MISHAWAKA – The Mathematics Engineering and Computer Science department has come into possession of two robots. The robots were bought using money from a LIFT grant funded by the Lilly Foundation. After applying for the grant in Nov. 2020, Bethel was approved for and awarded the grant in the spring of 2021. Most of the funds went to refurbishing the engineering lab, purchasing the robots and promoting the new computer science majors.
What the robots do is variable. The larger of the two robots is a modular station, and the department plans to add more machines over time. It can dispense dice and set them into a tray. Students will study the operating system that controls the robot and learn to move it themselves.
The smaller robot is a trainer robot that allows students to observe several preset actions and processes to examine what goes into modern automated processes. It will also provide the students with a chance to learn how to write their own programs that the robot can carry out. For the semester of Spring 2022, it is being used as part of the LEAN Manufacturing class, and it is planned for the Intro to Engineering class to make use of them in Fall 2022.
One of the most important benefits of the LIFT grant, aside from the acquisition of the robots, was the introduction of the LEAN Manufacturing class, developed by Professor Sherri Campeau. LEAN manufacturing is maximizing productivity and minimizing waste. The topic is one guided by theory and principles of efficiency.
“The VP of Engineering for Lippert explained to me that the number one need for young engineers is problem-solving skills and an understanding of LEAN Manufacturing techniques,” said Campeau.
Though the Mathematics Engineering and Computer Science Department has been around for 20 years, Bethel’s Computer Science degree was just added in 2019, with the first two majors planning to graduate in May of 2022. It has reached out to local high schools and intends to provide training courses on data for both current students and Bethel’s community. The department also sees the potential for having courses on local industry and giving certifications.
Thanks to the development of the Engineering Management degree in 2014, students have been able to finish the four-year program and remain at Bethel for all of it, rather than matriculating to Notre Dame or Trine. This benefits not only the students, but also the South Bend and Elkhart areas, as this degree leads to numerous jobs in industry and keeps the graduates local.
“We have significant connections with industry and 90% of our students obtain summer internship,” said Campeau. “These are paid internships and help students get paid for learning about engineering and build their resumes.”
This is part of what makes Bethel’s engineering program so special. For example, rather than having to declare a focus prior to their enrollment, students can take their entire first year to explore the options open to them. As freshmen, all engineering tracks are virtually identical, so they do not have to commit before they know what they are committing to.