Piedmont Tech Instructor Brings New Approach to Laurens County High School Students

Piedmont Technical College is expanding partnership with the school districts in Laurens County through a new dual enrollment mechatronics offering for students at both high schools in Laurens County.

PTC will be expanding its degree offerings at the Laurens County Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CAM) beginning in the summer 2014 term with the addition of the mechatronics technology associate degree. The new degree program will begin as part of the second phase of construction at the CAM. The preparation for the degree program opened up the opportunity for the addition of the mechatronics technology program to dual enrollment students at Laurens District 55 High School and Clinton High School.

“If we hadn’t decided to expand the mechatronics technology program, I don’t think there would have been an opportunity like this for the dual enrollment students,” said Kevin Moore, mechatronics technology coordinator/instructor.

Mechatronics is an interdisciplinary field involving control systems, electronic systems, computers and mechanical systems that integrates product design and automated manufacturing processes.  Because industrial applications are becoming more and more complex, industries need technicians with skills that cross a variety of disciplines.

“Mechatronics is a relatively new approach in the United States,” said Moore. “It’s a systems approach where you look at the whole system rather than the individual component.”

Moore says the change can be seen in the approach to educating the students. In the past, instructors would lecture on the theory of a component, and then go into the lab and look at the component. With mechatronics, instructors lecture on how the component works with other parts of the system. Then, in the lab, students see the part within the system rather than as an individual piece.

“It’s more hands-on, more connected,” Moore said. “Rather than just seeing the circuit, students can now see how that circuit works with other components of the entire system. It makes a lot of sense, though, because you teach the students not just what the part is, but how it works with the other parts of the system.”

Students will have the option to take three classes over the summer. If they choose to do this, they can graduate from high school with a mechatronics technology certificate and be able to complete the associate degree in one year.

“The certificate gives the students so many more opportunities once they graduate,” said Moore. “They can go out now and get a job, they can come to Piedmont Tech and get an associate degree or they can apply the courses they have completed toward another degree.”

The students are enjoying the class, but they are finding it more challenging than they first expected.

“I had no idea what mechatronics was, but this class has opened our eyes,” said J.D. Phillips, a senior at Laurens District 55 High School

“Mechatronics is a great field for jobs,” said Brendan Golding, a senior at Laurens District 55 High School. “Businesses can find almost anyone to work on an assembly line, but it’s more difficult to find someone to fix the machines when they’re down.”

For more information or to enroll in the mechatronics technology dual enrollment courses available at the CAM, students should contact their guidance counselor. For more information on the mechatronics technology associate degree, contact Moore at moore.k@ptc.edu

Photo Caption: The mechatronics technology program has expanded to the Center for Advanced manufacturing in Laurens. Pictured from left, Laurens District 55 students Brendan Golding, Allen Clayton and J.D. Phillips work on a class project.