Education & Industry Panel: Preparing the Workforce of the Future

42 min video  /  32 minute read


Eugene Li

Design Engineer / ETS Manager

Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering | University of Waterloo

Josh Hamilton


Electro-Mechanical and Automation Maintenance | Conestoga College

Saeed Farahani, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor | Department of Mechanical Engineering

Washkewicz College of Engineering, Cleveland State University

Jeff Rankinen

Faculty Electronics Associate Professor

School of Engineering Technologies | Pennsylvania College of Technology

David Grussenmeyer

Industry and Education Engagement Manager

Inductive Automation

Often, the difference between what you need to know to walk across that stage and get your diploma, degree, certificate, or credential is vastly different from what you need to know to be successful in your first entry-level position. Curriculum and program development happen in vastly different ways, from four-year colleges and universities to technical colleges, to community/junior colleges. How we, as an industry, communicate to address what we are seeing in the field is imperative to providing the engineer of tomorrow with the appropriate skill sets to encourage success. That conversation starts with industry and academia coming together to discuss the topics important to the ever-changing landscape of industrial technology. Join David Grussenmeyer, University Engagement Manager at Inductive Automation, for a panel discussion composed of four faculty members from different educational institutions and learn how their efforts to collaborate with Industry are changing the educational landscape for our workforce of tomorrow.


David: Alright. Welcome everyone to the virtual ICC X: Xperience and Xplore. This is the Education and Industry Panel: Preparing the Workforce of the Future. My name is David Grussenmeyer. I'm the Industry and Education Engagement Manager here at Inductive Automation, and I'll be your moderator for this session. This session brings together four faculty members from different academic institutions to discuss education in the automation industry through their different programs. We have Josh Hamilton from Conestoga College, Eugene Li from the University of Waterloo, Saeed Farahani from Cleveland State University, and Jeff Rankinen from Pennsylvania College of Technology. This will be a panel discussion in which I'll be leading our guest with some questions over the next 35 minutes or so, and we'll have a follow up Q&A afterwards that will last for about 10 minutes. With all that being said, I would like for our panelists to provide introductions, if each of you can give your title, your academic institution you're representing, and a brief overview of the program that you work with, I think that'll give our audience a good start to the session. Josh, why don't you go ahead and take us away?

Josh: Absolutely. Hi, I'm Josh Hamilton, thanks David. I am the Coordinator and Professor, the Electro-Mechanical and Automation Maintenance Program at Conestoga College in Ontario, Canada. Our program focuses on mechatronic skill sets at the skilled trades level, so really bringing up that holistic approach to industrial automation equipment, how we develop the skilled trades workers of the future and bring them into the new age technologies. Our graduates graduate with four years of trade school completed with lots of knowledge on robots and PLCs. So we're excited to be a part of this discussion.

David: Awesome. Perfect. Eugene, why don't you go ahead and go next.

Eugene: Yeah. Thanks, David. So my name is Eugene Li, I'm an Instructor at the University of Waterloo and the head of our engineering teaching staff group. So the program I'm attached to is the Mechatronics Program. So in our department, we had the Mechanical and Mechatronics Programs, which I'm involved in both, but specifically I get involved in all of the stuff through teaching our fourth-year mechatronics technical electives. So in that kind of realm we teach the students about Industry 4.0 and how they can apply their Mechatronics degrees to that field. We have undergraduate, graduate programs of which we are producing our next generation of mechanical mechatronics engineers.

David: Awesome. Saeed?

Saeed: Yeah. Thank you, David. My name is Saeed Farahani. I'm Assistant Professor at Mechanical Engineering Department of Cleveland State University, Ohio, USA. And basically I'm doing research and offering courses relevant to smart manufacturing, particularly my research and educational activities around two basically tracks of hybrid manufacturing and network manufacturing systems.

David: Great. And bring us home, Jeff.

Jeff: Okay. I'm Jeff Rankinen. I teach at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. I'm an Associate Professor, and I teach from the first year all the way to the fourth-year courses. We have a special course in automation engineering robotics. We have another one in mechatronics, another one in robotics and automation. And so in particular, I've been teaching a course in automation concepts, which is a capstone course for bleeding-edge technology. So that's where the Ignition comes in and I've been learning a lot from 4.0 Solutions, technology such as MQTT, Unified Namespace, and so yeah excited to be here. Thanks, David.

