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Mechatronics degree at CSU-Pueblo may be key to the future

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Three students bet their careers on the engineering department at Colorado State University-Pueblo; their efforts have been awarded with a new accredited bachelors of science and engineering degree that is now available for future students.

The accreditation for the bachelor’s degree that combines mechanical and electronics engineering, “mechatronics,” began in the fall of 2005, said Jane Fraser, chair of the engineering department, when one student started studying for the program.

The accreditation was given by Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and is retroactive for the three students who have completed the program and who were risking their futures on it, Fraser said.

“I want to thank those students tremendously because at some point they bet their careers on us,” she said, “We weren’t really in doubt that we would get accredited, but it’s always a little bit of a risk.”

“Many companies will only hire from accredited programs,” Fraser said.

The Army Core of Engineers wanted to hire one of the graduates and they couldn’t make that persom an offer because they are only allowed to hire people who have graduated from accredited programs, Fraser said.

“But a university can’t actually apply for accreditation until they have had a graduate,” from the program, said Fraser, which didn’t happen until one student graduated in May of 2008 and then two others in spring of 2009.

“We were right on track and we applied for accreditation and we have finally received word last last month that the program has been accredited,” Fraser said, “and that’s a big step from many professional degrees including engineering.

While there is a potentially large job market for science and engineering graduates, they can be very specific to either mechanical or electronic engineering, she said, mechatronics opens up a broader scope of employment opportunities.

Fraser said the study of mechatronics covers devices with moving parts, electrical power and computer controls such as the Mars Rover, heart and lung machines and cars. She also said when students start graduating with this degree the community could possibly benefit by prospective companies who may want to be in the area.

One of the graduates is working at the Transportation Technology Center Incorporated, a train testing facility, Fraser said. The head of engineering at the center has been a big supporter of the mechatronics program because the company needs employees who can work on mecahnical and electrical components.

“It’s exactly the kinds of engineers they want working on their projects. The strength of our students is that they can integrate mechanical engineering and electrical engineering. Students who have only majored in electrical engineering don’t know enough about mechanical engineering and vise-versa,” Fraser said.

While the university is accredited in a general way, each respective department on campus is accredited by individual agencies anointed by the government.

“Accreditation is absolutely necessary for the students and so we are very pleased that we have achieved that,” she said.