“Everything is networked together,” said Robert Benard, Faculty and Coordinator for Information Technology, referring to what is commonly called the Internet of Things, or IoT. He and his colleague, Faculty and Coordinator of Electronics and Electrical Technology, Matthew Sullivan, are spending a lot of time together lately aligning MCC’s degree programs to prepare students for careers based on the IoT.

“The Internet of Things is the integration of software and hardware,” explained Sullivan. Specifically, the IoT is the network of physical devices, such as your phone, automobile, and home appliances that have electronic components, sensors, software and computer connectivity enabling them to connect and exchange data (like when you use your smart phone to control the temperature in your home).

Benard and Sullivan are collaborating on integrating their academic programs to better prepare students in their respective programs for careers that demand both skill sets. For example, writing code is common to both Electronics and Information Technology for embedded control systems and industrial applications such as Programmable Logic Controls or PLCs. The two have developed a curriculum with some foundational classes that support both degree programs, and enable students to build specific skill sets toward either an Electronics degree focused on control systems, industrial automation, and robotics, or an Information Technology degree focused on specialized software programming.

To facilitate the overlap, and help students in both degree programs develop better collaborative and teamwork skills, Benard and Sullivan received a mini-grant from the College, as well as additional grant funding, to create an Innovation Center for Electronics and Information Technology that is scheduled to open in the Fall 2018 Semester.

“It will be a collaborative space between IT and Electronics for student capstone projects and idea generation, and will give students access to state-of-the-art technology,” said Sullivan.

The Innovation Center will feature Electronics workbenches, networking racks for computer repair and cyber networking, hardware used in IT courses, PCs with clear backs to show hardware, and small robotic devices to integrate hard and software interactively. 

“It will give students a place to use the latest technology outside the classroom, at their own pace, and with their peers, giving them a more organic learning experience, rather than the highly structured environment of a classroom,” said Benard.

The Center will also have space allowing students a place to collaborate on projects and to help create an atmosphere that encourages entrepreneurial activities.

“We want students to not only collaborate on class assignments, but we want them to get creative, play around with the technology, come up with ideas for new technologies and bounce ideas off one another,” Benard said. “We hope the Innovation Center will be home to the next ‘big idea’ in the Internet of Things someday.”