Wartburg Central High student Chloe Jones checks out the hydraulic instrumentation module in the new mechatronics lab in the Learning Center at Roane State Community College’s Roane County campus.
October 26, 2020
By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer
Roane State’s new mechatronics lab is buzzing with activity this semester as students take advantage of offerings in the fast-growing field.
During the day, students from five area high schools are taking college-level classes in the program. At night, there’s a full house of learners – many of using the state’s Tennessee Reconnect scholarship – taking the course leading to a career certification. COVID-19 safety precautions limit class sizes to 12.
The new $425,000 mechatronics lab is housed in part of the community college’s Learning Center on the Roane County campus. It’s one of the results of a recent $995,950 grant from the GIVE (Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education) program.
The Roane State grant was one of 28 selected for funding out of 61 requests filed under the Governor’s GIVE program. The GIVE effort prioritizes learning opportunities in rural counties, according to an announcement from the governor’s office.
Other aspects of the GIVE funding went to establish a similar mechatronics curriculum and a cybersecurity lab at Lenoir City High School. Mechatronics is the engineering of electrical and mechanical systems now in modern industrial plants. Cyber defense involves systems to thwart hacking and other unwanted computer intrusions.
Samual Watson of Wartburg Central High operates the pneumatic instrumentation module in Roane State’s new mechatronics lab on the Roane County campus. Watching in background, from left: Dylan Meza of Midway High, Cory Schwarze of Roane County High, and Micah Brewer of Wartburg Central.
Gordon Williams is the director of Roane State’s mechatronics program, headquartered in the college’s Higher Education and Workforce Training Facility in Clinton. He says the new mechatronics program on the Roane County campus is going very well.
“They are a really good group,” he said of the students from Midway, Oliver Springs, Harriman, Roane County and Wartburg Central high schools. “They’re enthusiastic and capable.”
Some of the students are in the program to obtain technical certificates. Others are in Middle College and will graduate with a Roane State associate’s degree in mechatronics while also receiving their high school diplomas.
“I have to do something hands-on,” said student Chloe Jones, who attends Wartburg Central High School. “I can’t see myself sitting in an office,” she said of her career plans. She’s a Middle College student and is on schedule to graduate from both Roane State and Wartburg Central in May 2022. Chloe says she’s then planning to attend either Tennessee Tech or Middle Tennessee State University and will likely major in mechanical engineering.
“This is a great opportunity for getting ahead, and that’s very important right now,” Roane County High student Cory Schwarze said. Mechatronics is a growing field, he added.
“I enjoy the people here,” Oliver Springs High student Luke Jones said of his instructors and fellow students. “It’s a nice atmosphere,” he said of the college’s Roane County campus.
Jeremiah Hamby, a Wartburg Central High student, works on the chain drive mechanism at the Roane State mechatronics lab on the community college’s Roane County campus. Watching are, from left, Luke Jones of Oliver Springs High and Josh Gilmore, a Midway High School student.
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