Canton Engineering Degree Debuts: Mechatronics Program

CHRISTOPHER LENNEY / NNY BUSINESS
Assistant Professor J. Miles Canino, right, discusses a sensor developed by the Mechatronics program with Mechanical Engineering major Andrew Fitch.

BY: Tom Graser
SUNY Canton is introducing a new bachelor of science degree program that aims to produce students well-rounded in nearly every facet of engineering.

    “Mechatronics is really the synthesis of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, telecommunications engineering, software engineering, controls engineering,” assistant professor and program director J. Miles Canino said. “You see where we are going with this. It’s an incredibly multidisciplinary field.”

    The college received approval from the State University of New York and the New York State Education Department to offer mechatronics technology alongside its career-driven engineering technology programs in the Canino School of Engineering Technology.

    “The students that come out of a mechatronics program are prepared to tackle challenges that are multidisciplinary in nature,” Mr. Canino said. “It’s more realistic to what you’re seeing in the real world. We’re not seeing something where, ‘we need someone who is good at just solid mechanics,’ a classical ‘I can build just a transmission,’ we’re in a world where we have people who can build the transmission and they need to understand all the fluid dynamics that go on around all the gears within that transmission. They need to understand timings for that and controls for that transmission to get the best gear changes. We’re in a world where we don’t want someone who can just do one thing. We want people who have more of an element of jack-of-all-trades and that’s really where mechatronics comes in. We’re crafting students that are incredibly well-rounded.”

    Mr. Canino is a SUNY Canton mechanical engineering technology graduate who earned his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Clarkson University, Potsdam, and specializes in rehabilitation robotics.

    “Industry used to go to the point where they would hire by disciplines and then put them together,” Michael J. Newtown, dean of the Canino School of Engineering Technology, said. “There would be mechanical, electrical, all working on a project together and each would have their specialty and then tying them together. But, then there became the whole process of co-disciplined teams working together so that they would solve problems up front. This actually takes it to the third level being coordinated under one person having that knowledge of how to do all that.”

    In a press release, SUNY Canton President Zvi Szafran said the degree fits in with the state of technology and the economy of Northern New York.

    “Mechatronics is a contemporary integrated form of engineering, incorporating elements of mechanical, electrical, computer/telecommunication and systems engineering areas. Lots of modern devices use mechatronic systems, including smartphones and thermostats, robot vacuum cleaners and robotic cars,” Mr. Szafran said.

    Szafran added that mechatronics is also important to the dairy industry, where modern milking parlors, cow barns and the packaging of dairy products make use of many mechatronic systems.

    “Our new Mechatronics Technology degree will be an important component in the economic growth of the north country and the State of New York,” he said.

    The degree is not just good for students who are looking to enter the workforce, Mr. Canino said.

    “This is a higher level curriculum,” he said. “It suits the students well who are going into grad school and pursuing even further academic degrees – their master’s or Ph.D, even.”

    New and transfer students can apply for entrance into the mechatronics program immediately, with new courses starting at the onset of the fall semester.

    Some students have already enrolled.

    “Even before I officially knew, I already had students texting me saying, ‘hey we heard mechatronics is a go,'” Mr. Canino said.

    Students who are already enrolled in other engineering programs can blend into the new degree.

    “We built it off our engineering science program,” Mr. Newtown said. “We have brought the level of expectations up. We have students in engineering science that will fit in nicely.”

    SUNY Canton students who had previously spent just two years at the college will now have an incentive to stay at Canton.

    “Before we had the two and two program where we had students do engineering science and then go off to some other university or college and finish up their four year degree,” Mr. Canino said. “Now we can retain those students and have them continue on at a more rigorous pace.”

    The college expects to have about 20 students enrolled in the program this fall and as many as 50 in 2019, Mr. Newtown said.

    Mechatronics is the sixth new bachelor’s degree program announced in the past three years. Other new programs include agribusiness management, cybersecurity, game design and development, early childhood care and management and technological communications.

    “It’s really an emerging field,” Mr. Canino said. “So we are seeing that there is a higher demand for multidisciplinary personnel in industry and so we are seeing this emerge based on those requests from industry.”