DENSO awards $100,000 for Roane State mechatronics program

By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer

Roane State Community College has been awarded a $100,000 grant from DENSO, a leading mobility supplier. The grant will be used to increase skills training for mechatronics students and recruit minorities for the college’s growing mechatronics program.

Mechatronics is a multidisciplinary branch of engineering that includes both electrical and mechanical systems. The grant was one of more than $1.5 million in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education grants awarded to 13 North American colleges and universities by DENSO North America Foundation.

The Foundation is DENSO’s philanthropic division. It supports the company’s mission to develop a skilled and knowledgeable workforce, now and in the future.

DENSO develops advanced technology and components for nearly every vehicle make and model on the road today.

“We are so grateful to the DENSO North America Foundation for this generous grant which will greatly increase the ability of Roane State’s mechatronics program to serve DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee and other manufacturers in the area,” said Dr. Chris Whaley, Roane State president. “DENSO is an incredible partner and supporter of Roane State students.”

DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee in Maryville has 4,150 employees in four plants with 2.3 million square feet under roof.

“This generous grant from DENSO gives RSCC mechatronics the ability to provide state-of-the-art training,” said program director Gordon Williams. “Our students will now have hands-on experience with the newest Industry 4.0/Smart Factory equipment.”

Kim Harris, the college’s director of workforce training and placement, said the grant means employers will be able to hire highly trained mechatronics technicians. “Industries looking to foster these students during their training can also take advantage of Roane State’s Mechatronics Apprenticeship Program,” she said.

Roane State’s certificate and associate degree mechatronics programs prepare students for jobs as electro-mechanical technicians and robotics technicians.

It’s projected that Tennessee will have nearly 3,000 more job openings for electro-mechanical technicians than it can fill each year by 2025. The DENSO grant will also fund efforts by the college to recruit underrepresented and first-generation students who may not have considered college as a path to manufacturing employment.

Roane State’s mechatronics program is headquartered at the Clinton Higher Education and Workforce Training Facility, and a new mechatronics lab was recently installed on the Roane County campus for use by conventional as well as Middle College students. In Middle College, students can graduate from both high school and Roane State at the same time.

About Brad Jones

Brad is the Owner/Operator of BBB TV 12, and has been with the company since August of 1996. Brad is a 1987 graduate of Coalfield High School and a 1995 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Communications. He won the 1995 broadcast production student of the year award. Brad worked at Shop at Home, Inc. a home shopping network that was located in Knoxville, TN from 1993 - 1995 and then at Via TV (RSTV, Inc.) from 1995 - 1996. After some freelance work in Nashville, Brad joined the BBB Communications staff in August of 1996. A short stint at WVLT TV as a news photographer was in 2001, but he continued to work at BBB TV as well. Brad is married to Nicole Jenkins Jones, a 1990 graduate of Oak Ridge High School, who works at Oak Ridge Gastroenterology and Associates in Oak Ridge. They have 3 kids, Trevor Bogard, 27, Chandler 22, and Naomi 13. On December 12, 2013 they welcomed their first grandchild, Carter Ryan Bogard. Brad is also the assistant boys basketball coach at Coalfield High School for the past 11 years. In 2013-14 the Yellow Jackets won their first district title since 1991 and just the 4th in school history.

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