Technology keeps ATE participants connected

Students at Virginia Western Community College build their own programmable logic controller, or PLC, trainer and a drone. (Photo: VWCC)

For years, Dan Horine, an automated manufacturing instructor at Virginia Western Community College, has searched for more affordable equipment to teach mechatronics in high schools.

By the end of the Mechatronics Community Exchange (MEC) call on last Friday, he was persuaded that the low-cost mechatronics trainer built by Anne Arundel Community College Associate Professor Tim Callinan could be what he’s been seeking.

“It’s amazing,” Horine said.

The trainer Callinan built for Team CollaborATE — an ATE project that involves Anne Arundel, College of Lake County and Florida State College at Jacksonville — costs about $1,500 and can be used simultaneously by two students in a lab. The $7,000 cost of comparable commercial equipment has inhibited expansion of mechatronics programs at high schools and colleges.

Team CollaborATE provides detailed instructions to build the trainer, which uses mechatronics’ key electrical, mechanical and computer technologies. (See video, below.)

Using the easy-to-use MEC microsite to share the ideas with ATE participants via photos, multi-page documents, YouTube, Skype and other methods has been a cost-effective tool for colleges. Manufacturing and robotics instructors are encouraged to join the monthly MEC discussions.

This excerpt comes from the ATE@20 blog, which spotlights National Science Foundation-funded Advanced Technological Education programs.

Horine serves as moderator of the calls, which his Partnership in Advanced Career Education in Mechatronics Engineering project co-hosts with the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center of Excellence (FLATE). FLATE keeps the participant database and maintains the archives of the recorded MEC calls, which have been conducted using Skype.

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About the Author

Madeline Patton
Madeline Patton is an education writer based in Ohio.