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News: High school students enjoy Roane State Middle College Mechatronics training

News: High school students enjoy Roane State Middle College Mechatronics training

Patience Simes, left, and Ryleigh Brown solder circuit board during mechatronics training at Roane State’s Clinton Higher Education and Workforce Training Facility.

Nov. 21, 2018

By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer

In the classroom, Roane State Middle College students puzzle over a complicated formula for measuring voltage, outlined by retired engineer Sandy Phifer.

Other mechatronics students in the main area of the college’s Clinton Higher Education and Workforce Training Facility are hunched over worktables, soldering circuit boards.

It’s another day of intensive training and practice in Roane State Middle College Mechatronics program.

Now more than halfway through their first semester, the 14 students in Middle College Mechatronics are giving thumbs-up reviews of their class.

“I enjoy it,” said Oak Ridge High School student Dalton Davis. “It’s a tremendous opportunity.”

Eli Wells, foreground, and Tyler Robinson, both students at Anderson County High and in Roane State’s Middle College Mechatronics program solder circuit boards.

Middle College students from Oak Ridge as well as Anderson County and Clinton High spend their weekday mornings at the Roane State facility before returning to their respective high schools in the afternoons to complete graduation requirements.

They’re on track to receive Roane State associate’s degrees in mechatronics at the same time they graduate from high school in May 2020.

Mechatronics students learn to maintain, repair, improve and upgrade all types of automated machinery and will likely have numerous career options upon graduation.

“It’s an amazing experience,” said Patience Simes, who is home-schooled and one of five female students. Patience, 16, says the training will be a springboard to entering either the Naval or Maritime Academy and a career in the U.S. Navy.

“I’m really enjoying it,” 16-year-old Clinton High School student Ryleigh Brown said. “The professors are easy to work with, and I like the freedom of being able to work at my own pace.”

Long-term, Ryleigh said she’s aiming for a career in computer sciences.

Mechatronics Program Director Gordon Williams said the Middle College program in mechatronics was funded by a $250,000 grant from the state legislature, and he’s hopeful Roane State will receive the grant again next year. Roane State was one of only four Tennessee community colleges to receive the block grant awarded by the Community College System of Tennessee.

That grant covered tuition, tools, textbooks, computers and various equipment for the students, Williams said.

Students get hands-on training in electrical and mechanical components, hydraulics and pneumatics, and programmable logic controllers.

Williams said those skills will make them valuable employees for high-tech, modern manufacturing companies.

To learn more about Roane State mechatronics programs, visit or contact Gordon Williams at (865) 354-3000 ext. 4899 or

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