Mechetronics prepares pupils for job potential

There wasn't a bottle breaking over an iron bow of a boat, but a ship was launched April 22 - a ship of industry.

The April "Business After Hours" event - a regular event for the Barnwell County Chamber of Commerce - highlighted the new training institute at the Barnwell satellite campus for Denmark Technical College.

The centerpiece of the DTC training institute is the educational modules which teach students through hands-on application about mechetronics.

Mechetronics is a combined study of mechanical, electrical and electronic systems, especially in how these different fields come together in assembly line and manufacturing applications.

DTC started its inaugural mechetronics course at the Barnwell campus Jan. 25. The day class has seven students and the night class has 26, said its instructor, Stephen Mason.

With people getting laid off in the county, the interest in getting more education or retraining oneself has increased, he said.
"People are calling everyday. We have people calling four or five times a day easy," Mason said.

Studying mechetronics gives a student wider career and job possibilities once they graduate because they gain working knowledge of two different disciplines at the point at which they converge, he said.

"It's a wide open field because you understand both sides of it, the electronics and the mechanical," Mason said.

Students who complete Mason's one-year course can further their education by getting a two-year associate's degree in electromechanical engineering, he said.

Students who have studied mechetronics are better prepared and more marketable for production line, assembly and similar factory jobs, Mason said.

Justin Trexler, 27, is one of Mason's students. The course is opening up his view on possible career ideas, he said.

"I don't know what I want to do right now. I wanted to get into several things to see where I want to go," he said. "It (mechetronics) gives you a crash course in a little bit of everything."

Trexler said he was tired of "dead-end jobs" and enrolled in the course, possibly to enter the industrial maintenance field.

"You have to have an education to get anywhere," Trexler said.

During the Business After Hours event, Pete Grady said he was glad the mechetronics learning laboratory was up and running.

"We have been working a long time toward this thing," he said.

Grady is the chairman of the Barnwell County Economic Development Commission.

Speaking during the event, Grady said he has always been a believer in the philosophy that an area should grow its own industry; maintain its current industries and train the workforce.

The DTC training institute helps this philosophy, he said.

"Maybe one day, you can know someone who graduated from here," Grady said.

DTC bought the training modules from CTA or Carolina Training Associates, a Charlotte, N.C.-based company.

Different modules show students the basics of pneumatics, hydraulics, electrical systems and electronic circuitry. One module demonstrates a programmable assembly line robot.

Another module deals exclusively with the in-system lubrication component of machinery that is self-lubricating.

"This is the first system I've seen that addresses lubrication," said Mike Millican, the CTA service engineer who was on hand that night.

Millican's brother, Marshall Millican, was also in attendance. He is the president of CTA.

"The college invested in this. Mechetronics is industrial technology on steroids," he said.

The great thing about the training modules is that it can set up problems in an electrical, electronic or mechanical system so the student can observe the problem and figure out a solution, Mike Millican said.

No other vocational technical college in North or South Carolina other than DTC has implemented as comprehensive a technical education program as what is at the Barnwell campus, said Marty Martin, the director of the Barnwell County Economic Development Corporation.