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Motlow Mechatronics Students Among Special Guests at Bridgestone Open House

October 22nd, 2012

Students and their instructors in mechatronics classes at Bridgestone in LaVergne were among the guests during an open house for the mechatronics lab at the plant. They are, from left, Bryan Powell, instructor Khalid Tantawi, Jamie Thompson, instructor Shane Buchanan, Terrance Payne, director Fred Rascoe, Anastacio Hernandez, Adam Boyce, Joseph Gasser, Tyler Barton and Jody Griffin. Students not pictured are Kristopher Douglas, Brian Fleming, Jonathan Partain and Rocky Lovvorn.

Special guests at the open house celebration for the new mechatronics lab at Bridgestone NAMEC in LaVergne included high ranking officials from Motlow College, Bridgestone and Rutherford County, and members of the state legislature and Tennessee Board of Regents.

The most important guests, however, were students who use the lab during mechatronics classes. "The students are really what Motlow's partnership with Bridgestone is all about," said Dr. MaryLou Apple, president of Motlow College. "I want them to have a better future. I want Tennessee to have a better future and a higher quality of life, and it starts here."

Shane Buchanan, an instructor in the accelerated mechatronics program at Bridgestone, introduced his students: Tyler Barton, Jamie Thompson, Joseph Gasser, Anastacio Hernandez, Terrance Payne, Bryan Powell, Jody Griffin and Adam Boyce. Four students were unable to attend. Keith Hamilton, Bridgestone plant manager, shared how the completed lab began with a vision of a highly-skilled workforce prepared to step into unfilled manufacturing positions.

"Last year, we invited Dr. Apple to come here to talk about this project," Hamilton said. "We talked about the 600,000 technical skilled jobs that went unfilled in the workforce. It was our contention that we needed to build the workforce within this community and in each and every community in which Bridgestone exists. We began to identify others who were concerned and with whom we could share this vision, and the rest, as they say, is history." Hamilton said several industries have pledged to sponsor future mechatronics students. They include Bridgestone, which committed to sponsoring four students; Nissan, which was represented by Joe Welgan at the open house, five students; Quality Industries and their president Jeff Mayfield agreed to sponsor one; Jim Brewer, president of O-Flex, agreed to sponsor or partner with someone to sponsor one; and Jimmy Davis, president and CEO of Davis Industries, who also agreed to partner with a couple of other industries to sponsor a student.

Dr. Sidney McPhee, Middle Tennessee State University president, said the implementation of the Bridgestone/Motlow College program is an example of "higher education listening to the needs, and not just listening, but responding, and not taking years to respond, but responding just in time to the needs of business and industry."

McPhee said he soon will submit to the Tennessee Board of Regents a proposal to offer a bachelor's degree in design engineering in mechatronics at MTSU. Apple said this region is the first in the country to have a three-step career pathway for advanced manufacturing that is associated with three international credentials. Students can earn certification during high school, pursue level-two certification in conjunction with an associate's degree, and then, after MTSU's proposal is okayed by the TBR, complete level-three certification in conjunction with a bachelor's degree at MTSU.

In addition to Bridgestone, mechatronics classes are offered at Motlow's McMinnville Center and Warren County High School, and will be held at Oakland High School in the near future.

Mechatronics is a blend of mechanical, electrical, and computerized technologies that together form a system used by many industries. Major manufacturing industries incorporate these technologies today, and workers with the skills to maintain and repair these systems are in high demand, according to Fred Rascoe, director of mechatronics at Motlow.