David: Awesome. Thanks everyone. Let's go ahead and let's bring this in more like a discussion for us. Let's go ahead and get this started. So let's open up the panel with a bit about how industry is supporting curriculum development. I'm sure that each of your institutions have various relationships with different companies. What type of support have you received and how does that influence the curriculum in your program? Why don't we go ahead and start with Josh.

Josh: Awesome. Thanks, David. Yeah, industry is really invaluable when it comes to what we do as part of our program. Our program does have co-op components to it, so we have students going in and out, working with different industrial partners. So we see kind of that industrial influence from our industrial partners in all sorts of areas, whether it be components, hardware, things that they're looking at, new technologies that they're bringing in and really how do we better develop and support them in the future with everything from bottom-up technologies. So whether it's shop-floor specific, all the way up to state MES systems, advanced robotics.

Josh: So having our students be able to play in and out of those fields has been really, really integral to what we're trying to do. And having those conversations with our industrial partners and different supports that we receive. There's obviously the financial supports, we love those as well, but really it's that ideas the concepts, the things that they're doing to make their companies better are really benefit us in the educational space.

David: Awesome. Saeed, why don't you go ahead and follow us?

Saeed: Well, yeah. So beside those common engineering tools that we all will see in every academic institutions. I'm recently seeing more basically support from industry that are offering more specific and real-world engineering tools, particularly such as, Inductive Automation and Ignition, so that is great instead of seeing those like, as I said, very typical engineering tools such as like SolidWorks or MATLAB. We are seeing more specific software and engineering tools. Also, I'm seeing good support from industry by donating or borrowing or putting equipment as a consignment or their hardware. So it's good. So the support is not only limited to the software and basically modeling tools. Also, we are seeing some support by providing equipment and hardware.

Saeed: Also, I'm seeing basically some interesting industry in being engaged in mutual research and educational activity. Again, Inductive Automation is a good example of such, kind of companies that at least in my case, we have worked with them also in research and education. And I think that brought new opportunity for us in terms of updating our course content and also motivating students for learning because they realize that they can see the relevance of the conventional or basically or classical content to new technologies to real-world engineering problems and also, such kind of experience will help them to better find job in future and find better position in the future.

Jeff: Yeah. Good. Yeah. At Penn College we get tremendous support. Well in Inductive Automation of course with the University Engagement [Program]. That was probably when I was transitioned or basically asked to teach this Automation Concepts class. David was able to offer this licenses and then 'cause that's been great. Canary Labs, we have licenses from Canary Lab for their historian, Tatsoft has given us licenses. Cogent DataHub recently gave us licenses. Probably gonna hit up HighByte as well. So I think that's gonna round out most of the software. I think for our advanced Industry 4.0 offerings. And as far as internships, we have a company MDI Advantage, David probably is familiar with that company I think. They're one of the top Ignition retailers or users. We have multiple students in summer co-op jobs. I mean, after one year of two semesters, right? Since we teach a lot of the technology in the first year, MDI Advantage has taken some of our students to work on Amazon warehouse projects. Not so much really advanced automation but they're, our students are getting internships after just two semesters, which is really cool. They're getting that on-the-job experience.

Jeff: So yeah, we have tremendous support from industry, and I think industry with the high need for our graduates, they're seeing the reason why they need to partner with us, so we can again attract students and then give them the relevant knowledge.

Eugene: I think that's really cool. We've seen a similar thing at the University of Waterloo, like my colleagues here. We've got, we've had very generous financial support and software support and hardware. But I think the thing that to me is the most valuable is the time that the engineers have spent with us from industry. You know, sometimes when we get into research problems, we'll think about things, we'll think about the scope of it, but then when they come back and they tell us about their problems and they tell us about the scale of their problems and about how many hundreds of thousands of units or just the size of the problem and the magnification of such things, it really hits home. And our students, they... For some reason, when I tell them the same thing, they don't ever listen. But when someone else from another company has been doing it and says it, like, "Oh yeah, this guy really knows what he's talking about."

