To help enrich engineering students' experience in mechatronics and fluid power, two big players in the industries have teamed with colleges to establish labs for their study. In recent months, engineering training facilities were created by Festo Corp., Hauppauge, N.Y., and Bosch Rexroth Corp., Hoffman Estates, Ill.

Festo's move highlights the importance of interdisciplinary engineering, with the creation of the Advanced Mechatronics Training Center, developed in partnership with Suffolk County Community College, Brentwood, N.Y.

The new center features high-tech manufacturing and process control equipment, to create greater awareness among students, school systems, industry leaders, workforce development agencies, economic development agencies, and government officials about the variety of career paths that exist in manufacturing.

Festo's involvement reflects the move in the industry towards advanced technical education. To keep a competitive edge, manufacturing companies are upgrading their automation equipment to increase productivity and enable the production of high quality products. The automated equipment used today requires technicians with a new set of technical skills to operate and maintain them.

The US Department of Labor estimates that more than 10 million skilled factory jobs will be unfilled by the year 2020. It is essential that high-tech, specialized training be made available to students and to the current workforce.

As part of this mission to provide affordable higher education and workforce development opportunities, SCCC applied for and received a three-year $2.4 million federal grant through the United States Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration to train workers for advanced manufacturing with its new Mechatronics curriculum. More than 200 workers from more than 38 manufacturing companies have enrolled in the college's mechatronics certificate program since last spring. The college also plans to offer an associate degree program in the field next fall.

Down south, Bosch Rexroth joined with Texas A and M University in College Station, Texas to create the Bosch Rexroth-R.C. Womack Fluid Power Laboratory. The lab, created in conjunction with Womack Machine Supply, is a newly renovated, state-of-the-art facility with eight new fluid power trainers including pneumatic and industrial hydraulic systems from Bosch Rexroth. The laboratory was proposed by Texas A and M to Womack and Bosch Rexroth in April of 2006. The primary mission of the lab is to educate students using the newest technology in hydraulics, pneumatics, and advanced control methods. Its secondary mission is to attract industry sponsored projects and to provide professional training or continuing education to engineers, distributors, and managerial professionals working in the fluid power market place.

“This laboratory models the integrated engineering business environment where multiple technologies converge to solve customers' problems,” says Dr. Walter W. Buchanan, head of the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution at Texas A and M.

The lab will be divided into three areas: lecture space, hydraulics, and pneumatics. The hydraulics and pneumatics areas will be equipped with the latest Bosch Rexroth fluid power technology including the use of computers, simulation software, and data acquisition systems to guide the learning experience.

Courses taught in the lab will relate to both the Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution (ET/ID) curriculums and will encompass both ET and ID students who are studying fluid power technology. The main courses to be taught will be Fluid Power Technology and Fluid Mechanics. The emphasis will be on basic hydraulics and pneumatics as well as electro hydraulics and pneumatics.

The ET/IT Programs at Texas A and M University have 600 students and serve distributors and manufacturers from maintenance, repair, and operations channels, and channels serving construction, high tech distribution and manufacturing.

“This lab is a powerful teaching tool that provides our students with hands-on experience to better prepare them for industry applications,” adds Dr. Barry Lawrence, laboratory director and program director of industrial distribution.

For information, contact the Learning System Division of Festo at (631) 404-3182 or visit www.boschrexroth-us.com

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