An internationally recognized mechatronics program from a high-tech company will be opened up to local students and professionals in the province when SFU launches its first session at the Surrey campus next month.

Simon Fraser University is one of three universities in the country, in addition to other polytechnics and colleges, to partner with the automation giant Siemens Canada and offer a certification on the equipment currently used by engineers in the industry.

It is the first university nationally to open up the program to industry professionals and other qualified members of the public.

“We are looking into expanding it because the demand is huge,” said Amr Marzouk, a professor in mechatronics and director of the program. “The program right now is full and we have a very long waiting list too.”

Another BC institution, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, also partnered with Siemens last year with the intent to host the program.

It will be taught by engineering instructors and focus on technical training around the systems used by employers.

“The program is hands-on [and] much more than theoretical,” explained Marzouk. “It is all training on state-of-the-art training equipment that we purchased from industry leaders.”

The field of mechatronics involves mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering in the creation of new technologies and manufacturing equipment.

The university also received a grant of a Siemens-made automation software, used by engineers at NASA to land the Mars rover, which will now be available to students in classrooms across the faculty of applied sciences.

“We have that software in mechatronics and all of SFU mechatronics can use it,” Marzouk noted.

Marzouk said that the decision to offer this new type of training at SFU came at the recommendation of the school’s own alumni who have gone on to work in fields such as automotives and biomedical engineering and attended similar training in their professional careers.

In preparation for the inaugural launch of the program this August, SFU instructors received training at the Siemens academy in Germany and are now poised to teach the skills necessary to get ahead in the industry.

“This program will help our students when they go [into the] industry; they’ll be starting as productive employees,” Mazouk said.

However, he noted that this will not have an affect on the way that mechatronics is taught at SFU, because this program is an extracurricular offering.

“It’s not going to change the curriculum: this is mainly hands-on training,” he explained. “It will supplement what we are already doing, but it will definitely help bridge the gap between academia and industry.”

Though the partnership with Siemens has been in the works over the past year, SFU only made a public announcement about the program earlier this month.