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City Tech to Create Mechatronics/Robotics Technology Center

City Tech students and faculty are excited about the new center. From left, students Maria Vanegas and Amine Tabai, Professor Heng, Professor Zhang, and students Carla Araile, Peter Segal, Aidan Murphy and An Lin.
Photo credit: Yue Chen.

The words “mechatronics/robotics technology center” are now being heard at City Tech thanks to a National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) grant of $771,022 to establish just such a facility.

The three-year grant enables City Tech faculty members and students, as well as high school pupils, to participate in multidisciplinary engineering activities. For example, City Tech faculty members have the opportunity to train local New York City high school students and teachers to develop innovative entries for the annual FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition. And City Tech students are working in teams to design and fabricate their own robots.

“Mechatronic technology has been identified as one of the most important emerging technologies of the 21st century,” says Mechanical Engineering Technology Professor Andy Zhang, project director and member of the New York City FIRST planning committee. “There are 36 NSF-funded ATE centers around the country but none of them are in New York State. We hope we can be the first to turn the Mechatronic Technology Center (MTC) into a NSF ATE center in New York.”

Mechatronics is a new product design field involving the integration of mechanical components, electrical/electronic systems, industrial design ideas, computer-control systems, embedded systems and intelligent software. It requires engineers, technicians and designers from diverse disciplines to possess broader knowledge beyond their specialized fields and to collaborate as a team. “Robotics” is an example of a mechatronic product.

Along with Professor Zhang, Mechanical Engineering Technology Department Chair Sidi Berri and Computer Engineering Technology Professors Iem Heng and Farrukh Zia will lead the project. They will adapt the successful program developed by Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Academy to the City Tech context, and expect to have the City Tech mechatronics technology center up and running by next fall.

In the meantime, they are offering free workshops, co-sponsored by New York City FIRST, to train City Tech faculty and students as well as high school teachers and corporate employees interested in mentoring high school robotic teams. They also offer sessions to train high school students participating in robotic competitions, including two student teams from City Poly High School, a school adjacent to the City Tech campus that the College helped launch in 2009, and in which the College remains actively involved.

According to Zia, the NSF grant is an indication of City Tech’s reputation as one of the nation’s leading producer of minority engineering technologists. “This project has the potential for influencing a significant number of students, especially those in underrepresented groups, to consider careers in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM),” he says.

“We at City Tech are now able to prepare graduates for careers in mechatronics by using innovative curriculum and hands-on teaching techniques,” he adds. “I’m quite excited about implementing our vision for 21st century technological education.”


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