Advanced Mechatronics: Bridging Passion and Career Success

Published: October 31, 2023

Growing up, Nathan Ralston always had an interest in technology. He found himself constantly engaged in various tech-related projects, such as 3D printing, computer-aided design, programming, and fixing devices – the list was endless.

Ralston realized that because many of his interests and desired jobs required specialized knowledge, he needed to attend college to further his education and skills. He decided to enroll at College of Western Idaho (CWI) because of its affordability and numerous trade programs. He knew it was the path to help him discover a career he enjoyed and at half the time compared to a traditional four-year degree.

In his first semester at CWI, on a whim, Ralston enrolled in a Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) course taught by Department Chair of Engineering, Robert Novak, where he was introduced and first discovered his passion for Advanced Mechatronics Engineering Technology.

“After hearing more about his career history as a technician and engineer, it helped me become more certain that this is the field I want to be in," Ralston said.

The term mechatronics is a combination of “mechanisms” and “electronics,” but a degree in mechatronics incorporates so much more. CWI's Advanced Mechatronics Engineering Technology program offers students a comprehensive education, equipping them with a wide array of knowledge and skills. This program delves into the basics of electricity, electronics, motor fundamentals, automation controllers, mechanical adjustments, wireless communications, and much more.

Mechatronics engineering technologists use a combination of mechanical, electrical, computer, and software skills to work with smart technologies, such as robots, automated guided systems, and computer-integrated manufacturing equipment. Graduates are prepared for careers in industries such as manufacturing, product distribution, biomedical, U.S. defense, research and development, and more.

Ralston, now in his second semester at CWI and working full-time as a Lab Assistant for the Advanced Mechatronics Engineering Technology program, has big plans once he earns his Associate of Applied Science.

“I plan to go work for a company like Micron that will pay for continued education and get an Electrical Engineering or Computer Science degree.”

As a Core Education Partner for Micron Technology, Inc., CWI delivers top-level education and skills training to students, like Ralston, to help support the company in its $15 billion expansion. The Advanced Mechatronics program qualifies for Micron's Registered Apprenticeship Program, which allows students to “earn while they learn,” meaning the company will pay for their degree while they earn valuable hands-on experience at their world-class Fab in Boise.

Ralston gives big praises to Novak for helping him get his start in the program and even landing him his Lab Assistant role, where he supports instructors and other mechatronics students in labs by purchasing supplies, maintaining, and repairing equipment, setting up labs, and managing the inventory and supply room. He also attributes each instructor he has come across for leaving a significant impact on his life.

“I get to see a different side of the instructors than most students do. They each have a lifetime of experience and wisdom to share.”

He’s grateful for the close-knit community and strong friendships he’s made through the program. Instructors create a fun and interactive learning environment, where they actively support students' post-program success by adapting course material to industry needs.

“Because of CWI, I was able to narrow down the specific career I want to go into, and I have the resources I need to be employable in that field, all at a low cost.”

Visit the program page or contact Robert Novak at to learn more about CWI's Advanced Mechatronics program.

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