BEI School of Engineering launches Mechatronics concentration


Fairfield University's BEI School of Engineering is launching a new concentration in "Mechatronics" to meet the growing interest in creating "intelligent" products through the use of miniaturized integrated circuits.

Mechatronics enables engineers to design products that integrate mechanical and electronic concepts with computer processors and could be used for more efficient assembly lines, controls on helicopters, advanced manufacturing systems or in consumer products with pre-set and sophisticated timing controls.

Dr. Richard Weber, associate dean of the engineering school, commented that the program, which awards a certificate upon completion, is aimed at engineers involved in designing products that require data analysis, control systems or energy conservation. In addition to its use in the helicopter and aircraft industry, he said Mechatronics concepts are vital in test and measurement equipment, machine tools, marine products, business machines and computer equipment.

Dr. Weber, formerly project manager at Machlett Industry in Stamford for design of medical x-ray systems, was involved in the design of the x-ray system for computer-aided tomography (CAT scan). Among the faculty teaching courses dealing with Mechatronics is Vincent McCarroll, a research and development engineer for motion control hardware and software at Robothand, Inc., in Monroe, which designs unique automation products. In addition, Dr. Weber explained that industry experts have assisted Fairfield in establishing the Mechatronics program as well as helping with other course offerings.

Noting that the BEI School of Engineering has an enrollment of approximately 350 students who attend classes part-time pursuing a bachelor of science degree, he said one-third are studying electrical engineering, one-third computer and information systems which includes the client-server concentrations, and one-third mechanical engineering which includes manufacturing engineering.

He commented that the steadily increasing enrollment "was not surprising" because the school is "user-friendly." Dr. Weber explained, "We're on call" from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and BEI focuses on the needs of students working in industry. For example, there are classes scheduled from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Counselors, department chairs and directors are available Monday through Thursday evenings. The snack bar is open at the Barone Campus Center to accommodate those coming directly from work.

Dr. Weber added that BEI draws students from virtually every industry in Fairfield County and, in particular, cited the high-tech companies along Route 7 in Norwalk, Wilton, Danbury, Ridgefield and New Milford. "We even draw students from as far away as Mt. Kisco. It's a 60-minute ride," Dr. Weber, commented "but students find it worthwhile in order to work for a degree without the loss of time on the job, at a pace that meets their own personal academic needs in a setting with advanced laboratories comparable to those found in industry."

Recent additions to the laboratories include a refrigeration training unit with a computer interface for data acquisition, and a mechanical properties testing system obtained as a result of a National Science Foundation grant. Personal computers and a computer-controlled measurement system utilizing Hewlett Packard software are provided for data acquisitions and analysis.

Citing other advances in the curriculum, Dr. Weber also pointed to courses that provide the latest in software for client-server technology. Included in this area are classes in Object-Oriented Relational Database Design; Database Concepts; Visual Programming; and Network System Concepts. The Advanced Distributed Systems include courses in Computer Capacity Planning, Network Operations Systems, User Interface Design, and Internet Programming.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on August 1, 1997