Botetourt Technical Education Center (BTEC) could become the first secondary school in Virginia to offer a mechatronic engineering program for high school students.

School Superintendent John Busher told the School Board last week that an amendment to the House of Delegates version of the proposed state budget still includes $310,000 that would provide funding for faculty accreditation and equipment for a pilot first-year mechatronic technician course at BTEC.

Busher said the program will meet a need for employees for the new industries coming to Botetourt.

He said he met with Eldor Corp. officials last week and was impressed with what the company will be manufacturing at Botetourt Center at Greenfield. The company specializes in advanced auto parts manufacturing and will need employees trained in mechatronics.

It’s the same thing he’s been hearing in meetings with officials at other industries in the county.

Virginia Western Community College already offers mechatronics level 1 and level 2 programs. Bringing level 1 training to BTEC will mean having high-level robotics equipment at the school.

That will help satisfy some local industry needs. Students wanting higher level training could go to VWCC, and those wanting level 3 training could transfer to universities like Old Dominion University and Purdue.

Busher described mechatronics as a robotics process using a computer.

More technically, it is the design of computer-controlled electromechanical systems where the design of the mechanical system must be performed together with that of the electrical/electronic and computer control aspects that will comprise the complete system.

Examples are CD or DVD players, computer hard disc drives, VCRs and anti-lock braking systems where each product is essentially mechanical in nature but cannot function without the integral design of the electrical and computer control systems.

Del. Terry Austin entered the amendment to provide the funding that will come from the Virginia Community College System portion of the state budget.

The amendment reads, “Out of this appropriation, $310,000 the second year from the general fund is designated to implement a pilot program between Virginia Western Community College, Botetourt County Public Schools, and local industry partners to meet the demand for mechatronic technicians. The program goal is to prepare 100 Mechatronic Engineering Technicians over five years using established career pathways with Botetourt County Public Schools and Virginia Western Community College and a sustainable faculty preparation program.”

This amendment provides funding for faculty accreditation and equipment for the pilot mechatronics technician program, according to the budget amendment.

The House budget passed 98-2, but that portion of the budget still has to clear the Senate and/or conferees, and be signed by the governor.

Busher said should the program make it through the state budget process, BTEC’s instructors would be certified in Germany and have a direct link to Eldor.


In other business, the School Board:

  • Got an update on proposed changes to how student academic achievement is recognized. Supervisor of Instruction Keith Pennington told the School Board the committee that’s considering making a recommendation for changes to having valedictorians and salutatorians met with five students about their ideas. He said they brought a different perspective to the discussion and, with their input, the committee decided to continue its review with an expected March recommendation.
  • Following a brief presentation and without discussion, the School Board voted unanimously to grant the administration the authority to pursue “alternate means of revenue.” Busher said other school divisions have been able to find alternate revenue sources as a way to mitigate the continued budget challenges. As an example, he said allowing cell antennas on schools may be one way to generate additional funds.
  • Approved minor changes to the student fees for the coming school year. Most significantly, the school division will charge $150 for summer school (repeat courses). The policy includes the change that requires students to pay the tuition rate established by the community colleges for dual enrollment courses.
  • Approved allowing Read Mountain Middle School students to go to Asheville, N.C. April 4; allowing James River High School and Central Academy Middle School students to go to Charlotte, N.C. April 8, and Lord Botetourt High School students to go to Virginia Beach April 6-9.

— Ed McCoy