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November 25, 2012

Mechatronics program at Ivy Tech certifies students fast

SELLERSBURG — Combining robotics, industrial technology, maintenance and programming, Ivy Tech Community College offers a new program that will bring manufacturing technicians to the next level.

As part of the Ivy Institute — accelerated programs for certain fields at the college — the new Mechatronics program was established.

John Harris, an assistant professor in the school of technology, heads up the program. He said as companies look to make more efficiencies, the Mechatronics program prepares students for those kinds of jobs.

“We’re pretty excited about this,” Harris said. “I’ve been to a lot of companies in the area and one of their concerns is that if you’re a technician, you’re kind of compartmentalized. This gives them people who are qualified across the board.”

The 40-week program gives students six different certifications. Mechatronics started at the school in October and only has two students, but Harris said he thinks it’s a good opportunity for new students or seasoned workers in industrial technology.

Students learn how to repair mechanical components, diagnose electrical issues, program robotic machines and other skills. In the classroom, students use equipment from Amatrol to examine electrical components, pneumatic devices, programming terminals and other hardware.

Landon Hazelwood, one of the first students in the program, is a 24-year-old forklift operator for Pepsi in Austin, Ind. He said he’s seen a number of instances where a machine might get repaired by a technician, but workers might have to wait another shift until an information technology employee can program it again.

He said he hopes with the skills in this program, he’ll be able to take care of both problems in a lot less time.

“That’s another reason I wanted to do this, it’s a little bit of everything,” Hazelwood said. “I really think this is a good opportunity to get my hands on electronics, programming and mechanical maintenance.”

He said he went to Ivy Tech but quit about four years ago. He said this program has renewed his interest in finishing school.

Harris said as the manufacturing field grows, more companies are looking for employees who can do more than one kind of maintenance on equipment.

“I think the demand [for these jobs] is really good, especially in local companies right now,” Harris said. “There was a time when the economy was so slow that local manufacturing had slowed down. But now it’s picking up.”

Harris said though the program is short, students might be able to extend the education into a degree. He said Ivy Tech is negotiating with Purdue University to get the hours students put into Mechatronics toward an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in engineering technology.

Hazelwood said after he finishes the 40-week program, he hopes to continue to learn about the field and maybe pursue a higher degree.

“This makes me want to continue to grow and go to school,” Hazelwood said. “After I graduate and get all my certifications, I want to continue to educate myself.”

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