David: Right, it always comes that way.

David: Well, it seems that partnership or the influence of surrounding industries can affect the development of curriculum and particularly what concepts are focused on more. I think this brings up a conversation around depth versus breadth. Can each of you touch on this concept and perhaps how the surrounding industries or the employers of your region influence your decision on depth versus breadth when it comes to particular topics in your programs? Let's start with Saeed on this one.

Saeed: Yeah. So, to me, I think the importance of depth or breadth depends on the major that we are introducing those new concept or engineering tool as a part of that. For example, I'm introducing Ignition as a part of Mechanical Engineering Program, so and to Mechanical Engineering students. So I think in this scenario the breadth of the topic is more important than the depths of that, because it is less likely that a mechanical engineer works as a system integrator and exactly implement this software in any industry environment. But knowing about all the potential of this software and the capabilities of this software will enable mechanical engineers to take the most advantage of these features in their future role, which is working as a product designer or manufacturing engineers. So that's why, but maybe when you are introducing this software to computer engineers, maybe the depths of the information that you provide them is more important because there is a high chance that they work exactly in this field and they want to implement that directly in their future role. So that's it. Yeah. I guess.

Jeff: Yeah. Good, good. Yeah. Okay. Well, for us at Penn College, we have an advisory committee that's made up of roughly 25 industry people and lots of alumni, students have graduated, been out four or five years, and then they serve on our advisory committee. And, it's made up primarily of companies within a two-hour radius, which is for practical reasons, it's hard to bring in people for our in-person meeting, which we have, so one of the companies first quality, for example, Allen-Bradley equipment is primary. So that heavily influenced our Rockwell Automation, which we have. So, but on the other hand, companies like Inductive Automation, they give us a bigger, a broader scope of what's the big picture.

Jeff: So there's other equipment besides obviously Allen-Bradley, you got your Opto 22 PLCs that are more open architecture and kind of have a different philosophy, Phoenix Contact. So we try to keep both very specific knowledge on, because obviously the market share is still held for the most part by Rockwell Automation and Allen-Bradley and Siemens. But we're also, looking at the future, what's coming down the road? We know, Inductive Automation Ignition is one of the fastest SCADA packages being... In terms of growth. So, we wanna make sure we identify that as well. But, so we try to do both, respond to local industry as well as, try to give general architectural type big-picture diagrams to our students. So.

Josh: Yeah, it's Jeff hit nail on the head there. I mean it's one of those things where you really wanna see what that region has to offer in terms of what's out there. I teach in a two-year program, so our program doesn't have the ability to go depth as much as I want to, in a lot of things. So we are very heavy breadth of things to teach, where we, our focus is a lot on different PLC brands. So our students will come back from a co-op or an internship, maybe work at a company that teaches XPLC, so their entire second year can then be taught on Siemens PLCs or Opto 22s, or Allen-Bradley, whatever they want. So we allow them to diversify in their second year to what they're seeing in terms of that.

Josh: So our industry partners love that ability of their students to leverage what they learned in their co-op and internships, and then come back with that knowledge. And then we use the Ignition packages to really showcase that breadth of knowledge from everything from HMI, simple basic Vision instruction, all the way up to Jython coding, right? So we can go anywhere in between with that, and just give them those spoonfuls, those little tastes of what's out there so that it really gets their mouth wet and they really get excited about what's gonna, what can happen, and how can they implement that. And I think that's really what's driving a big change, is when you teach students to be excited about what's out there and learn it themselves, you don't necessarily need to teach the depth. They'll find the depth, they'll go into those deep waters themselves. You just gotta get them excited about where those deep waters can really go.

Eugene: I think that's really interesting because I'm at the University of Waterloo and Josh is in Conestoga College. So regional wise, we're in the same, I think we're within like 25-minute drive from one another. But for our students, because we have a co-op program, which the students start right away and they go to take jobs outside of our region quite a bit. So it's almost, in my opinion that we're doing a disservice to our students if we go too far in depth in one thing. I think that we really need to have that breadth so that they can go anywhere, get any job, just like Josh was saying, and get all those experiences and bring it back. I understand, the Canadian perspective is a little bit different than the ones in the US but, I think that for all of us, we're really trying to create a global engineer that can thrive anywhere, really.

