Brownwood High mechatronics classes broaden career opportunities for students

By Sara Musgrove / Special to the Bulletin
Brownwood High School Computer Science/Robotics Teacher, Edward Yantis, describes one of the machines to Brownwood Education Foundation Development Director, Larry Mathis.

"Our society and economy have transitioned in many areas from human labor to technology and robotics,” said Brownwood High School Computer Science/Robotics Teacher Edward Yantis.

“We must provide skills and knowledge that will allow our students to fill jobs supporting robotics and technology. The challenge is trying to prepare students for technologies and jobs that may not yet exist!”

Yantis works with a wide variety of students, training them in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field, particularly in the Mechatronics collaboration with Texas State Technical College (TSTC), and 3M.

“STEM or STEAM (adding the arts) courses all stimulate and increase brain function,” Yantis said. “We focus on problem solving, collaboration, and discovery.  These skills, together with the course knowledge, equip students for future success in their career. More than just STEM education, these classes are CTE (Career and Technology Education). We explore careers and develop 'soft skills' that are necessary for students to secure - and keep - worthwhile employment.”

The Robotics and Mechatronics classes create more opportunities for students to apply what they learn in creative, productive, and rewarding methods. Currently, 10 students are involved in the Introduction to Mechatronics courses being offered at BHS using 3M/Festo equipment.

“When these students complete the course, they will take a certification exam provided by NC3," Yantis said. "Other classes will go through the curriculum at different times during the year. We will have speakers from 3M and other local industries to inform our students about high-wage employment opportunities for candidates with skillsets like mechatronics.”

These BHS students are learning how to use specific machines and if they finish the entirety of the program, will graduate with a certification for a high-wage-earning career.

“Any current sophomore or junior, whether or not they have completed the intro curriculum, will be given an opportunity to enter the first cohort group co-enrolled with TSTC starting with 2021-22 school year,” Yantis said. “We hoped to have students enrolled this year, but the shutdown due to Covid-19 delayed all plans. TSTC staff will present information about the program and associated pathway during this year and schedule interested students in the spring.”

While plans continue to roll out and adapt, students in the mechatronics classes continue to learn, practice, and train.

“Students in Robotics I and II are learning about pneumatic, electrical, and mechanical systems and components,” Yantis said. “They are using that knowledge to successfully meet the automation requirements of a fictitious order-fulfilment warehouse. Computer Science I and Fundamentals of Computer Science students are learning JavaScript in preparation to utilize it in a 'physical computing' unit later in the year."

Physical Computing is creating and using devices to interact with the world around them by combining electrical components and programming logic. Computer Science II students are working toward a Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certification in the Java programming language.

The students will also be able to try out for a spot on the Computer Science UIL Academic team. This year a new class -- Mobile Applications Development — has been added.

"Students are already being successful designing app interfaces and controls," Yantis said. "In addition to the Robotics curriculum and contests and the Introduction to Mechatronics collaborative with TSTC, BHS is endeavoring to start a drone construction and programming collaborative with Ranger College.  I am excited to see what this new collaborative can bring to our students!” BHS students stay quite productive and engaged with these STEM programs, which are thriving. New students continue to enroll, led by enthusiastic and knowledgeable teachers at BHS."