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Brian Steward, Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, (515) 294-1452
Pam Reinig, College of Engineering, (515) 294-0261
Ann Wilson, ISU Foundation, (515) 294-9608
Lori T. Porter, Caterpillar, (309) 675-5813
Debra Gibson, News Service, (515) 294-4917


AMES, Iowa -- Thanks to a gift from Caterpillar Inc., Iowa State University engineering students soon will be able to hone their mechatronics skills in a laboratory dedicated to that discipline.

The new laboratory, which supports projects that merge electronic controls with mechanical components, will be dedicated at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7, in the Stan and Helen Howe Lobby of Hoover Hall. Featured speakers will include Caterpillar executives Jim D. Waters, Jr., Sid Banwart and Rich Lavin; ISU President Gregory Geoffroy and College of Engineering Dean James L. Melsa.

"Today's products are no longer simply 'mechanical' or 'electrical,' but are complex combinations including mechanical, hydraulic, thermal, electrical, computer and software systems," Brian Steward, assistant professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, said. "The term 'mechatronic' is an attempt to capture the blurring of engineering systems required for today's products. To deliver these types of systems, companies need engineering graduates who can work across different systems to do mechatronic engineering."

Caterpillar Inc., a Fortune 100 company, is the world's leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines and industrial gas turbines. The company's relationship with the ISU College of Engineering dates back to 1930. As one of the College's Strategic Industrial Partners, Caterpillar recruits and hires ISU students for cooperative learning, internship and summer employment positions; lends its executives for service on the college's industrial advisory boards; and invests in research activities. More than 200 College of Engineering alumni are working within the Caterpillar organization, several of whom are in key management positions.

"As an Iowa State engineering graduate myself, I appreciate the high standards to which the College holds its students," Sid Banwart, Caterpillar vice president, systems & processes division and chief information officer, said. "Likewise, the College's long-standing commitment to tailoring its curriculums to meet ongoing industry needs encourages corporations like Caterpillar to give back and ensure that excellence in engineering education continues."

Melsa, engineering dean, underscored the increasing importance of industrial partners such as Caterpillar in keeping Iowa State engineering students at the forefront of the profession.

"With diminished support from public sources," Melsa observed, "we look to private concerns such as Caterpillar to invest in their own futures by investing in the education of their future employees. I can think of no better example of the direct connection among education, technological innovation and a dynamic economy than this lab. Everybody wins."

In the new Caterpillar Mechatronics Laboratory, undergraduate and graduate students will carry out exercises involving data acquisition, electronic and mechanical interfacing, electrohydraulic actuation and control, dynamic systems and computer modeling. These fundamental capabilities for computer interfacing, modeling and control are intended to both provide a learning foundation for students and expand companies' research in the area of mechatronics and hydraulics.

Currently, according to Steward, agricultural and biosystems engineering students are using this knowledge to design projects like an autonomous agricultural vehicle to be used for the robotic collection of soil samples in agricultural fields. Engineering faculty members say the hands-on, solution-oriented learning provided by the lab will be a powerful motivator for students.


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Published by: University Relations,
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