Mechatronics: new professional degree in Australia
The term ‘mechatronics’ was coined in 1971 by a Japanese engineer working for the Yaskawa Electric Corporation. As the word suggests, it originally combined mechanical engineering and electronics. But it has grown to encompass other disciplines such as control engineering, computer engineering, telecommunications and systems engineering. Its applications include robotics, sensing and control systems, servo-mechanics and automotive engineering, and it is instrumental not only in cutting-edge technologies such as aerospace and robotics but also in many of our common devices such as hard drives, anti-lock braking systems, CD players and autofocus cameras. It is also fundamental to the new wave of self-driving cars.
Students of mechatronics typically take courses in mechanical engineering and materials science, electrical engineering, computer engineering, computer science, systems and control engineering and optical engineering. This prepares them to build the next Mars rover, autonomous submersible or iPhone camera. With humans relying ever more on gizmos, mechatronics is certainly a promising career path to follow.
Federation University in Victoria, Australia is launching a new Bachelor of Mechatronic Systems Engineering (Honours) that combines study in the above fields with real-world industrial experience and project work. Possibly the ultimate geek playground, the course is for those who aspire to a career in industrial automation, avionics, telcom and transport systems and who probably found themselves making robots out of Lego when they were younger, and quite likely still do.
The four-year course is cross-disciplinary and designed to produce multiskilled problem-solvers. If the following makes you salivate, this course is for you: electrical and electronic drives and actuators, fluid and pneumatic control systems, secrets of the matrix (linear algebra and linear programming), mechanism and machine theory, analog and digital electronics, intelligent mechanisms design, terotechnology and lifecycle costs, and digital imaging and artificial intelligence.
Drooling yet? If you do take this course, please avoid the dark side and try not to build any terminators. Unless you end up employed by a military contractor, it’s better to make nice robots that help people.