Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Is mechatronics engineering applied in renewable energy sector?

The short answer...yes. Now here comes the long answer.

Rachel, our Marketing Manager, recently inspired me to write this blogpost. She somehow managed to come across the following post, a question I'm sure many young engineers are pondering around the world today:

Is mechatronics engineering applied in renewable energy sector?

Knowing about my involvement in the Mechatronics world and also about my special interests in green energy, she brought this blog to my attention. My name is Sunny Ray and I work with Quanser, a global leader in Mechatronic and Control Systems. We provides leading edge academic and research equipment to more than 2000 Engineering Universities world wide. I presently support our business development team and as a result, get to attend a lot of cool conferences and meet a lot of interesting people who are a whole lot smarter than I'll ever be :)

In order to try and answer your question, I think its important to gain clarity on: What is Mechatronics?

Short answer: look up Mechatronics in Wikipedia.

Long answer: start by taking a look at the picture below.

Mechatronics is where Computer, Control, Electronic, and Mechanical Systems all intersect. The world around us today has really become a complex system of systems. More importantly, its really about humans interacting with these different systems which are all coming together. Think of an airplane, or a car, or even a dishwasher. They all have mechanical components. They all have some sort of intelligence, or controls. They definitely have complex electronic and computer systems built into one solution. As the world turns, this mechatronics circle grows to be more holistic and integrated. The smaller green, brown, blue and red circles seen above, each grow to intersect with one another more and more. Mechatronics, its everywhere.

So, let me ask you, does the world need engineers to make airplanes, cars, and dishwashers more energy efficient? Global warming is impacting the world in a way which most people cannot fathom. If either Greenland or even just the western past of the Antarctic ice sheet melts, both well on their way, oceans will rise more than twenty feet. 20 feet, doesn't sound like much. This mere 20 feet will flood coastal countries around the world and create hundres of millions of refugees. Places most impacted would be Florida, San Fransisco Bay, the Netherlands, Beijing, Shanghai, Calcutta, Bangladesh and parts of Manhattan. 10 years ago, at current global warming rates, most scientists agreed that this type of devastation would occur closer to 2050, a few years later, they corrected themselves and said it would happen closer to 2040. A few years after that, scientists were admitting that the impact was accelerating and this would all occur by 2030, then they said 2020, and now, they're saying 2012. Imagine that. Today, a few hundred refugees migrate and the world takes attention, now imagine a few hundred million. Is energy efficiency and mechatronics going to be important? You tell me.

If you don't take my word for it, read three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Thomas Friedman's new book titled: Hot, Flat and Crowded. In it, he looks at the hybrid car as an example. He brings attention to the integration of the acceleration and braking systems of a car. That took out of the box thinking, it took "systems integration" thinking.

The world we are entering into will need people who understand systems. More importantly, it will need engineers who understand how systems interact with one another. By specializing in Mechatronics and immersing yourself in a hands-on environment, you will be positioning yourself to help thousands, if not millions of people around the world. I believe you are on the right track. Good luck!


martha said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Muhammad Nur Azhar Bin Hafiz said...

so mechatronics is a specialise skill not a discipline?

Quanser said...

It really depends on how you define specialized skill or discipline. We are beginning to notice Mechatronic departments pop-up all over the world, however I don’t know if you can call it a discipline on its own just yet. I guess you can call it a specialized skill of sorts, but now more and more students are getting Mechatronics focused degrees.
- Suny -