What does Mechatronics mean - from a student perspective

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kentnj posted this 02 November 2017

Hi all,

My name is Dr Nigel Kent from Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland. I will be delivering the upcoming webinar towards the end of November. As part of the webinar I'd like also like to present some feedback from the community in terms of what, they feel, the term 'mechatronics' means from a student perspective?

 

While it might appear on the surface an absurd question for those of us working in the area, please let me provide some context. I graduated with a B.Eng in Mechatronic Engineering in 2002. To this day when I tell people of my primary degree I am invariably required to add the qualifier 'it is a combination of mechanical and electronic engineering'. Even this, I feel, is now an over simplification of the award. 

Given the advances in the area since 2002 the term 'Mechatronics' doesn't seem to have gained much traction with the larger community while other areas have. The terms Industry 4.0, Cloud Computing, Internet of Things, Robotics and Automation seem, from my perspective at least, to be more pervasive in modern society today. 

While it may be a stretch to claim Mechatronics as an umbrella term over the topics above, there is certainly significant overlap. With that in mind I'd like to ask the community for their thoughts on this and how me might push Mechatronics to the forefront so that prospective students and the larger community have an awareness of the area?

Looking forward to your thoughts and the upcoming webinar.

Best,

Nigel

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vkapila posted this 03 November 2017

Dear Nigel:

I get the drift of your comment :-). I am sure you know that there is an entire web-site devoted to various definitions of mechatronics, many talking about, as you indicated above, mechatronics being integration or combination of mechanical and electrical engineering. Here is the link: http://www.engr.colostate.edu/~dga/mechatronics/definitions.html. 

When I started teaching a mechatronics course almost 15 years ago, I used to share with students various definitions of mechatronics (including the one from T. Mori's 1969 trademark application). However, we have used the following as a "Working Definition" of mechatronics -- 

 

Mechatronics is the synergistic integration of sensors, actuators, signal conditioning, power electronics, decision and control algorithms, and computer hardware and software to manage complexity, uncertainty, and communication in engineered systems.

We called it a working definition with the understanding that mechatronics will continue to evolve and tackle many more new issues than what we started out with in early 2000s. Your message alludes to many new things that are now getting common, including wearable mechatronic devices, IoT, Industry 4.0, robotics, etc. So in that sense, I do indeed consider mechatronics to be an inclusive term. This is also seen to be true with the variety of student projects and continually evolving industry applications. Instead of looking at wearables, IoT, Industry 4.0, and robotics as silos, we can use mechatronics to accelerate and demonstrate convergence of many of these technologies. I am particularly excited about the opportunities presented by advances in and convergence and integration of AI, AR/VR, and robotics and how these enrich mechatronics. I hope this is somewhat helpful. 

BR

Vikram

Arman posted this 10 November 2017

I like how Vikram uses neither “Mechanical” nor "Electronics" in his definition As with any field I guess it takes time to establish itself and folks start to appreciate it for what it is -- on its own. Perhaps one reason it hasn’t gain traction among the community is that its still primarily taught within mechanical engineering or electrical engineering departments. In fact you often hear MEs and EEs trying to take ownership of field. I guess once we see independent mechatronic departments being established that’s when the masses will start appreciating it for what it is. In the meantime using Vikram’s definition helps not having to add the qualifier Nigel mentioned above.

Zuzana Fabusova posted this 13 December 2017

The recording of the webinar is now available on the Mechatronics Education Community website. The pdf version of the presentation is posted in the Repository -> WEBINARS: Mechatronics Education Innovation folder.

Zuzana Fabusova posted this 13 December 2017

A question from the webinar attendee that we did not have a chance to answer:

I saw Data analytics on slides. What is the link of it with Mechatronics?

Zuzana Fabusova posted this 13 December 2017

A comment from the webinar attendee:

 I agree that IoT is the technology du jour.  Mechatronics encompasses this, just as it will whatever becomes most popular next.

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