With a donation of industrial-grade motion equipment, Motion Solutions is helping the California Mechatronics Center change the way engineers are trained.
Motion components don’t add value in isolation – they work best as part of a system. We apply that philosophy to the projects we design and also to our position as a corporate citizen in the greater engineering community. We actively look for ways to help foster success in the community and for our customers and ourselves, at the same time
For an example, look no further than our relationship with the California Mechatronics Center at California State University, Chico. CSU Chico is one of only a handful of US universities to offer a degree program in mechatronics, an engineering sub-discipline built around a practical, integrated design approach. This targeted curriculum and the quality of the students graduating the program have put the university in the national spotlight for engineering talent in the automation field. To help support their program, we recently donated several pallets of motion equipment to give students hands-on experience with the same types of components used by some of the top machine builders in the country.
Research professor Nick Repanich, who is also director of the CMC, built the degree program around practical experience. As a former engineer, Repanich understands the value of learning by doing. His objective is to graduate students capable of working on automation projects on day one. It’s an important focus, given that an estimated 90% of students who graduate from the program go on to design automated machines.
“I’m not sure the students understand how beneficial the experience is, sometimes. But especially after they graduate, they begin to find out,” Repanich said in a recent conversation. “They come back and they say, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m now working with engineers from other schools and they don’t have any experience.’ Why do our students know this stuff? Because we have the equipment that they can use. They can actually physically see the bearing and see a gear head and make it turn.”
The Motion Solutions donation included 28 THK KR33 stages, which had an immediate impact. Repanich has developed a mechatronics course for graduating seniors that presents them with real-world problems. Courtesy of the Motion Solutions equipment from this donation and a previous gift, class members can solve those problems with industrial-grade components.
In one of the projects, students were asked to build a system capable of boring cylinders in an engine block. “They have to move the tool head from the home position to the positions of four different cylinders, do a plunge cut, and then go back to home,” says Repanich. As anyone who’s built a system like this for the first time knows, the experience gives a powerful sense of accomplishment “It’s one thing to see the shaft turn in a motor but it’s another when all of a sudden a student sees linear motion, and a set of bearings and a ball screw moving,” says Repanich. “There’s something that happens when a student actually sees the equipment making its moves and knows that they made it happen.” It’s an experience those students will carry with them to their first job and every job thereafter.
Word has gotten out about the class. It started with 12 to 15 students. Most recently, the class expanded to 60 students and appears on track to reach 80.
“We could not offer this class without the donations that Motion Solutions has made,” says Repanich. “It’s essential to have the mechanical part of it and the motors part of it and that’s what they’ve given us. And enough equipment for dozens of students to do projects with. It’s really fabulous.”
The philosophy of giving back is shared by other members of the greater Motion Solutions ecosystem. Omron, one of our premium partners, recently made a substantial donation of equipment, including complete robots, to CSU Chico’s Sustainable Manufacturing Technology program. The equipment will be used in manufacturing automation courses for freshman and sophomore mechanical engineering students. Repanich is particularly impressed with the responsiveness of the company. “We really are grateful to Omron for seeing our need and responding so quickly,” he says. “They had stuff on our door step within a month after meeting with them. We had a direct need this semester and they came through.”
Motion Solutions doesn’t just support the CSU Chico programs, we benefit directly from them. Several of our engineers are graduates of the program. Their training enables us to better serve customers and helps us maintain the connection with the University. “As a graduate of CSU Chico myself, I was excited to have the opportunity to help orchestrate the donation from Motion Solutions,” says Casey Covey, class of 2008 and now Northern California sales manager for Motion Solutions. “At research universities, you work on projects that might take 10 years to reach market. At CSU Chico, I learned skills I put to use immediately after being hired.”
The equipment given to CSU Chico will ensure that the quality of the learning experience will continue to produce individuals who are ready to make an impact at companies right away. We’re happy to know that we can help benefit those students, our customers, our own organization, and the greater engineering community.
About the Author
Alex Polo is a Sales Engineer and linear motion specialist at Motion Solutions.