Mechatronics: Rapid repair of high-tech machines in manufacturing

By Jennifer Ferrero

According to AMTEC, over the next 10 years, 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will be needed in the United States. New careers are rapidly emerging to support high-tech production. One new area of growth is in Mechatronics.

In today’s manufacturing, cars, airplanes, and other products are built by robots or large format machines. These machines often complete work that is impossible, unsafe, or time-consuming for humans to do. In the automotive industry, using high tech robots in manufacturing started about 10-years ago. In Washington’s aerospace and advanced manufacturing industry, robots are just becoming a reality thanks to an organization called the Automotive Manufacturing Technology Education Collaborative (AMTEC) out of Kentucky.

AMTEC led a workshop hosted by the Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing at Everett Community College in Everett, WA to teach their expertise around “Mechatronics” (a combination of mechanics and electronics to service high tech machinery). And, although their background started in the development of technicians for the auto industry, they have adopted the same skill set and job descriptions within many other industries – such as aerospace.


AMTEC conference held at Everett Community College demonstrated a rapid training model for those interested in Mechatronics, a combination of mechanics and electronics (i.e. people who can fix high-tech robots and machinery in an advanced manufacturing environment.)

Manufacturers now are responding to increasing demand in the marketplace to produce cars, airplanes and many other advanced manufactured items.

Who will operate and fix the high-tech machines and robots so that manufacturers don’t lose production time? 

AMTEC answered that question and more about the education surrounding Mechatronics and meeting demand through the community and technical college system.


AMTEC representatives and supporters

The Nissan Model

Kevin Smith from Nissan said they ramped-up with the AMTEC model in their manufacturing processes to dramatically increase production and support of automotive robots and machines. They went from training people through two-year apprenticeships to fast-track certifications. Technicians who earn these credentials can start as high as $70,000 a year – many of these are students just out of high school.

Without AMTEC, Nissan simply wasn’t meeting production demands. Now, they expect student capacity to increase by more than 400% by 2020.

Areas of manufacturing training for Nissan:

1. Industrial/electrical maintenance (Mechatronics)
2. Machine tool, tool & die
3. Auto mechanics/technology
4. Auto paint and body
5. Welding

Jobs are created through the use of robotics in manufacturing

The machines being used on the manufacturing floor, have increased production and quality assurance, and surprisingly have created jobs. On average, two-four jobs are created per machine according to Mary Kaye Bredeson, Executive
Director of the Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing. In other words, the use of machines is not displacing workers – in most cases, new jobs are created.

Without Mechatronics, several techs are needed to solve every machine problem

Recently, without the Mechatronics discipline, it would often take a handful of specially trained technicians to fix a machine. This can cost the company time and money in delays. With Mechatronics, one technician can engineer, support and maintain the robots and machines.

In practice, those trained in Mechatronics are on-hand to rapidly diagnose and fix the issues on machines. Usually the role is stationed in the Maintenance and Operations department in a manufacturing plant. Generally not a glamorous job, this role has become more technical and scientific than ever before; requiring a new breed of maintenance worker.

Craig Hopkins, program manager with AMTEC and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System provides hands on training and product development to support manufacturing companies in workforce development.

Craig Hopkins, program manager with AMTEC and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System provides hands-on training and product development to support manufacturing companies in workforce development.

AMTEC hired experts to determine best practices and to develop curriculum

The AMTEC organization (funded by a National Science Foundation Grant), hired subject matter experts to sit down with manufacturers to conduct curriculum development sessions, called DACUMS that will allow them to find out processes and roles for conducting work. Through these, expert researchers, like Dr. Katherine Manley, AMTEC was able to create rapid training programs that meet the need of manufacturers in our country.

Dr. Katherine (Kitty) Manley of AMTEC is an expert researcher who conducted DACUMS with manufactures through a National Science Foundation Grant, which enabled AMTEC to create educational pathways.

Dr. Katherine (Kitty) Manley of AMTEC is an expert researcher who conducted DACUMS with manufacturers through a National Science Foundation Grant, which enabled AMTEC to create educational pathways.

Community and Technical Colleges and school districts are responding to the need for training

At a Boeing plant (Renton, WA), there has been a recent introduction of large format multi-ton machines built by Electro-Impact to manufacture the wing assemblies. Kay Latimer, Engineering Technology Instructor at Edmonds Community College was in attendance at the event to learn more about the Mechatronics discipline. She said they are looking at adding further courses and certifications for their students to meet the need of the industry.

Kaye Latimer, Engineering Technology Instructor at Edmonds Community Colleges is looking into the discipline of Mechatronics for their college.

