When there is a problem to be solved, or something new to invent, experts rarely think beyond their own field.
This narrow focus doesnít work for troubleshooting, profitable manufacturing, creative engineering or science.
To encourage hybrid thinking, colleges are now offering courses in a field they call mechatronics. Not hard to
imagine the origin of the word; mechanics and electronics.
Mechatronics is more than linking two disciplines. Itís a way of thinking.
The brain of the troubleshooter, creative engineer or scientist needs to think across disciplines. All relevant factors must be considered. Mechanics. Sure.
Electronics. Yes. And how about hydraulics? Pneumatics? Sensor technology? What about human factors? Environmental conditions? Chemical effects?
Mechanical fatigue? Principles of physics? Interaction between conditions? The list could continue. The Systematic Troubleshooting course teaches
methods for getting this vital information and putting it in a usable form.
The systematic troubleshooting course is built around a deceptively simple matrix table called the Troubleshooting Action Guide (TSAG or T-SAG).
It requires disconnect from old thinking patterns. It takes complete comprehension of the right information about the machine
or process and facts surrounding the problem. It applies information so the influence of each fact is considered independently.
Results are evaluated by numerical scoring. The method reveals invalid reasoning, unproven assumptions, addition of non-existent facts,
foggy thinking and bending to group opinions. It also prevents drawing conclusions based on inadequate information or knowledge limited to a
single trade or field of study.
Troubleshooting a packaging line
For these reasons, the Systematic Troubleshooting course is an essential element of a mechatronics curriculum. This phenomenon was
realized by the Spartanburg CC system in South Carolina which purchased the Systematic Troubleshooting course for use in their programs
on five campuses.
using STS sketches, tables and TSAG
Technical innovation requires the same mental resources as troubleshooting. The brain needs a solid base of information about basic principles
about relevant disciplines, specifics about machines and processes and knowledge of external factors and how they affect one another.
These are areas in which colleges excel. And their students have the fertile minds in which these concepts can take root.
If you have looked through this web site, you know that STS focuses on gathering machine and process information and applying it to problem solving.
The STS Mechatronics Series adds three resources to develop creative skill in adapting STS methods to systems that involve combinations of technologies,
environmental factors and human influences. These are useful in college curriculums as well as industrial environments. All courses involve the hands-on practice machine (called Mimic)
in multiple roles as controllers of a variety of machines and processes. Classroom and self-study formats are provided. The three programs listed below
are included with the Mechatronics Series which may be ordered with any Systematic Troubleshooting package.
A variety of Systematic Troubleshooting tables and sketches is
provided in this program to develop the ability of students to creatively adapt these tools to
equipment and problems they will experience in a factory or field service environment.
Diverse situations are provided. These include a sequential work cell controlled by the Mimic.
They use Mimic dials and switches to step the process through each stage while students record key data
at each step. They use this information to isolate the cause of a problem.
The micro-based systems course
combines electronics and mechanical disciplines.
In another sequence the Mimic becomes a microcontoller-based industrial process.
Students calibrate variables, record data and operate the system using the Mimic.
A third application is a production line auto-painting process that includes robot positioning and
incorporates the highly skilled trade of spray painting. To determine causes of problems, the troubleshooter must consider mechnaical and electronic factors
as well as variables involved in the art of spray painting.
The course is in a workshop format that requires a minimum of instructor involvement.
CIRCUITS AND CHIPS
This workshop provides lots of hands-on activities based on the Mimic's circuit board.
Students learn to locate important test points on circuit boards and microchips
and take readings to isolate problems.
This course applies STS methods
to digital logic-based problems
They acquire fundamentals of how the Mimic's circuits work. They then apply their knowledge
to find causes of problems in real-world situations in which finding causes is critical.
This program develops confidence and the ability of students to apply STS principles in
technologies that are new to them. It combines electronics with mechanics in such applications
as an airliner, manufacturing plants and a submarine.
The course can be used in a self-instuction or classroom format.
Circuit and Chips
This is a concise new discipline for thorough analysis for finding underlying or root causes of a problem.
It uses an expanded version of the Troubleshooting Action Guide titled "STS Investigation Analysis" and a new
table called "Permanent Fix".
This brief workshop teaches the use of these tables by having students thouroughly research the underlying cause of a
bearing failure in a printing press.
The purpose is to develop the ability of students to analyze and perform an in-depth study of
all possible factors to determine underlying causes. It is a good college-level project.
At What Colleges Has the Course Been Used?
The Systematic Troubleshooting course has been or is being used at the following schools:
Chippewa Valley Technical College, Eau Claire WI;
Malaysia France Institute, Seangor Malaysia;
Lorain County Junior Voc School , Oberlin OH;
Macon Technical Institute, Macon GA;
Republic Polytechnic, Singapore;
Kentucky Community Technical College System, Somerset KY;
Texas State Technical College, Waco TX;
Triton College, River Grove, IL;
Spartanburg community College, Spartanburg SC (Five campuses)
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