🏀 ESE Newsletter #6: March Mechatronics Madness ⚙️
Some things will drop out of the public eye and will go away, but there will always be science, engineering, and technology. And there will always, always be mathematics. - Katherine Johnson
March Madness is almost upon us. Everyone has their favorite teams, but you are a part of mine.
Michael Jordan said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” I don’t know much about baskteball, other than maybe how to spell it, but this quote still rings true for me.
I’m fortunate enough to work with so many great educators, so this month, I’m highlighting a few All-Stars from the Western PA team.
Enough from me, let’s get you familiar with some of the players.
Highlights From Our Region
Five Questions with Dr. Jen Willburn, PennWest
As an Associate Professor of Mechatronics at CalU, and now in your new role as Chair of the Department of Applied Engineering, Technology, and Physics at PennWest, what additional responsibilities are you taking on?
I have been the Program Coordinator for the Bachelor of Science in Mechatronics Engineering Technology since 2013 when the program began. This has been a fantastic leadership opportunity that has let me grow as a professional while I have grown the program.
Now, being able to take on the role of Department Chair will allow me to use this experience and my professional expertise to help guide the transition of all of our programs from CalU, Clarion, and Edinboro into PennWest.
This exciting venture will give faculty the opportunity to reflect on their programs, as always in collaboration with industry, to refine and streamline them to make them even better and more student success-focused than before.
In your roles both at CalU and now at PennWest what is unique about your program?
Mechatronics Engineering Technology is the only Bachelor of Science degree of its kind in Pennsylvania and the surrounding states.
The synergy of mechanical, electrical, computer, and control system subject matter make the graduates of this program especially desirable, particularly in the robotics, advanced manufacturing, and energy production sectors.
Our program strikes a unique balance of hands-on skills coupled with theoretical education to allow our graduates an extreme amount of professional flexibility — a wide range of vital tasks including design, implementation, maintenance, and troubleshooting of mechatronic systems. Depending on their preferences, we have also had a number of students who have successfully continued on to graduate school for engineering.
Applied Technology/Mechatronics is a broad term. Under that umbrella, what is the most important skill that employers are looking for?
Employers are looking for graduates who can think critically and work in teams. Few problems are a one-person show, and often times when problems occur, it is paramount to get them corrected quickly. Graduates need to be able to think on their feet in new and creative ways to get the problem solved.
What message would you like to send to secondary schools to best prepare their students for success in your four-year program?
The biggest problem students have coming into the program tends to be a lack of mathematics skills. Students like to tinker, but often do not emphasize the importance of math.
Engineering design requires forethought, planning, and theoretical understanding. Without firm mathematical comprehension, one cannot develop an understanding of how the engineering principles work.
It would be like trying to read and understand a novel while simultaneously learning the language in which it is written. It can be done, but it makes it a lot more difficult.
What are you most excited about accomplishing in your new role?
In my new role, I hope to be able to help steer our program transition to increase the ability for students to seamlessly transfer into our programs from CTEs and CCs.
This is a two-fold effort. I think we can all agree that higher education is not cheap, so students need to be getting the right skills so they can transfer their credits in a meaningful way.
It is critical that we work with our articulating institutions to ensure that students are not just getting the hands-on skills they need to continue into a career as a technician, but also the theoretical background needed for them to expand their understanding and continue their education.
It is up to us to make sure that our programs are aligned to make the most of the skills and credits that these students are bringing in.
Bonus! – You used to drive a TT RS. Do you still or do you have another fun car? Working in Southwest Pennsylvania and living in Morgantown, West Virginia, what’s your favorite scenic drive in Mountaineer Country?
Well, yes and yes. I still have and love my TT RS, but driving all the way from Morgantown, WV every day I have added a Tesla Model Y Performance to my driveway. Fun to drive, and a lot more economical.
My favorite scenic drive in Mountaineer Country is probably to Coopers Rock, but we also love a snowy drive to Deep Creek when we can get free.
And yes, snowboards fit in a TT RS just fine.
