The Evolution of Mechatronics Engineering
If you’re exploring the study of engineering, you may have stumbled across a field called mechatronics. What is mechatronics engineering and what exactly do mechatronics engineers do?
Mechatronics began as an A to Z kind of engineering for a new technological age. It has caught on with students who want to learn all of the skill sets required to build a whole machine by themselves.
Mechatronics is a crossover form of engineering born out of the need for engineers with both electrical and mechanical knowledge. Before the 1970s, most household products relied on mechanical engineering alone in their design. Even large manufacturing plants were powered by people controlling mechanically driven devices. The early 1970s saw a shift towards incorporating electrical power with mechanical features into our tools and machines.
Think of all of the items in your home that move and are powered by electricity: your washing machine, your ceiling fan, your food processor, your power drill. Designing and building all of the moving parts in your washing machine required mechanical know-how, someone who could make the parts spin just right. But to power the device, that engineer also had to have electrical skills too.
In the 1980s, with the boom in microprocessors, mechatronics grew more popular. By the 90s, the field began to incorporate aspects of computer science and programming, creating almost endless possibilities to the usefulness of mechatronics engineering.
With all of that crossover knowledge, mechatronics engineers have brought amazing features into the products they work on. Cars are a great example. Backup cameras, sensors, and anti-lock breaks all required crossover engineering skills to design and implement. Areas like automation and robotics are also full of mechatronics engineers.
“If you build a mechanical thing that is controlled by electrical components that needs software to make it work, then you need mechatronics,” says Capitol’s dean of academics and chair of electrical engineering, Dr. Nayef Abu-Ageel.
“Our mechatronics programs integrate electrical and mechanical engineering with computer science,” Dr. Abu-Ageel explains, “to give students the capability to build, innovate, and maintain products that span a wide range of things that we see in everyday life.”
“Computer drives, a washer, it can be anything that has moving parts in it – cars, electronics systems control, antilock brakes, anything. Wherever you go there are things made using mechatronics. The manufacturing sector itself needs mechatronics engineers. It has machinery that needs to be developed and maintained.”
Capitol already has a robotics club, but we are currently planning a lab exclusively designed for mechatronics students to get more of the hands-on skills they need.
Says Dr. Abu-Ageel: “We have a strong computer science program. We have a strong electrical engineering program. Adding in the mechanical aspect to create mechatronics programs makes sense for us. The field is really exploding with the growth of automation and we want to open up those opportunities to our students.”
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