David: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. And I know that's a conversation that I have constantly with professors and whatnot when I'm talking about using Ignition in curriculum, and I'm saying, “Hey, I'm not telling you to not use anything else,” because you need that skillset, right? You're not gonna see just Ignition out there. You're gonna see other SCADA systems, other HMI systems, and you need that global skill package, like you said. Awesome. So let's shift gears just a little bit. And let's talk about emerging technologies. Industry 4.0 is all the buzz, and we have smart manufacturing, predictive maintenance, leveraging AI and machine learning technologies. How do these emerging technologies affect the education front? What do you think is, when do you think it's appropriate to adopt these new technologies into curriculum? And perhaps you can talk a little bit about that process. Let's start off with Josh.

Josh: Yeah, it's a great topic. Everybody loves talking about the Industry 4.0, the emerging technology stuff. It's definitely a challenge, in my world, where I am, again, teaching a two-year program, I have to really be able to cover those basics, and really get them to understand the fundamentals. But I think it would be a disservice to those students to not introduced some of these concepts, whether or not, again, you get to do a full on projects or explore all the topics. I think it, there is some really key areas where you can, you see kind of these emerging technologies that have some legs to them a little bit, right? For us, we're talking predictive maintenance, right? Predictive maintenance has been around for a while, but predictive maintenance with adding AI and machine learning, different technologies, predictive maintenance using digital twins where we can see how things are looking that way. From a maintenance perspective, there's some huge advantages to that.

Josh: And I think the key is to make sure that we don't overwhelm students with buzzwords and concepts and ideas, and we really give them the good fundamentals and then give them those branches of, this is where this comes in, this is where that comes in. And really give them that, those, the holistic approach and the holistic idea of where these buzzwords came out of, and really leveraging our industry partners to showcase that, right? We don't have to necessarily show it in school, in lab, but really, this is what this manufacturer's doing. This is where we're seeing these kind of technologies.

Jeff: Yeah. Good. Yeah. And for us at Penn College again the course I was asked to teach, the Automation Concepts a couple of years ago, I started looking at what material... What was the bleeding edge? And I came across the 4.0 Solutions with Walker Reynolds. And we've been sort of... I guess our approach has sort of been an augmentation-type process where you take existing equipment 'cause most companies are not gonna rip and tear 30-year-old equipment that works. So we take their approach of we're trying to augment we, our traditional fundamentals as Josh says we have to teach that. But we also try to attach gateways for MQTT so you can take OPC UA, convert to MQTT, go to a broker and then they can see the idea of the Unified Namespace. And I'm actually trying to get that integrated within our first year. So I also teach a first-year course in software tools and we're just gonna try to incorporate some Ignition because we teach all for basic PLC. And so it's a nice follow-up to add it onto a SCADA system like Ignition.

Jeff: So I think that's gonna work well for us. But yeah. And then I got a shout-out to 4.0 Solutions. There's something called a MES Bootcamp where most of you know, MES is kind of a complex layer in automation and the last, this Automation Concept course, 14 students actually got complimentary access to that MES Bootcamp. And that's really most of the material I was gonna cover anyway. Probably 70% was Ignition and doing some MES and machine learning. And so I'm excited that for tomorrow's the first day, now, I told the students that it's a lot of materials like drinking from a fire hose but we'll see how it goes. It's experimental, but this course I'm teaching it's great because it is meant to be on the bleeding edge. So the students understand that. So they're the test pilots so to speak to see how well this 4.0 Solutions training is gonna mix well or not with a normal credit course. So I'm hoping that, for great things. We'll see how it goes.

Eugene: Jeff, I'm really happy to hear you say that and how you do that because I do it in a very similar ways. So I want, it's nice to know that I'm not alone in doing that. In the course that I teach for example I started off by telling the students we're gonna move towards building in Industry 4.0 industrial IoT device but to know that you have to know how to integrate with everything else exists because like you said, no one's gonna wanna rip up their $10 million or $20 million factory or whatever, right? So I think that that's kind of how I've gotten around it. I motivate the students with, "Oh, here's the carrot that you're gonna get at the end but to get there we have to step through all this other stuff that you might see as old. But for us, we know it's fundamental." We try to do that more in our fourth-year courses where the students have a little bit more tolerance so to speak to the unknown but that's, I'm glad I'm not alone there.

