Improving Mechatronics Education by Pairing Mechatronics Courses with General Education Math and Science Courses
By 2024, in the area surrounding Roane State Community College, employment in electrical and electronics repair of commercial and industrial equipment is expected to increase by five percent. In contrast, the national growth rate is only two percent. Regional employers report that they have difficulty finding "business-oriented" or "well-rounded" technicians to fill their positions. In particular, many candidates do not have the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities, such as critical thinking, applied knowledge, and complex problem-solving skills. Based on a recent survey of employers, defining and solving problems, particularly numerical problems, and thinking critically were among recent graduates' weakest skills. To better meet industry needs for a highly-skilled technical workforce, this project will pair mechatronics courses with general education courses in math and science. The general education courses will be enhanced with mechatronics-related problems and examples, thus providing a context that is relevant to the students' career goals. Local area employers will be integrally involved in course development and provide examples of complex mechatronics issues that can be incorporated into problem-based learning scenarios within the courses. It is expected that these paired courses will result in mechatronics graduates who are better prepared both academically and technically for work in mechatronics fields.
Roane State Community College aims to improve the technical skills of mechatronics students by designing and implementing three co-requisite course pairs. Each course pair will include a mechatronics course and one of the following: (a) a general education math course, (b) a learning support (developmental) math course, or (c) a general education science course. The project expects that these curricular changes will increase students' attainment of related learning outcomes, the number of students completing the general education core courses and programs, and employer satisfaction with graduates' knowledge, skills, and abilities. The co-requisite course pairs may provide replicable examples for enhancing mechatronics education at other institutions. In addition, the process used to develop this co-requisite model for teaching general education and mechatronics may be extended to other career-technical areas at Roane State Community College and at other colleges and universities. This project is expected to increase the degree completion rate of first-generation students for whom math and general education courses often pose a major hurdle to degree attainment. Because both faculty and industry partners will be involved in the development of the co-requisite courses, graduates of the program should be better prepared to meet employer expectations for mechatronics technicians in the workplace. Furthermore, the implementation plan and training materials could be adapted to co-requisite pairings in other post-secondary STEM education programs.