Kay Latimer, Engineering Technology Instructor at Edmonds Community College is looking into the discipline of Mechatronics for their college.

Other instructors, and thought leaders on the subject of Mechatronics were in attendance as well, including Amazon and Boeing to learn about this technology.

Members of Washington’s manufacturing industry are supportive

Key industry partners from world-wide manufactures based in Washington are standing behind the Mechatronics training model.

Key industry partners from world-wide manufacturers based in Washington are standing behind the Mechatronics training model, including Amazon and Boeing

Five unique innovations in the Mechatronics industry:

1. Collaboration and strategic alliances (between competing manufacturers to document training needs in advanced manufacturing)
2. Mandatory partnerships between community and technical colleges and their industry partners for identifying standards, developing curriculum and assessment tools and professional development
3. The use of innovative and efficient processes to convene industry and educators
4. The development of a national curriculum and career pathways
5. Standardized assessment models

AMTEC is about skills mastery

The philosophy of AMTEC is unique because grades are not averaged, it is based upon mastery learning. Curriculum is based upon DACUM curriculum sessions which industry folks and educators get together to identify the tasks to do a job and then set it up to align
with courses, modules, and program hours to complete a degree.

AMTEC partner schools can opt in getting a simulator in the training program to teach skills mastery (repair, troubleshoot).

A simulator resides on the Everett Community College campus and allows manufacturing students to test and troubleshoot machining issues - this process leads to mastery of the discipline.

A simulator resides on the Everett Community College campus and allows manufacturing students to test and troubleshoot machining issues – this process leads to mastery of the discipline.

The testing and curriculum developed by AMTEC can be used to test employees in the industry as well as students.

“Competency-based learning is the way forward for our educational systems,” Dr. Katherine Manley said.

Still though, the biggest question remains is how to attract students into the industry?

Dr. Stanley Chase, a former superintendent, who retired and then went to work for AMTEC spoke about career pathways, introducing students to careers and manufacturing and how to make it stick:

Career Pathways – Creating success

  1. Awareness starts at k-5 (industry needs to go to the elementary school; parent nights)
  2. Internal and external champions are needed
  3. Senior leadership at colleges to support concept
  4. Galvanizing vision for exemplary programs came before the dollars
  5. Partnerships, employers, schools, colleges, government, have Memorandums of understanding (MOUs)
  6. Wrap around services – provides career guidance, academic counseling, mentor financial assistance, internships or apprenticeship opportunities for student success.

Big idea – get support from industry, government, and educators to bring the jobs to the students through career fairs – show them, don’t tell them.

According to Dr. Chase, career pathways counselors should be at all high schools and middle schools.

Dr. Stan Chase is a proponent of career pathways and educating students about the viable careers in manufacturing starting in Kindergarten through 5th grade.

Dr. Stanley Chase is a proponent of career pathways and educating students about the viable careers in manufacturing starting in Kindergarten through 5th grade.

For more about AMTEC,


Danine Alderete Tomlin, executive director
AMTEC Principal Investigator
Kentucky Community and Technical College System
T: 859-256-3284

To become a partner school in Washington: 

Mary Kaye Bredeson, executive director
Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing
T: 425-388-9987

Posted in Advanced Materials, Aerospace training, Career Technical Education, Careers in Manufacturing, Center of Excellence for Aerospace, Conferences and Outreach, Educational Resources, mechatronics, Short-term Training | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2016 Annual Report


Washington state’s Centers of Excellence link business, industry, labor and the state’s educational systems to create a highly skilled and readily available workforce critical to the success of the state’s economy. Each center is funded through the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) and is housed at a community or technical college.

Centers of Excellence serve as statewide resources representing the needs and interests of a specific industry sector. Through an ongoing investment, Centers are charged with narrowing the gap between employer workforce needs and the colleges’ supply of work-ready graduates. They are a critical component of the state’s strategy of sustaining an innovative and vibrant economy.

Each Center of Excellence Core Expectations include:

• Economic development

• Industry sector strategy

• Education, innovation and efficiency

• Workforce supply and demand

View the 2016 Annual Report as an eBook.

Order a printed copy.

Posted in Advanced Materials, Aerospace careers, Aerospace training, Center of Excellence for Aerospace, Centers of Excellence, mechatronics | Leave a comment

Paid Summer Internships with Boeing

Great news! Boeing is offering summer internships at a variety of locations within Washington State.

