Frankenstein’s Magic Formula: Modern Mechatronics!

Oakland SchoolsWHAT HAPPENS when you combine electronic and mechanical systems with information technology, teachers with engineering experience and a roomful of curious high school students?

What happens is a magic Frankenstein-ian formula for success called MECHATRONICS!

Mechatronics is an integrated engineering practice responsible for ‘smart’ machinery (think robotics, sensors, new homes, surgical tools and toys). In Michigan, where cars get ‘smarter’ every year, automotive engineering has assimilated mechatronics into many of its primary design and production processes. Dr. Frankenstein built an old-school monster that moved; Mechatronics builds new wave, intelligent machines that protect, heal and entertain.


At Oakland Schools Technical Campuses (OSTC), the Engineering/Emerging Technologies (EET) cluster introduces junior and senior high school students to Mechatronics in order to prepare them to be strong, entry-level candidates for elite, post-secondary training programs, paid apprenticeships, engineering degrees and industry careers.

OSTC instructors Chuck Beyer, a former Chrysler engineer with a teaching certificate, and Demetrius Wilson, who has an electrical systems background, talked about OSTC’s EET/Mechatronics program and the head start it gives to Oakland County students who graduate from the cluster…

Oakland Schools

Mr. Wilson at OSTC Northeast

“We’re doing some new things at OSTC. Students are using SOLIDWORKS™ software, which gives them the ability to do not just Computer-Aided Design (CAD), but Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE). You can teach kids to design blocks or parts with CAD, but you can’t test it – you don’t know if that part will fail. That’s where the CAE piece comes in…

Oakland Schools

OSTC student using CAE

Students need to be able to go from the virtual world, to hardware, then back to the computer. This process mirrors industry, and it demands that hands-on learning is taught in tandem with academics.

A student can open an engineering book and see lots of confusing things; the key, the trick, is to teach a student to figure out which pieces of the chaos are important.

Oakland SchoolsWe work with high-level pieces from the manufacturing world, and teach material that students typically don’t get until their first or second year of Engineering School. We take students through the entire Product Concept > Design > Production > Final Product sequence.

OSTC is able to do this because:

  1. We have the equipment
  2. We have dedicated blocks of time with our students
  3. We have instructor skill-sets that are unique and specialized
  4. We take a project-based approach: we teach kids through hands-on projects and applications FIRST, then we go back and help them fill in the physics formula blanks
  5. We make the learning RELEVANT!

Oakland SchoolsIn the old days of vocational education we had a couple of stand-alone programs, like Drafting or Welding. We’ve increased both the depth and breadth of our programs by incorporating Electronic Systems, Mechanical Systems and Computers under ‘Mechatronics’. Students within OSTC’s nine program clusters also collaborate with each other – a transportation student might need an automotive clamp designed, for example.

Our EET cluster students can design, produce and TEST the part to meet the need for the Transportation cluster. Our students are highly successful; they have been very well prepared for opportunities in Mechatronics and Engineering”.

An Opportunity: MAT²®

Michigan Advanced Technician Training (MAT²®) is an innovative, industry-driven program based on the German model of apprenticeship, and high school seniors must apply for admission. It is a competitive selection process since MAT²® offers lifetime benefits:

“Students will receive a salary throughout the program; have all tuition fees paid for by their employer and end up with an advanced associate degree. On top of that, there is a full-time technician job waiting for all successful MAT²® graduates.” – MAT²® website

Currently, MAT²® participants may choose to concentrate in the field as a Mechatronics Technician, IT Technician, or in Technical Product Design. MAT²® Early Bird deadline is December 15, 2014, and more application details are available HERE. A FREE parent information session is scheduled for October 30, 7:00-8:00 PM at Oakland Schools (for address and RSVP info, see downloadable flyer).

As Mr. Beyer and Mr. Wilson mentioned, OSTC students are well-prepped for college/career – and for the entire MAT²® application process. In addition to Mechatronics skills, students receive support in soft skills (interviews, resumes, portfolios, practice presentations), which helps them present themselves as well-rounded, successful future employees to companies looking for permanent technical talent.

Oakland Schools

OSTC EET/Mechatronics students

As for that Frankenstein-ian formula for success? If he were here today, Dr. Frankenstein would surely have a career in Mechatronics, and he would most definitely coach a winning Robotics team…

Oakland Schools


Oakland Schools Technical Campuses

Michigan Advanced Technician Training (MAT²®)


Blog Editor: Jean MacLeod, Communications/Oakland Schools


 Oakland Schools • 2111 Pontiac Lake Road • Waterford, MI 48328-2736 • 248.209.2000

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