Jeff: Okay, good to hear me too. I'm glad I'm not alone either.

Saeed: Wow. Great. Yeah, as everybody said, we will definitely see their influence of this new technological advancement in education and in our teaching material but I would like to talk a little bit also about the barrier of adapting these new technology in academic environment. One of the main barriers is the lack of lab facility relevant to such kind of new technology because in theory we can talk about all this technology but if we have specific lab facility that let the student to basically practice and experiment this new technology and have a feeling of that, that would have a great influence on the level of the learning and transferring this concept and basically getting away from those buzzwords saying that, "Okay, this is the real application of this technology."

Saeed: The good news is that I'm seeing that academic institution started building such kind of lab facilities. I heard about a couple of lab facilities with the name of smart factories, smart foundries. But so far it was limited to like big universities. And I would like to see that more in other universities like even college-level institution. And this is something that definitely needs industry support because not all the universities have enough resources to build such kind of updated lab facilities.

David: Absolutely. Great points there. Really great points. And that's something that when I talked to each and every one of you when we first first started communicating that was a big thing with Inductive Automation’s Education Engagement Program is that we want to support you. We want to take some cost off of your table and we want to be able to provide our licensing to the colleges for educational use cases. And I know that that's a lot harder with hardware especially with the supply-chain issues that we've been having. But there are still are those companies out there that see the quality, the ROI on providing that kind of equipment even if it's just to loan out to universities or whatnot for a time period, being able to get people up and running on those is... On those technologies is great. And it helps with that price issue, right? It helps with that budget issue. Awesome. Yeah.

Saeed: That's great.

David: So now with these emerging technologies, we're gonna kind of piggyback and follow up on that question. Sometimes these don't fit nicely into the curriculum for traditional programs like Mechanical Engineering or Electrical Engineering but these are concepts and technologies that they will probably see out in the field and I know I think Saeed talked a little about this how... I've seen a bit more of some non-traditional disciplines out there, such as emerging such as Mechatronics and other kind of programs that are kind of a blend of a few different programs to give exposure to a lot of different concepts. How have your academic institutions approached this, or how have you tackled this inside the classroom? And that could be just showing a SCADA system to an ME major or to somebody that might not see it all the time. Right? Let's go ahead and let's start with Saeed on this one.

Saeed: Okay, sure. Yeah. I guess in short term it's a bit hard to offer new programs, new degree by combining several majors together and perfectly adopting this new technology because it's lots of work developing a new program. But in a short term we can, instead of using basically offering new program, we can update the content of our current curriculum and our teaching material for different courses. For example, particularly about myself last semester I was basically offering manufacturing systems engineering. It's not one of the new courses, it's a kind of classic course in manufacturing engineering. But I basically specify a couple of sessions on special topics and cover talking about Industry 4.0. And I introduced Ignition as a part of that, and I gave them a small project to build a HMI system using the demo data that you are offering in your website. And I receive a very positive feedback from students, they love knowing and learning a new topic and a new tool, as a part of a traditional course, so maybe in a short term that would be a good approach. Instead of totally offering new programs, new degrees, we can update and revise our content.

David: Awesome. Eugene, you want to kind of jump in on after that one?

Eugene: Yeah. I think the more I realize this, the more I... The more I see this, the more I realize that I'm very spoiled. I'm very lucky here. So at the University of Waterloo, we have an entire undergraduate program in Mechatronics Engineering. So that gives me the home to have these courses to offer for these courses that are mechatronic space, and they allow us for interdisciplinary overlap. But you know what? It wasn't always this way. Our first graduating class of Mechatronics was in 2008. So we've had traditional programs of Mechanical-Electronic Engineering, and kind of the way that we approached that back then, and to an extent now still, is that we allow students to have Mechatronics option. So if you're a current... Oh, sorry about that. If you are a current student at Mechanical Engineering at the University of Waterloo... I apologize for that. Then you can go through with your Mechanical Engineering degree and you get a specialization in Mechatronics. So by doing that specialization, your third and fourth year, your courses are geared towards mechatronic-based ones, whereas your first and second year, your fundamental, heat transfer, fundamental fluids and everything, but then those ones gives you that chance to really dig into it.

