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Sierra CACT Lifts Mechatronics Knowledge for Ski Industry
Skiers and snowboarders that jump on chair lifts to get to the top of a mountain probably give little thought to the equipment that combats gravity to give them an easy ride up to the start of their runs. Safe trams, gondolas, people movers and ski lifts that transport over 50 million people in California annually are a high priority for ski resorts. That's why the California Ski Industry Association (www.californiasnow.com) selected the Sierra College Center for Applied Competitive Technologies (www. sierracollegetraining.com) to conduct two, week long intensive Mechatronics courses this Summer.
Mechatronics is an integrated program combining electronics, mechanics, pneumatics and hydraulics under computer control. Sierra College launched the Mechatronics (www.RealSkillsRealJobs.com) program in January 2006, offering customized industry training as well as semester courses.
Sierra College faculty worked with the ski industry to customize this summer's course. Ski lifts are very complex and operate using advanced computer control systems with dozens of sensors, complicated electrical systems and large scale mechanical systems.
Forty-three lift operators, mechanics and operation managers, as well as mountain managers and state inspectors attended the class, representing primarily California resorts, although one participant came from as far as Fairbanks, Alaska.
Students applauded the faculty's knowledge and the practical application of what they were learning with hands-on activities. They also benefited from the courses being held at the Sugar Bowl Ski Resort because the actualequipment was nearby for inspection and discussion.
Students commented: “As far as electro-mechanics go, I learned more this week than the previous 10 years in the industry,” “The lectures were put into ways that were easy to follow for us real world people,” “The hands-on was key so that we could see and observe what happens based on the lecture,” and “Very helpful in filling in the gaps on things I thought I fully understood.”
Bob Roberts, Executive director of the California Ski Industry Association, explained the need for specialized Mechatronics training. “Repairing high speed lifts, snow making and grooming equipment, and fleets of off-road vehicles, now requires Mechatronics skills,” said Roberts. “We co-sponsored a specialized training program with Sierra College this Summer because we were impressed with the first class instructors and the practically-driven Mechatronics program. This partnership reinforces California’s leadership role in Winter sports technical training.”
The Sierra College CACT and faculty worked together to secure a grant from the California Community College Chancellors Office matched by industry contributions to develop the Mechatronics curriculum, purchase customized trainers and promote it to students.
According to Carol Pepper-Kittredge, Sierra College CACT Director, local industry not only supports the program but is eagerly recruiting Mechatronics graduates. “The Mechatronics program, in just the first six months, has supported our goals to attract more young people to technical careers and offer practical training geared to industry’s needs,” said Pepper-Kittredge.