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New program: mechatronics

September 21, 2007

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By Barry Shell

One year ago, professor Farid Golnaraghi arrived at SFU from the University of Waterloo. His goal: create North America’s first bachelor of applied science program in mechatronic systems engineering, a combination of mechanical, electrical, computer and software engineering.

This month, the charter mechatronics class began at the university’s Surrey campus. “In one year, we not only designed a curriculum and got it through senate, but since announcing the program in March we have 69 students sitting in class right now,” says Golnaraghi.

As a star Canada Research Chair at Waterloo, Golnaraghi was already successful. “But nothing comes close to the experience of creating a program like this from scratch,” he says. “And this is just the beginning.”

Mechatronics recognizes that most products on the market today are a combination of mechanisms and electronics. Digital cameras, cars and washing machines are just a few examples. Engineers must be familiar with everything from gears and bearings to microcircuits, sensors and software design.

The four-year program includes a year of co-op during which students work in the field. Mechatronics students also take business and communication skills courses.
“The idea is to produce engineers who can work in many disciplines and have good communication abilities and an entrepreneurial spirit,” says Dr. Mehrdad Saif, director of SFU’s School of Engineering Science.

Golnaraghi says there is a big demand for such hands-on engineers who are able to communicate with consumers and business people while developing new technologies such as active buildings and intelligent heavy equipment. The initial class target was 50 and with nearly 70 enrolled it appears many students appreciate the program’s benefits.

This month, Golnaraghi is in Dayton, Ohio demonstrating a new type of suspension he developed for cars and trucks. His dynamic stability system senses road conditions to actively prevent accidents—a perfect example of mechatronics at work.
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