Nick Nelson - Robotics Open House at Central Westmoreland Career & Technology Center
I brought ESE’s demo UR3e collaborative robot from Universal Robots out to Nick Nelson, the Robotics Engineering Instructor at the Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center in New Stanton.
After hearing that members of the Occupational Advisory Board for the Robotic Engineering program were using Universal Robots on their shop floors out in Industry, we wanted to get Nick’s students some hands-on time with similar equipment that is used in the field.
Within only 20 minutes we were able to do a quick and dirty setup to get Nick’s feet wet and make him just dangerous enough to help show off his growing program in time for the CWCTC Open House.
TecQuipment 2022 Product Catalog
TecQuipment has released their Product Portfolio digital flip-book of engineering training solutions that covers a wide range of disciplines. To Jen’s point above, emphasizing mathematics, Tecquipment has a wide range of hands-on solutions to accelerate your students’ engineering training.
This is the educational engineering playbook!
PACTA Review from Darrell Dayton, Inside Sales Manager at Festo Didactic
PACTA 2022 came and went on February 10th and it was great to be attending a LIVE event once again!
Having been in education 37 years myself, I’m all-in on the PACTA role in promoting excellence in Career and Technical Education through leadership, advocacy, and service.
I can’t recall exactly, but I believe I’ve been working this show for well over twenty+ years!
It was a nice event giving us the chance to meet our valued clients as well as meet and greet new ones.
ESE, a Gold Sponsor, was front row and allowed me to display a few Festo products.
I offered a PLC and our Bionics for Education kit, which drew a lot of looks by those curious to know more!
Already looking forward to the next PACTA in 2023. Besides that, who doesn’t love Hershey!
See you then…
The SkillsUSA Pennsylvania State Conference is back! After having to skip last year due to the pandemic, SkillsPA is kicking off on April 6th at the Hershey Lodge and Lebanon Expo.
ESE and Festo are supporting this year’s Mechatronics Skills competition. We look forward to seeing our favorite student teams compete.
Hotel reservations are due March 3rd. Competition registrations are due March 11th.
STEM Summit by The Pittsburgh Technology Council
The 2022 STEM Summit is a one-day, in-person event designed to showcase the diverse array of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math related careers that are available in Pittsburgh and the surrounding region.
At this year’s STEM Summit, attendees will have the opportunity to be inspired by a keynote, engage in hands-on experiences about diverse career opportunities in tech, and visit some of the most exciting and innovative companies in the region.
*Early bird pricing ends 3/28
Marie Bowers, CTE Consultant and Experienced CTE Director
Below is some helpful information from Marie Bowers regarding reoccurring CTE grant funding. Team ESE looks forward to helping you access this funding source and many others.
The purpose of the Career and Technical Education Equipment Grants funding is to purchase instructional equipment that meets industry standards in high-growth or high-demand careers. School districts with eight or more PDE-approved CTE programs, and CTCs are eligible to apply. The equipment must cost $3,000 or more per unit and be recommended by the program’s Occupational Advisory Committee (OAC) of local employers.
Since the equipment must be aligned with the needs of local employers, the OAC plays a key role in demonstrating that the equipment is vital to employment in
occupations aligned to the CTE program where the equipment will be used. The occupation should provide a sustainable wage, demonstrate substantive growth, and align to National or State Industry Standards and Credentials. It may be necessary to update the curriculum and provide professional development for teachers.
Most importantly, the OAC minutes must demonstrate OAC discussion of the equipment and why or how the equipment is used in industry and supports secondary CTE graduates who seek employment. It’s important to note that OAC meetings with only school staff in attendance are not considered. In addition, the Local Workforce Development Board must provide a letter of support.
Often times employers are not aware of the most recent state-of-the-art equipment and training programs available for students. Andrew and Educational Solutions understands how to navigate the technical education world while combining local industry and student needs in order to support schools’ grant proposals.
Support for Coal Communities
Two-hundred out of a $300,000,000 workforce development fund has been set aside to support coal communities. The deadline is on March 15th.
If this is a fit for you, let’s act quickly to sink this one before the buzzer!