Monday, June 13, 2011

LBCC Receives Second Year of National Science Foundation Grant

The National Science Foundation awarded Linn-Benton Community College’s Mechatronics Program with the second year of a three-year Advanced Technological Education grant.

NSF approved the release of $241,564 of additional funding for the second year of the grant, bringing the total awarded to the college to date to $506,759.

The Mechatronics Program received the NSF ATE grant in 2010. According to Denis Green, Mechatronics and Industrial Maintenance faculty and department chair, the overall purpose of the grant is to expand the scope and reach of the program.

“We are expanding our teaching of sustainable energy in wind, solar, biofuels, and biomass,” said Green. “In tandem with sustainable energy, we are emphasizing energy efficiency, believing the most cost effective way to save energy is to use less of it.”

The reach of the program is being expanded through blended learning offerings, creating pathway certificates and recruiting high school students into Mechatronics training, said Green.

“We are developing and testing blended learning courses in refrigeration and electrical troubleshooting,” Green said. “This type of blended learning incorporates pod casts, text and workbook exercises, on-line exercises, and intensive hands on seminars. We are conducting formal research on what works and what can be improved with this type of training.”

LBCC is creating two pathway certificates: a one-year certificate in Mechatronics; and a limited certificate in Industrial Refrigeration. The hope is to offer these certificates in late 2011, says Green. The courses can be taken part time and would take about one year to complete.

“We currently have nine high school students enrolled in Mechatronics and are beginning to offer specific courses in select high schools, with plans to expand this initiative during the coming year,” added Green.

The grant also allows the program to buy equipment for sustainability and energy efficiency training. The college is conducting research into capstone projects that seek to give students a chance to apply a wide variety of skills to realistic, hands-on projects.

Dan Lara, dean of LBCC Science, Engineering and Technology, stated that "Through funding provided under this NSF ATE Project grant, LBCC will further expand institutional capacity to deliver an integrated curriculum that incorporates the principles of sustainable energy production and provides for multiple pathways from secondary school through agricultural and industrial programs, enhances linkages to the industry sector, provides opportunities for distance education, industry credentialing, intensive weekend courses, and hopefully facilitates transfer into programs leading to 4-year degrees."

To date, the grant has helped LBCC to establish a Mechatronics certificate program designed to prepare students for entry-level employment in green industries such as solar, wind, wave and bio energy.

Students completing the program have a broadly transferable skill set applicable to occupations supporting renewable energy production, equipment fabrication, installation, optimization, troubleshooting and repair.

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