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News: Grant will allow Roane State to expand mechatronics program

News: Grant will allow Roane State to expand mechatronics program

Jan. 5, 2015

Roane State Community College will use a nearly $1 million state grant to expand its mechatronics program and to pilot offering the program’s first year as dual credit courses for high school students.

The mechatronics program trains students to become technicians who operate, maintain and repair high-tech automated manufacturing systems. Roane State offers a one-year certificate in mechatronics. Through a $970,000 Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP) grant, Roane State will create a two-year associate degree in mechatronics. The program will be launched in fall 2015.

“We are honored to receive a LEAP grant, and we appreciate the hard work of our partners and our legislative delegation on the grant,” Roane State President Dr. Chris Whaley said. “The grant is built on great partnerships between Roane State, industries, local school systems and the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology. Working together, we will help students learn the skills they need for high-tech manufacturing careers.”

Three-quarters of the grant will be used to purchase equipment for the expanded mechatronics program. The rest will fund staff and faculty positions.

The project includes partnerships between Roane State and Oak Ridge High School, the Anderson County Career and Tech Center, and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Harriman.

Dr. Markus Pomper, dean of Roane State’s Mathematics and Sciences Division, said the college wants to offer mechatronics as a dual credit program in more high schools. The college also wants to work with more TCATs to create transfer pathways from industrial maintenance to mechatronics, he said.

“I’m very excited,” Dr. Pomper said. “What I hope is that we will be able to build a pipeline from high school to long-term careers in high-tech manufacturing.”

The one-year certificate program will also prepare students to achieve Siemens Level 1 certification. The two-year associate degree program will prepare students to achieve Siemens Level 2 certification.

Siemens Level 1 and Level 2 are industry-recognized credentials highly regarded by manufacturers, Dr. Pomper said.

“The mechatronics program will also offer paid internships, which will give students valuable job experience,” Dr. Pomper said.

The LEAP grant is a state effort focused on increasing opportunities for Tennesseans to obtain a certificate or degree beyond high school that is aligned with the needs of the workforce in their communities. Funded by a $10 million appropriation by the General Assembly, the LEAP competition required applicants to respond to a competitive request for proposals that was released in September.

“Twenty years ago, a high school diploma would be enough for a good job in manufacturing,” Dr. Pomper said.  “If you worked in a car factory, you used your brawn. You got dirty. Today, manufacturing is a high-tech, clean environment. You need to understand the machinery, to use your brain more than brawn. Our programs will give students the background they need.”

To learn more about Roane State mechatronics, visit Most classes are held at the college’s Clinton Higher Education and Workforce Training Facility.

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