Bridging the gap between academia and industry
SFU students prepare for careers with new mechatronics certification
A recent partnership between Simon Fraser University (SFU) and Siemens Canada bridges the gap between academia and industry. SFU’s first class enrolled in the Siemens Mechatronics Systems Certification Program (SMSCP) began on August 21, 2017. More waves of students are set to begin in January with increasing regularity based on demand.
The program offers the students hands-on experience with mechatronics systems that is transferrable across all brands of mechatronics equipment. Mechatronics combines mechanical, electrical and computer engineering to create complex systems. Dr. Amr Marzouk, program director and instructor, explains the SMSCP and its benefits for students and industry.
To offer the program, at least two of the instructors at the school must travel to Berlin for Siemens certification. This certification takes one month to complete.
“We are one of two universities in Canada that offers this at a university level,” said Marzouk. Multiple colleges offer similar programs, but SFU takes the certification to the next level by targeting university engineering students. “The niche we are looking at is to continue on from a design perspective, not from a maintenance and troubleshooting perspective only,” he said. Although anyone over the age of 19 with basic algebra may apply.
Levels of Siemens certification
The certification includes three levels; SFU currently offers Levels 1 and 2. The four courses comprising Level 1 cover knowledge necessary for an intelligent machine operator: maintenance, troubleshooting, reading and understanding the schematics of design, understanding the basic mechanical and electrical components, solving basic problems, and safe operation.
Six courses create Level 2. The focus dives deeper into mechatronics and gives students the skills of an experienced technician. They graduate able to completely understand the machines and can fix almost all problems themselves.
SFU hopes to offer their students Level 3 certification in the future. Level 3 moves into the design aspects of mechatronics.
Students benefit from mechatronics programs
The collaboration between classroom and industry is beneficial to the students. Seventy per cent of the curriculum is hands-on practice with state-of-the-art equipment, with the remaining 30 per cent theory. Students complete each level with an online exam administered and designed by Siemens in Berlin. The certification they receive upon completing is not from SFU but directly from Siemens.
The stand-alone certificate is not a degree replacement, but a supplement for students moving from academia to industry. The transferrable skills are beneficial in a variety of industries, especially because the program is not manufacturer-specific. “The main goal of this program is to cut down the training time for companies,” Marzouk said. “The learning curve will be easier to go through when they move into the industry. “
Positive support for mechatronics program
The reaction to the program was entirely positive. “It was full before we officially launched the program,” said Marzouk. Bound by the equipment and space, and a desire to ensure quality instruction, only 21 students were accepted to the first round of classes. The rest on the waiting list will have the option to begin in a few months.
Most of the students in this first intake are fourth year engineering students. They have completed co-ops and realized how important this training is to their careers. “They know it’s a great opportunity,” Marzouk said. This training will help them find jobs and make training easier for their employers. “It will cut down training time exponentially," he said. "It gives the students motivation to see what they studied moving in front of them.”
However, the program is not limited to undergraduate students. The waiting list includes younger students, and anyone working with mechatronics can enroll in the program for a refresher.
The next steps for SFU in mechatronics training
Marzouk hopes to move into workforce development from the basis of the Siemens mechatronics program. He hopes that SFU could offer custom training courses that are hosted in a company’s own facilities and trains large groups of employees at one time. “We only need two certified instructors, and the machines are portable,” he said.
SFU will send the next two instructors for certification in Berlin in September 2017 and early 2018.