Piedmont Tech Instructor Brings New Approach to Newberry

Piedmont Technical College is expanding its mechatronics program to the high schools in Newberry.

At the urging of local industry, the mechatronics program has been added to the curriculum of the Newberry County Career Center.

“The career center was asked what type of programs they had to prepare people for manufacturing and technical-type jobs, and there wasn’t one,” said Kevin Moore, industrial technology instructor. “So they asked if the center could start a mechatronics program.”

A widely accepted career in Europe since the nineties, mechatronics has only recently been recognized as a new training opportunity in Upstate South Carolina. The term mechatronics refers to 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. Many existing job categories currently or will soon require mechatronics skills and problem solving abilities for professionals who design, implement, manufacture, service and repair a wide array of equipment.

“Mechatronics is a 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.”

The class has 10 students for the current year, but can hold up to 25 students. Moore said he hopes to see an increase in enrollment for the next school year.

“We have a good foundation set for the program to continue and grow,” Moore said. “We want to provide the best work force possible for industries in our area, and working with the high school students will provide a good start.”

For more information or to enroll in the Mechatronics Technology courses available at the Newberry County Career Center, students should contact their guidance counselor.

Photo Caption: The Mechatronics Technology program has expanded to the Newberry County Career Center. Pictured, instructor Kevin Moore, right, helps students Thomas Nelson and Sloan Hazel with a difficult project.