David: Awesome. Josh, you wanna...

Josh: Yeah, absolutely. So my program's a little bit unique here in that when we develop electromechanical and automation maintenance, we looked at it from a need of the industry partners, right? So our approach was very different in that we're trades-based, so we have skilled trades there. In Ontario and Canada, we have very specific trades requirements. To be an electrician, you have to perform this much on-job training and this much in schooling and blah, blah, blah. What we took was the idea of what an industry partner would need for a holistic maintenance approach. So, somebody who could do the electrical and do the mechanical and do the programming and do all those supports, we took that and made a program around that. So we actually, our program's about five years old, so relatively new.

Josh: We combined two trade certificates together, so our students are able to kind of graduate with these two trade certificates. We weren't able to make a unique one because it is government-run. So we've added those together, and then we've layered in these technologies like robotics and PLCs. We're the only trades program in Canada that offers robotics training to a trade... Skilled trades level. There's nobody else that does it. We also offer 30-plus weeks of PLC programming in two years, which is a tremendous amount of PLC programming. We do Vision and several systems. All kinds of really cool stuff that these, that maintenance person going into a highly automated facility will need. And so that's where we take a little bit of a different approach from the engineering side, from my colleagues here, and we roped in a little bit differently on how we can support industry. And our program has been blowing up like crazy, which is great to see. So we're really hoping to leverage that with the government so that they can make some changes on their side to properly recognize some of these new, these emerging things that are happening out in the workforce.

David: Awesome.

Jeff: Yep. At Penn College, again, I'm spoiled, like Eugene and Josh in the sense that we sort of build our programs based on industry need, our advisory committee. So our AER program, which is a two plus two, so students in the electrical technologies, the electronics, we have a robotics automation two-year, and there's almost nearly, almost any technical program can actually transfer into our AER program. And so that gives us a tremendous amount of flexibility. But again, we really do the same way we look at industry need and we build these programs based on need in the direction.

Jeff: Now we have our traditional BEE, which it's much more difficult to put in some of these new technologies, but where they still get it, 'cause everybody in the first two semesters, they're all the same. So that's why I feel it's important to get Ignition and SCADA and some PLCs in the first year. So if we have BEE students, they'll have at least some fundamentals because most of our employment job offers are in the automation field. And every semester we have room for 237 companies to come in and it's always full. So we have to figure out how to accommodate all these companies. So we just have nowhere near the graduates to meet demand. So and we're just trying to do the best we can, but we know the more traditional BEE students will probably end up in automation jobs, so we wanna make sure they have some fundamentals of PLCs and automation.

David: Awesome. Sounds like you don't have a problem with placement for students, for graduates, right?

Jeff: Nope. Definitely not.

David: That's a great...

Jeff: And a matter of fact, for my own professional development, I did kind of cave a little bit. I'll be doing some work for MDI Advantage, they wanna do some Ignition, they wanna have some Vision projects, they want to convert to Perspective. So they've gonna hire me to do some of that work remotely. Yeah. But...

David: See, yeah, even you, you're getting in on the work too.

Jeff: It's a great interface though, because now I can also help identify students that they can do the same thing, you know? So I'm more of leading the way, not so much. So, yeah, I'll get outta the way if a student wants to do the work, but that's gonna be my new role as I guess to try to funnel students to some companies if that's the case.

David: Awesome. Awesome. Well I think we got enough time for one more topic. So let's jump into here and let's wrap it up after this. So several of these emerging technologies build upon concepts that were, so to speak, cutting-edge technologies a few years prior. That could be five years, seven years, 10 years prior. If those technologies are building on the previous ones, how does the education approach pushing that curriculum down to first, second, or third-year courses, rather than trying to cover all the concepts in the student's first or final courses? Maybe some of you can speak to that. I know that it's been a whirlwind probably for the last 10 or 15 years in the industry in terms of technology. So I was thinking that this might be a good concept to cover. Jeff, you wanna start us off?

