A mechatronics first: Bridgestone intern follows dual-enrollment path to MTSU

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Still a teenager and with a strong interest in the mushrooming mechatronics field, Jacob Dean has made a virtual seamless leap from high school to community college and now to university starting in January.

Dean, 19, of La Vergne, Tennessee, will begin pursuit of his bachelor's degree in mechatronics engineering at MTSU -- with the financial assistance of Bridgestone Americas.

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After signing an internship agreement with Bridgestone Tuesday (Dec. 1), Dean becomes the first mechatronics student nationally to utilize dual enrollment to transition from La Vergne High School to Motlow and finally to MTSU.

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At MTSU, Dean will be able to achieve the Level 3 certification of German-based Siemens AG, Europe's largest engineering company. MTSU is the only university in the world with Level 3 certification. He gained Level 2 certification at Motlow and Level 1 certification at La Vergne.

Mechatronics is a multidisciplinary field of engineering that includes a combination of systems, mechanical, electrical, telecommunications, control and computer engineering.

"This is a very exciting day," said Dean, who will graduate Dec. 12 from Motlow. "I will be the first intern from Bridgestone to be sent to a university to receive a bachelor's degree."

Dean discovered mechatronics in high school. Two weeks after visiting MTSU, La Vergne unveiled the program.

"I felt it was God's calling so I just went with it and been at it ever since," said Dean, who added he liked how "it dealt with robotics and a robotics arm, all the fundamentals that piece one component together."

Keenly aware of Dean's interest in mechatronics and his work ethic, Keith Hamilton, director of Bridgestone's North America Manufacturing Education Center, said his company "is tickled" to offer the internship, which includes paying Dean's tuition and books to attend MTSU.

"We have gotten to watch him since high school," Hamilton said. "He has been in this building (North America Manufacturing Education Center) many times."

"We have a real close partnership with MTSU," Hamilton added. "This day has been a little while coming, but we're happy all these things have come about."

Dean will be an intern in the technical services engineering department.

MTSU engineering technology chair Walter Boles has seen mechatronics, which began in August 2013, grow to 250 students. He, program coordinator Ahad Nasab and faculty "are eager to serve the community and industry in developing programs to address the educational skills gap between high technology careers and students seeking an education."

"Mechatronics engineering is one program that does this very well," he added. "Bridgestone is a strong supporter and partner and I am honored to work with them to make continued progress toward the goal."

Beth Duffield, vice president for workforce development with the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce, applauds Bridgestone for its "continued leadership in mentoring our high school and post-secondary students for the manufacturing workplace."

"Employers are telling us they need employees with both technical skills and work experience," Duffield added. "... We need more employers like Bridgestone who are willing to step up and employ students through internships or work-based learning experiences to make sure we have a truly prepared workforce for our growing community."

Motlow expanded its mechatronics program at its Smyrna campus and partnered with Bridgestone to create a training facility onsite at Bridgestone to prepare students to move quickly into high-skill jobs.

The partnership includes Rutherford County Schools. Tyra Pilgrim, career and technical education director for Rutherford County Schools, attended the signing along with Nasab, Motlow's Fred Rascoe and Bridgestone's Joe Williams and Sean Kelly.

Bridgestone has a similar agreement for Level 1 certification with Warren County Schools at its plant in McMinnville, Tennessee.

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