So I often get asked “what is Mechatronics Engineering anyway?” from people unfamiliar with the program. As a relatively new (and accredited) discipline at Waterloo, I often say that it’s a M.E.S.S.:
Mechanical: the program is an offshoot of the university’s mechanical engineering program, with courses in statics, dynamics, and material science.
Electrical: We have quite a few courses on electrical theory and circuit design, making us equally exposed to the electrical side of things.
Software: We also get introduced to a number of software engineering concepts. Things like Real Time Operating Systems, Data Structures and Algorithms are a part of our courseload.
Systems: We dabble a bit in systems design, with usually one course per term taught by professors in the Systems Design Department
Obviously we can’t cover all the important topics under each discipline with the detailed study they deserve, but we get a strong engineering foundation, and our co-op work experience helps complement it.
What do I learn?
You can find a detailed syllabus of the entire mechatronics program on Waterloo’s website, but since I’m in my final year of the program, there are a number of technical electives to choose from to help me specialize in some part of mechatronics engineering. Here’s a list of the courses I am taking, along with a brief description of each:
- INTEGRATED ANALOG ELECTRONICS (ECE444): an electrical engineering elective, this course focuses on advanced opamp circuits, current sources and active loads, mixed analog/digital circuits, as well as other important concepts in integrated analog circuit design.
- RADIO AND WIRELESS SYSTEMS (ECE474): another electrical engineering elective, this course focuses on integrating basic RF concepts such as power amplifiers and mixers and modulators to create RF systems like antenna arrays.
- AUTONOMOUS MOBILE ROBOTICS (ME597): a mechatronics engineering elective, this course focuses on autonomous motion planning and localization/navigation, particularly for mobile robots.
- POWER ELECTRONICS AND MOTOR DRIVES(MTE420): another mechatronics engineering elective, this course focuses on high power circuit elements, such as IGBT’s, Thyristors, stepper and DC motor drives.
- NC CONTROL OF MACHINE TOOLS (ME548): following my additional interest in mechanical engineering, this course focuses on the programming and control systems of CNC machines, as well as the mechanics and practical considerations behind milling operations.