deal with mechanicals, electronics, pneumatics, and hydraulics.
“Everything in the world, especially your manufacturing processes now, are computer controlled somehow or in some way,” said Rascoe. “This is a Mechatronic trainer. This is an automated assembly line. What it teaches is how everything works together. There are seven modules and each one has a different function. Each module as a brain, if you will, or a programmable logic controller. Each PLC controls its module and communicates with the next module. Every PLC knows what each of the other PLCs are doing.”
Taking the trip were Budget and Finance Committee members Terry Bell, chairman, Carl E. Bouldin, and Michael Martin. Also in attendance were Warren County Executive Herschel Wells and Commissioner Randy England.