Here are some preliminary details:

  • Must be 18 and have a high school diploma
  • Boeing sites in Auburn, Puyallup, Renton, Kent, Bellevue, Tukwila, Seattle or Everett.
  • Begins July 11 – September 1, 2016
  • Submit your resume by May 13!

View full program details:

Boeing Summer Internships 2016


Posted in Aerospace training, Career Technical Education, Careers in Aerospace, Careers in Manufacturing, Center of Excellence for Aerospace, Educational Resources | Leave a comment

Strategic 2016 Goals to Impact Industry


Our goals are based upon Center of Excellence priorities and our FY 2015-16 Work Plan.

Our goals are associated with areas of focus that will impact Washington’s future economy and workforce development.


Mechatronics: This past year the COE partnered with several state interests, including the Boeing Company and Darigold (one of the largest privately held companies in the state) to develop and deliver common course curriculum based on the AMTEC (Automotive Manufacturing Technical Education) model. AMTEC is a collaboration of community and technical colleges and industry partners who seek to prepare highly skilled technicians for employment in industry.

Student retention and completion: As an agency expected to integrate the interests and needs of stakeholders on all sides of the equation (e.g., colleges, industry partners and students), the COE is working diligently to ensure that programs are shaped and targeted toward meeting specific industry needs as well as facilitating the engagement of students in relevant curriculum that is bench-marked to industry standards.

Grant funding: As in years past, grant funding remains an essential component in the success of many COE programs. Three following major grant initiatives merit attention.

  1. National Institute for Standards & Technology (NIST). The COE recently completed a one-year project funded through the National Institute for Standards & Technology (NIST).
  2. Washington Integrated Sector Employment. This nearly $10 million project, funded through a Round #4 DOL TAACCCT grant, brings together the clean energy, advanced manufacturing and construction sectors to prepare participants for employment in entry level, pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship occupations.
  3. DOL AIA (Apprenticeship in America) Grant. The role of the COE will be to convene subject matter experts from industry, trade unions and associations and post-secondary education for the purpose of identifying core Knowledge, Skills & Abilities required of workers upon entry into apprenticeships, as well as core duties and tasks required of apprentices across manufacturing sectors represented within Washington State.

Communication and Outreach:

  1. Air Washington. In September 2015, the Air Washington Grant expired. All of the accumulated content and media surrounding Air Washington was moved to the COE website as a permanent home. The content on this site will be preserved on the COE website for the foreseeable future.
  2. Social Media. 2015 was a huge year for “tweeting” for the COE. Bredeson, executive director had determined that most of her industry peers favored Twitter to other social media channels. Bredeson attended events and would routinely upload photos, content and comments regarding the events in real time. The organization also continue to write blog articles and publish e-newsletters. Social media outreach in 2015 had a slightly lower volume, but more impactful postings when possible. This was due to staff and contractor dedication on many larger projects.
  3. Resource Guide. 2015 marked the 3rd revision to the “Resource Guide,” a college catalog of statewide industry programs. This year’s Guide was renamed, “Washington Program & Resource Guide for Education and Careers in Aerospace & Manufacturing.” The book received a new design along with enhancement of sections. Additionally, the book was made available through online ordering (hardcopy), and through eBook viewing via the website.
  4. Website Updates. Website copy is audited and updated throughout the year. This year, two key website systems, “Recent Graduates” and “Industry Job Postings” systems continued to be maintained with new information. In 2016, a new goal will be to dedicate more time to updating, follow-up and measurement of the success of these tools.

Our goals are measured on a Quarterly basis.

If you have an interest in learning more about our scheduled outcomes and/or projects, please contact us at 425-388-9196.


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Innovations in Aerospace 2016

A summary of the JCATI Conference, 2016 – held in Spokane, WA 

By Jennifer Ferrero

Innovation is synonymous with aerospace. New ideas are percolating at a rapid pace due to the digital age of technology, according to the Spokane-based conference for the Joint Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation (JCATI). From applications in developing newer, more efficient jet fuels to new material in composites, the aerospace landscape is very dynamic.

Our state universities were in attendance to present the best in industry research from their programs, with industry partners. Last year, the JCATI organization funded 1.25 million to schools like University of Washington, Washington State and Western Washington University to work on the biggest problems in aerospace. Funding comes from Washington State and from private donors. During the conference, they held 1 minute presentations from engineering programs at each college to give their elevator speech for highly complex problem solving that they are doing at the colleges.


Mary Kaye Bredeson, executive director, with Professor Amit Bandyopadhyay, WSU and master’s student Thomas Gualtieri showing off a recent research project funded by JCATI with industry partner, Aerojet Rocketdyne

The JCATI mission is “Supporting the Washington State aerospace community by enriching research, business and educational collaborations.” Those that were in attendance at the conference were largely students, professors and high level industry leaders who came to discuss current trends and activities.

