MHC launching new automation program

A new automation program is being developed at Medicine Hat College in partnership with JBS Canada that will first run out of the Brooks campus but eventually be taught in Medicine Hat as well.

“The partnership is to develop a program in automation. We offer electrical but there is a big difference between electrical and automation,” said Chad Flinn, dean of trades and technology at MHC. “The idea is (JBS Canada) had a need and are helping us develop this program so that their staff can take the course as well as people in the community. It solves a problem for them as well as there is a big need for automation training in Medicine Hat and surrounding regions.”

The program is being split into six different modules. The first will focus on basic electrical concepts, getting students up to speed on how electricity works. Automation runs off different types of sensors, such as for flow, temperature and pressure, and the next module will focus on learning about these.

From there, they will get into programmable logic controllers (PLC) and learn how to get the actual automation working.

“It will focus more on a higher level so they can troubleshoot and speak the language of what is going on and identify what problems there might be,” explained Flinn.

The students won’t be going in depth into programming but will be able spend time working within the programs and there will be stuff on variable frequency drives as well. The program ends with the students completing a Capstone where they must design a system and give a presentation on it.

The hope is the program will be open to the public by September of this year at the Brooks campus. Flinn wants to get the program up and running in Medicine Hat as soon as possible, maybe even by January 2024.

“We have a ton of greenhouse and processing that happens here, so there is lots of need for automation and automation training,” he said.

The program is still being developed and Flinn says they are working with JBS and subject matter experts. He believes each module will take two to three weeks to complete and the entire program, including the Capstone, will run about 14 weeks.

“We are still in the developmental stage so I wouldn’t want to commit to that, it could be longer,” he said.

Students will come out with a certificate in automation and would be able to get employment monitoring and troubleshooting automated systems.

“I’m an electrician by trade myself and electricians would be well served to take this course as well,” said Flinn. “You take a little bit of controls, but you don’t go as deep as this does. Anybody who wanted to get into control type automation could take this course as an extra certificate. It looks great on a resume and you get your hands dirty, you get to actually touch this stuff.”

SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News