(By Bob Fowler, Roane State staff writer) Roane State Community College has been awarded a $100,000 grant from DENSO, a leading mobility supplier. The grant will be used to increase skills training for mechatronics students and recruit minorities for the college’s growing mechatronics program.
Mechatronics is a multidisciplinary branch of engineering that includes both electrical and mechanical systems. The grant was one of more than $1.5 million in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education grants awarded to 13 North American colleges and universities by DENSO North America Foundation.
The Foundation is DENSO’s philanthropic division. It supports the company’s mission to develop a skilled and knowledgeable workforce, now and in the future.
DENSO develops advanced technology and components for nearly every vehicle make and model on the road today.
“We are so grateful to the DENSO North America Foundation for this generous grant which will greatly increase the ability of Roane State’s mechatronics program to serve DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee and other manufacturers in the area,” said Dr. Chris Whaley, Roane State president. “DENSO is an incredible partner and supporter of Roane State students.”
DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee in Maryville has 4,150 employees in four plants with 2.3 million square feet under roof.
“This generous grant from DENSO gives RSCC mechatronics the ability to provide state-of-the-art training,” said program director Gordon Williams. “Our students will now have hands-on experience with the newest Industry 4.0/Smart Factory equipment.”
Kim Harris, the college’s director of workforce training and placement, said the grant means employers will be able to hire highly trained mechatronics technicians. “Industries looking to foster these students during their training can also take advantage of Roane State’s Mechatronics Apprenticeship Program,” she said.
Roane State’s certificate and associate degree mechatronics programs prepare students for jobs as electro-mechanical technicians and robotics technicians.
It’s projected that Tennessee will have nearly 3,000 more job openings for electro-mechanical technicians than it can fill each year by 2025. The DENSO grant will also fund efforts by the college to recruit underrepresented and first-generation students who may not have considered college as a path to manufacturing employment.
Roane State’s mechatronics program is headquartered at the Clinton Higher Education and Workforce Training Facility, and a new mechatronics lab was recently installed on the Roane County campus for use by conventional as well as Middle College students. In Middle College, students can graduate from both high school and Roane State at the same time.