Spotlight Series: Dr. Sitakanta Mohanty
February 13, 2020
Dr. Sitakanta Mohanty, department chair for Advanced Manufacturing, Technology, Engineering, and Logistics (AMTEL), is always looking towards the future in search of the next big thing to connect students to the industry.
Remaining current on industry developments is part of that effort. In September of last year, Motor Manufacturing, Texas, Inc. (TMMTX) announced that it was investing $391 million in its San Antonio assembly plant. Some of that investment is going towards the expansion of cobots – or collaborative robots that lessen the physical strain on humans and are designed to work safely beside them in a shared space.
Recently, Palo Alto College acquired a “cobot,” similar to the ones used by TMMTX. These cobots can be programmed to package, palletize, assemble, and pick and place.
Mohanty explains that we are in the midst of a revolution in the way products are produced. This transformation, which is called Industry 4.0, is taking what was started with computing and automation and enhancing production with smart and autonomous systems capable of learning.
“Industry 4.0, which is just arriving as the future of manufacturing, cannot be done without strong collaboration between the computer science and AMTEL department,” said Mohanty.
He has been working arduously to promote interdepartmental collaboration with the hope of giving students in other disciplines the opportunity to work with this kind of equipment too.
“Only technologists go through that class, not our engineers, so they only get exposure to these kinds of robots when they reach higher-level courses offered by universities,” Mohanty said. “These are the dynamics we are changing deliberately. I've advised my instructors to find ways to integrate these kinds of things into the classroom.”
In keeping with established course transferability, the AMTEL faculty is redesigning their courses to help meld technology into engineering and vice versa further enhancing the student learning experience. Conversations are also underway to develop new ways to collaborate with the art department as the College prepares to start a new welding technology program.
AMTEL faculty are highly qualified, with combined industry experience cumulating to over 100 years. Mohanty himself has over 24 years of experience solving challenging engineering problems at the national and international scale.
Before coming to The Alamo Colleges District, Mohanty worked at Southwest Research Institute and in the ARCO Oil and Gas Company. He also served on the board of trustees of the Mind Science Foundation, whose mission is to explore the vast potential of the human mind.
“We at Palo Alto are on a mission of positioning students to be all they can be and more. I have a personal mission – problem-solving, that is what all engineers do. Bring any problem to them, they will solve it,” Mohanty said. “The future of engineering and technology is integration, and integration can only be achieved by breaking the silos that separate us.”
Besides reaching out to other departments, collaboration is taking place across The Alamo Colleges District. The success of the Logistics and Supply Chain, which is one of the program areas of AMTEL, has led to the development of new logistics programs at Northeast Lakeview College and Northwest Vista College.
“We have a long way to go. The greatest challenge right now is to teach our students to internalize that they can also join the league of the best and the brightest irrespective of where they came from,” Mohanty said. “They can also be engineers and technologists and earn the same salary as the recent UT-Austin students who are earning six-figure salaries right after school.”
To learn more about the AMTEL programs and other Professional Technical Education degrees available, visit alamo.edu/pac/pte.