Mechatronics education prepares students for the real world
The Superior Institute of Technology at Ciudad Hidalgo
Degree program based on Siemens PLM Software technology allows students to gain experience in new areas such as mechatronics engineering
Mechatronics engineering is a competitive edge
The Superior Institute of Technology in Ciudad Hidalgo was founded seven years ago. ITSCH (the acronym by which the institute is known in Mexico) currently employs 32 staff members with either academic or administrative responsibilities. They serve approximately 940 students. The institute offers five degrees: industrial engineering, biochemical engineering, engineering in information technology, systems engineering and mechatronics engineering. This last program is particularly important for ITSCH. Because mechatronics engineering is a relatively new career path and not many educational institutions offer it as a degree, the ability to provide a mechatronics engineering education built around the most advanced product design software serves as a competitive advantage for ITSCH.
“One of our main differentiators, which gives us an edge over the other institutes in the area, is that we offer a degree in mechatronics engineering, and that our students have access to Siemens PLM Software’s NX™ and Solid Edge® digital product development software,” says Francisco Luis Sanchez, assistant director, ITSCH. “Students know that here they can use actual world-class software and as a result we are attracting more prospective students.”
Mechatronics is the combination of precision mechanical engineering, electronic control and systems thinking in the design of products and manufacturing processes. It involves the design of systems, devices and products aimed at achieving an optimal balance between a basic mechanical structure and its overall control. For many, this is the logical evolution of the mechanical engineering degree.
According to Sanchez, ITSCH is working towards securing ISO 9001 certification, and the fact that it uses first-world technology such as NX and Solid Edge is a pivotal part of completing the certification process. The high quality theoretical component of the degree program is made all the more valuable by computer laboratories equipped with NX and Solid Edge, where the students can apply what they have learned in the classroom. Even first-year students use the software, which means that by the time they graduate, they have real-world skills and technical competence that make them attractive to prospective employers.
ITSCH continues to invest in cutting-edge technology, according to Sanchez. The institute differs in this way from many other technology programs that do not allow students to experience the real world environment. For example, by using software that is actually used in the business world, students are much better prepared when joining the workforce.“Siemens PLM Software’s products such as Solid Edge and NX have proven to be excellent for our students because the interfaces are user friendly, provide a great array of options and allow students to work in a fastpaced environment that mirrors real-life situations,” says Sanchez.
Many ITSCH students have participated in different local, national and even international competitions, bringing back accolades such as first place at the Latin American IEEE Student Robotics Competition and recognition as the Basic Science State Champions. However, a recent contest was particularly key because it exemplified the institute’s mission of providing real-life experiences to its students.
The owner of Muebles Paulet, S.A., a local furniture manufacturer, contacted ITSCH to request its expertise in helping design and produce a tool that would allow them to do accurate drilling even in irregular wooden pieces. The employees at Muebles Paulet were using a manual drill that was inaccurate, ineffective and very tedious to use. As a result, there was a significant gap between the wooden pieces ready to be assembled (5,000 daily) and the amount of pieces drilled (800 daily). This situation was causing several problems including a significant reduction in production quality and an increased waste of raw materials that ultimately translated into economic losses for the company. In response to the company’s request, ITSCH joined efforts with Muebles Paulet in conducting a contest for the best student project that could solve these problems.
The winning team used NX to design various options and study each one, adjusting and fine-tuning them until they were able to determine the best approach. The new drill is a hybrid of a drill and a spinning wheel with both a pneumatic and electric system. NX helped the students test their ideas and incorporate them into a usable blueprint. Moreover, the software allowed students to complete the blueprint and then adjust some isolated pieces of the design in an easy and prompt manner without having to invest in creating and recreating an actual prototype.
Muebles Paulet benefits not only by obtaining a better design, but it will also acquire a user manual prepared by the students in addition to the actual drill. It is estimated that the drill will allow the company to triple the amount of pieces drilled daily, closing the time gap between the unassembled wooden pieces and the drilled, assembled pieces and ultimately resulting in better manufacturing and business results.
“When we worked on the design of the power drill that Muebles Paulet, S.A. requested, we used NX to evaluate different approaches to the requirements set by the contest’s sponsor,” explains Sofia Martinez, a senior in the Mechatronics Engineering program that won the design contest.“The software allowed us to virtually test our ideas until we came up with the final effective and useable blueprint that became the winning prototype. I am very proud of the work we did and of the award, which provides me with great experience even before I graduate.”
According to Sanchez, Sofia Martinez is only one of many students who have benefited from the cutting-edge technology used at the institute. In fact, according to Sanchez, in only seven years the enrollment has increased by almost 600 percent and with three graduating classes, 60 percent of these students are already active in the workforce.
“We have participated in many academic forums and we have increasingly seen a positive reaction to our unique educational approach,” Sanchez explains.“Other higher education centers are contacting us for our suggestions and input, which demonstrates that by using Siemens PLM Software’s programs we are not only setting standards and trends that others are following, we are doing exactly what any higher education center should do – equip its students with real-life experiences that make them more attractive to potential employers.”