Jeff: Sure. We, and I mentioned what we do already in all years, whole semesters, but we actually, actually push it down even to the 10th, 11th, and 12th grade, high school secondary levels because we have a program called PC NOW where we actually offer free tuition, or free... It doesn't put no cost to high school students that want to take our first-semester courses. And one of those courses is we call the Introduction Engineering Technology. It has a unit on PLCs. So we're actually trying to reach all levels, even our Digital Electronics class where we use traditional dual inline package. We're actually introducing PLC concepts to teach logic, so we're trying to, as much as possible, get some of the newer technologies down earlier in the educational process.

David: Great. Great. Yeah, Saeed, do you wanna jump in?

Saeed: Well, yeah, so again, talking from the perspective of a classical, you know Mechanical Engineering Department, in such kind of environment, this is a bit challenging to push down this new concept and new topics into first year, second year because the challenges that, what are the content that we are going to remove and replace with this new content? We cannot imagine mechanical engineers that doesn't know enough about static/dynamic vibration control, old mission design. So, and those levels, courses are full with these mandatory courses. That's why, again, the only solution that so far was there, and I take the advantage of that, is to basically offer some special topics as a part of those classical courses and introduce students to this new concept in the early academic year. So that is the thing, but maybe for sure gradually when we see that need in industry and we can basically push towards updating, renovating their whole basically curriculum and maybe a little bit reducing those classical content and finding some space for this new content.

Eugene: Yeah, I think that's a really clever way to do things, Saeed. We've been trying to do similar things to that regard. So for example, if you're taking classic controls course, right? We teach some fundamentals of like a PID controller, but then at the end we add those special topics for us. Like, “Oh, here's an advanced one to kind of pique your interest.” Oftentimes we'll do that with no associate grades attached to it or bonus marks or something that the stakes are low for the student so then they can engage with the curiosity. And over time, as something becomes more prominent and some other technologies start to fade away, we shift that focus. So I think that that's a challenge that we all faced with very heavy curriculums and picking that space is always hard.

Josh: Yeah. Eugene, you're definitely right there. I mean, it's one of those things where when we try to... You can only fit so many hours in, or else we overload the students and they go, they walk out the door, and that's never what we want to do. So we've done a few different things. We've done a little bit like what Jeff mentioned about down pushing into other courses. So we actually offer dual-credit courses to high school students where they can come in and take PLCs. We have an Introduction to Mechatronics, an Introduction to Robotics course so they can take those and get exemptions from some of our college-level classes. We've also started really pushing down the microcredential idea where we are offering things like Ignition, Advanced Industrial Concepts, Advanced PLCs, as an additional course to what we offer. So, we'll introduce these ideas and introduce these concepts and I'll build a demo out of using Ignition, and so the students can see what it's all about.

Josh: And if they want to learn more, we definitely try to give them those avenues to explore. And I find that really valuable, so we don't lose them as much as I'd love to put everything in my program, there's only so many hours in a day and I'm only allowed to teach so many hours. So, as long as we can continue to drive that passion, that excitement about what industry gives them, I think that's the key point for me, is to give them whatever appetite we can, there's microcredentials, dual credit, night classes. I've even done stuff on the weekends when I just get excited myself and I'm like, "Hey, let's just do a webinar together," and just come watch me play around with Ignition for a little while. There's some really crazy stuff that we do just because it's who we are. It's that passion drive that we build in what we do every day.

David: Absolutely. Awesome. Awesome guys. Well, I always appreciate talking to each and every one of you individually and to get you all together in a room and to talk education has been a great pleasure. So I really appreciate your guys' time today. I think we're gonna head into the Q&A session. And like I said, we'll have about 10 minutes in Q&A to wrap up. And then if anybody has any follow-up questions that they don't get answered during that time, they can always contact me and I can put you in contact with one of our speakers. Thank you everyone. I really appreciate your time today.

Eugene: Yep. Thank you, David.

Saeed: Thank you.

Jeff: Thank you.

Saeed: Thank you everyone.

Posted on October 26, 2022