Centralia College has been awarded more than $300,000 from the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration to support the college’s Mechatronics program (formerly known as Industrial Automation).
The grant was announced Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
Mechatronics combines many kinds of engineering, including mechanical, telecommunications, computer, control, and systems engineering, with electronics. As technology advances, these subfields of engineering multiply and adapt. In practical applications, industrial facilities commonly use large pieces of equipment with electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, and computer control components. Mechatronics is the installation, tuning and maintenance of this equipment.
“Robot training is a very specialized sector of education, not only because of the equipment requirements, but also because of the skilled instructors required to operate and teach the technology,” explained Durelle Sullivan, Centralia College’s dean of Workforce Education. “Centralia College’s program has a flexible curriculum and schedule, but, because of the differences in technology brands, we needed to invest in a variety of equipment to provide comprehensive training. We’re doing that in partnership with local industry, which has provided valuable feedback about our local workforce.”
Centralia College has distinguished itself as the first college in the state to offer comprehensive training in FANUC robotics. The college started a FANUC Certified Educational Robot Training program last year, offering the basic level of FANUC certification.
“We wanted to offer the next level of certification, as well, since there’s such a need for more advanced training, but only limited funds are available to buy the equipment,” explained David Peterson, Mechatronics instructor. “This grant will allow us to purchase the equipment we need to offer that next level of training, the same training offered by the FANUC company itself. We will also improve the classroom environment and upgrade aging equipment in the lab. This is huge for Centralia College.”
The grant was written with the support of the Lewis County Economic Development Council, Pace Edwards, Hampton Lumber Mills, Klein Educational Systems, Cardinal FG, and FLUKE Corporation, which are working with Centralia College to train the future workforce.