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Mechatronics and Energy Technology Specialist Student

Meet Luis Maldonado — a mechatronics and energy technology specialist student at St. Cloud Technical and Community College.

Manufacturing allows individuals to bring ideas to life. The field gives people the opportunity to learn how things work and figure out the functions behind each item that makes up an entire product.

Luis Maldonado is one of those people. Maldonado is a mechatronics and energy technology specialist student at St. Cloud Technical and Community College. However, mechatronics (working with mechanical systems, hydraulics, and electronics) is definitely where his passion lies. Maldonado said it feeds his fascination of learning how things work.

In Maldonado's basic electronics class, he helped build a Wii SMART Board using a dry erase board, Wii remotes with cameras inside, and software that can be downloaded from the Internet. Maldonado's teacher offered the challenge of recreating a SMART Board when he saw the idea online. Maldonado and a few other students decided to take on the challenge.

"I thought it was a fun project for first-year students because the electronics involved were simple, and it provided them with the opportunity to work with computers, design, and basic soldiering skills," said electronics instructor, Aaron Barker.

The Wii SMART Board works because the program that is downloaded onto the computer is tied to the Wii remotes through a bluetooth wireless device. The cameras in the remotes then pick up the infrared signal.

In order for the board to be functional, the students needed to make pens they could use on the Wii SMART Board. They built the pens using simple infrared LED lights that reflect off the board. The camera picks up the signal and sends the information to the computer, which translates the information via the program.

"At the time we did this, there were no infrared markers that were pressure sensitive (turning on when pushed down to write and shutting off when lifted up)," Barker explained. "Luis worked on this for some time designing this and did successfully come up with a design that works."

The two pens created for this project were a push button pen and a touch sensitive pen. The push pen works as a laser pointer and only has to be close to the board, whereas the touch sensitive pen has to physically touch the board.

"We think the push button pen is better because you aren't actually touching the board so there is nothing getting in the way of the signal," Maldonado explained.

Challenges like creating a Wii SMART Board and working with a team to make a product are why Maldonado continues to educate himself in mechatronics.

"Being challenged and working with like-minded people and bouncing ideas off those people is why I enjoy mechatronics," Maldonado said. "I learn something new every day."

Source: "Transforming Lives" booklet from 360° Manufacturing and Applied Engineering Center of Excellence, reprinted with permission