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Front-line science and technology education

 

Md. Shafiqul Islam

 

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

 

 

OF late, the dramatic decline in science studies has been vividly featured in the media. It is observed that enrolment in secondary and undergraduate science studies has decreased by approximately 30% and 45% respectively in the last eight years. One may claim that it is a global phenomenon, although it is particularly acute case in Bangladesh. If this trend continues, there may be serious consequences, which could result in the country's inclination to trade in technology rather than manufacture its own.

 

It is recognised that everything evolves through the use of scientific knowledge. As such, it is impossible to reduce poverty and achieve the goals of the millennium development without appreciation of and experience in science and technology. The challenges associated with crises such as food, energy and climate change can be handled with the use of scientific methods and techniques. Hence, it is accepted that science and technical education plays a key role in sustainable development of a country.

 

To attract and retain top students in these areas of studies, consideration should be given to factors such as attractive pay package and good job prospects. The course curricula should address the natural questions of a child as well as emerging issues relating to educational development of future generations and needs of industries. In the era of globalisation, industry always aims to produce competitive products through modern technology.

 

Without knowledge and training in modern science and technology, it will be impossible for Bangladesh to evolve as a strong economy. The government must be committed to the creation of a science and technology driven economy in order to face the challenges of the 21st century.

 

To fulfill the government's commitments in this regard, sufficient funds should be allocated to boost science and technology education. Educationists should look into redesigning of textbooks, syllabi and curricula to be in line with the leading schools, colleges, institutes and universities around the world. Efforts should also be focused on exploring new areas to balance the scientific and technological developments in the global community.

 

Very appropriately, a potentially new landscape of "Mechatronics Engineering" has emerged, which sets the contexts for robust discussions and further development of ideas. This field is similar to electro-mechanical engineering work. It is, however, known as "Mechatronics Engineering" (MTE) in the global engineering community. A Japanese engineer (Tetsuri Mori) from Yasukawa Electric Company first coined the term "mechatronics" in 1969 to reflect the merging of mechanical and electrical and electronic engineering disciplines.

 

Since then, the term has been widely used in the engineering community all over the world. The bottom line is that mechatronics is a synergistic combination of mechanical, electrical, electronics and computer technology. This field is, indeed, playing a leading role for rapid and successful developments in industries using advance technology. It is currently regarded as one of the popular fields in Germany, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, North America and so on.

 

The MTE field provides in-depth knowledge and skills necessary to analyse and design complex electro-mechanical systems involving electronic sensors, drives, and actuators. This field, being multidisciplinary in nature, will require multi-skilled engineering professionals to play multicast roles and responsibilities in all sectors of electrical, electronics, mechanical, industrial control, automation, and robotics.

 

It is expected that mechatronics graduates will be able to perform as multi-disciplinary professionals with greater responsibilities and increasing management content.

 

A mechatronics graduate has a wider range of career opportunities compared with graduates from other engineering disciplines, both in the country and overseas. In addition, this field will create a unique opportunity for self-reliant entrepreneurship. The demand for mechatronics graduates is least affected by the downswing of the economy and, therefore, is less likely to fall victim to unemployment.

 

These reasons will encourage industrial entrepreneurs, researchers, engineers, and designers to employ graduates of MTE by offering them attractive pay package and enabling them to do the job of several engineers of different disciplines.

 

This field, where possible, should be brought to the doorsteps of potential beneficiaries in the country. However, as indicated, there are no such mechatronics engineering programs running at any public or private university in the country. It is hard indeed to run industrial control and automation systems without applying mechatronics techniques. The present technology is based purely on the mechatronics system.

 

Since the mechatronics system is relatively new, and still unknown to many people as it has mainly been used by foreign experts. An adequate number of local experts on mechatronics system should be developed through appropriate programs in the country.

 

The World University of Bangladesh (WUB) recently launched a four-year graduate program for socio-economic development through innovative technology in the country. This initiative is truly praiseworthy and will offer the most rewarding and exciting career path for prospective students.

 

Subsequent to this initiative, the technical education board has also introduced a four-year diploma program of mechatronics engineering at Polytechnic Institute, Rajshahi, at the secondary level of education. The reason for the introduction of this new program is to teach advanced technology and its applications, which are highly needed in industries.

 

This initiative will be enhanced to further develop human resources with multi-skills in the grassroots level of the engineering hub. So far as I understand that the mechatronics program will be gradually introduced in other polytechnic institutes.

 

There is no doubt that mechatronics graduates will play a pioneering role in building a highly sophisticated and state-of-the-art technology-based industries in the country. Mechatronics graduates will not be jobless, rather the job will chase them. From a survey, it is found that a huge number of mechatronics graduates are needed in industries at home and abroad. It is, therefore, recommended that institutes and universities should consider introducing this program throughout the country.

 

In addition, other fields such as biotechnology and biomedical physics/engineering should be introduced in academic programs at the secondary and tertiary levels of education. It is time to motivate the next generation to study potentially new and emerging science and engineering fields rather than just business studies for the sustainable development of the country. Front-line science and technology education is the only way to turn the country into a technologically independent country.

 

 

Md. Shafiqul Islam, PhD, Reactor Operation and Maintenance Unit, Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission. Email: shafiq12@dhaka.net.

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