Current trends in technology of aerospace/aviation

Triumph Composites shared a presentation about the use of robots in their manufacturing process. They noted that automation is required to reduce waste, deal with backlogs in orders, and to keep people out of hazardous chemicals. Their automation extends to inspection and quality control, which is done by a robot that scans and takes pictures of a product with an output of a quality report that can be read by human inspectors.

Lockheed Martin was on hand to describe the project and operations management that goes into launching rockets into space to deploy gold mesh satellites that control our cell phone communications systems.


Iris Bombelyn from Lockheed Martin was the keynote. She shared about several key projects involving setting up satellites in space to manage cell phone communications. 

AUVSI reported on the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the marketplace and trends regarding commercial usage. They noted that drones/UAS can be involved with so many facets of our working lives:

  • Agricultural
  • Inspection on wind turbines, oil rigs, buildings and bridges
  • Criminal investigations
  • Architecture of new buildings, maintenance of old

It’s clear that the ability to manage so many systems via UAS can be an asset to people. There will be many new businesses created within the UAS industry in the near future including fee-for-service work like wedding photographer, real estate and agriculture; as well as new jobs in insurance and law to support the industry.

Sandel Avionics was available to share new information about how a group of people are working with “highways in the sky” and flight path patterns to create more efficient flight times and landings to ultimately be more conservatively minded in commercial flights. A human variant in pilot personality and style of flying affects the level of efficiency in flights.

The Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT), an organization with 7,000 employees statewide, shared about innovations in aviation fuel; the privatization of air traffic control services (a bill currently in the state legislator); NextGen and the air navigation system transitioning from analog to digital navigation; and workforce development and partnerships.


Rob Hodgman from WSDOT Aviation and the Washington State Unmanned Aircraft Technology Coalition (Washington UAS) shared about the amount of involvement the Department of Transportation has in aircraft concerns. 

For more information about the organizations profiled in this article:

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Training for jobs at AMTEC

By Jennifer Ferrero

“We have a vibrant economy – the most difficult challenge is to complete students before they get a job,” Sheila Dunn, Associate Dean of Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing Careers, AMTEC

Thor Nelson, 35, was working in landscaping when he decided that the opportunities were drying up. He had been to Everett Community College in the past, so he made an appointment with Annette Floyd, student achievement initiatives manager, who was involved with the Air Washington grant program (which allowed more than 2,600 people to obtain industry training between 2011-2015). Floyd talked with Nelson about his hobbies and aptitudes. He likes working with his hands and wasn’t partial to sitting at a desk all day. He had also been involved with radio-controlled helicopters and other R/C devices for about 14 years. She recommended that he get involved with the Advanced Manufacturing Training and Education Center (AMTEC) which is a part of the Everett Community College Campus.


Students from Everett Community College and WSU show off a UAS that they built (Thor Nelson, profiled, is holding the UAS on the right; Demri Lewis and Blain Liukko left – right).

Nelson enrolled in the ATA degree in Advanced Manufacturing Technology- Composites, which is a 2-year degree program. He is also taking classes in design with CATIA, SOLIDWORKS and AutoCAD. There is also a two quarter certification program.

Nelson said that he has a mix of students in his program – some right out of high school and other more experienced workers who are retraining or working toward a degree or certification while they work in the industry.

“The Advanced Manufacturing Training & Education Center (AMTEC) is a 37,000 sq. ft. modern facility located in Everett, WA, that is operated by Everett Community College. AMTEC offers short, stackable certifications and certificates that build to a college degree and a pathway to family wage jobs in manufacturing industry,” Everett, AMTEC webpage. 

Sheila Dunn, expresses positive energy regarding the program and growth at AMTEC. “Last year we had about 1,000 people training at AMTEC, each quarter there are about 400 individuals taking classes,” Dunn said.

Employment opportunities for students coming out of AMTEC programs are less of a gamble and more of a sure thing with a 90% completion rate from the program, and a 90% hiring rate with the over 200 Boeing suppliers within a 10-mile radius.

“The machining graduates have a 100% employment rate,” Dunn added.

She also noted that they have put into practice more career counseling and advising through the role of Annette Floyd who is following a model set up by Air Washington that included Career Navigators.

“AMTEC connects over 1,000 students annually with more than 200 manufacturing industry employers through on-site visits, collaborative projects, and placement for internships and jobs. Industry partners have donated a full range of materials and equipment for students to experience real-world, applicable skills training,” Everett, AMTEC webpage. 

