The cone machine sitting next to the south wall of Building 25 on the Clover Park Technical College (CPTC) campus serves as a perfect representative of 21st century mechatronic automation.
It is an elegant meeting of metal, software and electricity.
The aluminum built, 500-pound mechanism’s function is simple; to efficiently insert small silver washers into larger blue cones.
“Currently, the company that asked us to design and build this machine does the task by hand,” explained Adam Yunker, a student in the college’s Mechatronics Program.
“This cone machine automates the process, and then the simple product it produces are shipped for use across the country.”
Yunker and Tyrome Connor, a fellow student and retired Army veteran, both worked to design, build, wire and program the machine.
“The instruction the instructors provide here is great. For those of us who like to work with our heads and hands, this program is a great stepping stone into a promising and growing future,” Conner said.
“My portfolio of work done while a student is a big plus in getting hired,” he added.
The Mechatronics Field
A rapidly growing career field, mechatronics is a multidisciplinary approach which involves successfully understanding and using software, electrical and mechanical elements.
Mechatronics originated in Japan in the late 1960s; since then it has become widely studied in Europe.
“If your car was made after 2005, it is a mechatronic system,” began Carl Wenngren, a former member of the Swedish Army and mechatronics instructor at CPTC.
“In working with mechanics, electrical systems and software, a specialist is needed to navigate this junction to find solutions to problems,” he continued.
The interdisciplinary nature of the Clover Park Technical College’s School of Advanced Manufacturing program prepares transitioning veterans for roles as mechatronic technicians or engineers in a wide range of career fields to meet the needs of a rapidly changing 21st century economy.
Since its inception in 2014, the two-year program has grown in such popularity that CPTC will soon complete construction of a new building to give the program three times more instruction space than it now has.
“Through this educational process, we produce well-trained employees for a lot of industries,” added Tom Chesnes, an instructor and Air Force veteran.
Meet the Future
“Mechatronics is very new to this country, and it represents a great opportunity for a lot of people, including veterans, to move into good paying jobs.”
The program offers graduates a choice of two degrees and three certificates.
“Graduates on average earn $23 per hours and up after graduation and this wage goes up significantly with a few years of experience,” added Jason Sawatzki, another mechatronics instructor.
According to Wenngren, about thirty-five percent of the program’s students are veterans, and he emphasized that their disciplined habits and sense of teamwork make them ideal students.
“The education they receive here in mechatronics prepares them to prosper in the future,” he said.
For more information about Clover Park Technical College’s mechatronics program, visit http://www.cptc.edu/programs/mechatronics.