At least 12 Alamance-Burlington School System (ABSS) teachers have committed to participating in the MechTech Institute, a three-year educational initiative that will help ABSS professionals learn about fast-growing career opportunities in advanced manufacturing and to better prepare students for the rigors of the Mechatronics Engineering Technology program at Alamance Community College.
The MechTech Institute program is funded by a nearly $200,000 grant from The National Science Foundation through the Advanced Technological Education Program. The grant is administered by the Alamance Community College Foundation.
Following a recent MechTech open house in the College’s mechatronics lab, ABSS teachers were enlisted to sign a letter of commitment to participate in the Institute, whose goal is to address the challenges of recruiting high school students into and retaining them in the mechatronics education-to-workforce pipeline.
The MechTech Institute will prepare these high school STEM teachers and career and technical education (CTE) counselors to represent mechatronics as a career choice by discussing career options and applying it in the classroom. The teachers will then use mechatronics project-based learning to strengthen STEM skill attainment needed to advance through courses required for preparatory certificates, diplomas, and degrees.
The MechTech Institute—expected to impact about 720 local high school students and 45 teachers and counselors–will contribute to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and teacher development. It will help address the need for stable, well-paid employment in Alamance County and surrounding regions by building a sustainable pipeline of qualified students from high school through college into the mechatronics workforce. It will also serve as an integral piece of ACC’s Mechatronics Engineering Technology program involving curriculum development, capital expansion, and student recruitment and support.
The MechTech Institute’s project goals will be achieved by providing professional development to ABSS high school STEM instructors and counselors through:
The MechTech Institute seeks to adapt the industry-exposure component—such as guided workplace tours and demonstrations and face-to-face interactions with members of the current workforce—to specific businesses and student populations in order to maximize increased student awareness and interest in mechatronics education and career paths.
An experienced evaluator from UNC-Greensboro SERVE Center will determine the impact and effectiveness of the project. Information and products will be freely disseminated to educational institutions, training providers, and economic and workforce development stakeholders to benefit the advanced technological education community in the country.
Coordinating the project at Alamance Community College is Dr. Mohamad Haj-Mohamadi, Department Head of Mechatronics Engineering Technology, and Paul Carr, instructor in physics.