ORANGEBURG, S.C. – Two engineers for the price of one. That’s the benefit of a new academic major at South Carolina State University.
The College of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Transportation (STEM-T) has launched a degree program in mechatronics engineering, a discipline that merges mechanical engineering and electrical engineering.
“Now industries are looking for engineering graduates who have background in both areas,” said Dr. Hasanul A. Basher, professor and chairman of SC State’s Department of Engineering Technology. “There is no industry where mechanical is needed but not electrical or where electrical is needed but not mechanical.”
The field also includes advanced control systems to design, build and operate smart systems and processes. Basher said modern mechatronics may integrate elements of aviation, artificial intelligence, telecommunications, and cybersecurity.
Mechatronics engineers work on the design, testing and manufacturing of smart systems in areas such as robotics, medical and assistive technology, human-machine interaction, manufacturing, and unmanned aerial and ground vehicles.
The U.S. Department of Labor has deemed mechatronics an emerging growth area for new jobs. Skills students acquire in SC State’s program will be valuable to employers from a variety of industrial sectors, including aerospace, automotive, manufacturing, communications, defense, electronics and healthcare.
Noting the presence of such major manufacturers as Boeing, Volvo and BMW in South Carolina, Basher said an SC State mechatronics graduate will be extremely marketable in the region and beyond.
“They need this kind of engineer. It’s also cost effective, especially for small companies. Rather than hiring an electrical engineer and a mechanical engineer, they can hire one mechatronics engineer,” Basher said.
Mechatronics originally was conceived as a combination of mechanics and electronics in the late 1960s but has continued to evolve and grow ever since. Basher said there has been a dramatic increase in mechatronics education at the university level across the globe in the last decade, but the U.S. is behind the curve.
Few universities in this country offer a Bachelor of Science degree in mechatronics, and SC State is the first in the state of South Carolina.
“Japan is way ahead on this – started a long time ago,” Basher said. “Now Europe is far ahead of us, as well. I am originally from Bangladesh, a very small country, and they have it.”
To prepare the mechatronics proposal, which received approval this spring, Basher and colleagues visited other institutions and outlined a curriculum. In addition to SC State’s core curriculum and the College of STEM-T’s exiting coursework, he outlined 22 new courses.
Even before the mechatronics program received approval, Basher was recruiting students. Omar Shaheed, a rising SC State senior from Moncks Corner, South Carolina, was in high school when he visited the campus and learned about mechatronic from Basher.
“It was new. It was different,” Shaheed said. “I wanted to see what it was about.”
So, Shaheed enrolled at SC State as an electrical engineering technology major and got his core and prerequisites under his belt before switching his major to mechatronics engineering.
“I’m learning a lot about how electricity works and how to understand what you are seeing,” he said, adding that he will be excited to start mechatronics lab coursework next school year to apply theory to hands-on projects.
Shaheed already has benefitted from some real-world experience in engineering, as he completed summer internships at Savannah Nuclear River Site and Boeing.
“The internships allowed me to see where I am in my education and how everything falls into place,” Shaheed said. “It gave me an idea of what I am learning in class and how that applies to the real world.”
Shaheed was one of the first six SC State students to selected mechatronics as a major. Basher expects the program to grow swiftly, and the university will need additional faculty to meet the demand and teach the new courses. He and his colleagues in the College of STEM-T have taken on additional courseloads to accommodate the program.
Basher predicts that at some point, mechatronics will dominate the manufacturing landscape because it includes essential components that will enable all industries to manufacture faster and better.
“This is the future for many, many companies, and South Carolina State will be among the first to offer them the kind of engineers they need,” Basher said.
For more information about SC State’s mechatronics engineering degree, contact Dr. Hasanul A. Basher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 803-536-8474. To apply for admission to SC State, visit the Admissions page on the university’s website at www.scsu.edu/admissions.
Director of University Relations
South Carolina State University
About South Carolina State University
Founded in 1896 as a land grant institution with a mission of providing service to the citizens of the state, South Carolina State University has evolved from a small teachers’ college into a major University center of learning and research. Located in Orangeburg, S.C., South Carolina State offers more than 50 different fields of study on the undergraduate and graduate levels. South Carolina State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and is a member of the Council of Graduate Schools.