In a year, when Nelson graduates from the program, he said he is open to working at a large manufacturing company, but he worries about the mass production of products. He likes the ability to be involved with multiple production projects at a time, while having a hand in designing and tooling. Nelson considers himself a bit of an overachiever in the program, but he said that it is because he is enjoying learning and working with people in the industry. He has gotten involved with many cross-college and university clubs and attends conferences, like the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance (PNAA conference) and others where he can meet like-minded folks.

He tells people that he enjoys the program and if they are interested, they should start with the basic composites class. If they enjoy learning the basics, they might be a good fit for working in the composites industry.

Dunn noted that AMTEC is preparing to add 17,000 square feet, and in the fall will offer a Mechatronics program, which is, industrial repair and maintenance. Machinists, welders and composites technicians also have an opportunity to take a 19 credit certificate in Mechatronics, which will eventually become a 2-year degree.

Programs like AMTEC are popping up all over the state as the community college system is becoming more responsive to industry needs. Opportunities abound for people like Nelson and others who are either starting a new career or going back to school.

For more about the AMTEC programs at Everett Community College, please visit their webpage. 

For more information about getting into a career in aerospace and advanced manufacturing, order one of our free catalogs.

Posted in Advanced Materials, Aerospace careers, Aerospace training, Air Washington, Career Technical Education, Careers in Aerospace, Careers in Manufacturing, Center of Excellence for Aerospace, Educational Resources, Materials Science, Short-term Training | Tagged | Leave a comment

Aerospace Conference – Best of Industry

Highlights of the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Conference 2016

By: Jennifer Ferrero

Over the next 20 years, Boeing and Airbus will build and deliver over 67,000 aircraft to worldwide customers. The strength behind this duopoly is powered by thousands of worldwide suppliers, and tens of thousands of skilled and professional employees with high quality standards. Their drive to build this volume of aircraft is based upon customer flight demand along with the retirement of past aircraft.

The deep dive into the key players and their big ideas in the world’s aerospace community happens each year at the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance (PNAA) Conference which occurs each February in Lynnwood, WA.

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The conference was attended by over 600 suit-wearing professionals including C-Suite executives from both Washington state and worldwide suppliers from the world’s top aerospace companies – to include guests from 12 countries, such as Canada, France, Mexico, and India to name a few.

The ongoing success of this conference, according to participants, is the quality of the speakers and the caliber and relevancy of their talks. Journalists from publications such as the Wall Street Journal and Geek Wire are furiously consuming the forecasted growth trends and the impact to U.S. jobs and technology, along with supplier insights.

A good portion of the crowd come from the supplier base that is represented in the hundreds at this conference who wonder how trends such as lower barrel costs for oil/gas, as well as new trends in large format 3D printing and use of composite materials will impact their business.

Business is done with supplier development and networking with vendor groups such as the Inland NW Aerospace Alliance, economic development and departments of commerce, apprenticeship groups, airport systems, airlines, community and aviation-based colleges and bankers, accountants, and more. It seems that there is a role for everyone at the annual conference.

Naturally, Boeing and Airbus presented regarding their goals and forecasts. Overall, business continues to be strong and revenue is in the billions for each of the competing companies. The aerospace industry continues to offer the best quality and highest capacity, and a prodigious volume of employees, for any industry – especially in Washington state.

That said, the demand for aerospace workers for all levels of work continues with unparalleled strength in all markets. Training programs at Washington’s community and technical colleges in precision machining, composites, engineering design, aviation maintenance, mechatronics and most recently UAS programming is preparing our students to meet industry needs.

According to the conference speakers, demand exists for hiring aerospace and advanced manufacturing skills sets now, and for the next 20 years, at least as orders are booked for that term.

Beyond the large aircraft corporations, other key high volume aircraft makers were in attendance, such as Bombardier, Embraer and Mitsubishi. Multi-ton machine manufacturer Electroimpact presented regarding the autonomous nature of the assembly line machinery they build while highlighting the need for skilled engineers; noting that they have up to 200 engineers on a project at any time!

For those interested in creative pursuits with a focus on architecture, engineering and 3D printing, expect to see more jobs in the creation of aircraft, with printed parts, in elaborate curved, shaped and honeycomb designs that use a portion of the raw materials being used today.

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For aerospace related jobs, check out the jobs on our website. For more information about joining this illustrious career, order one of our Career Guides to find out how to obtain short-term certifications and degrees right here in Washington.

See you at the next PNAA conference in February 2017!

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