Two Humber College students won gold at both the 2011 Skills Canada provincial and national mechatronics competitions.
Electromechanical engineering technology – robotics and automation students David Da Costa and Zackary Piskun (left to right above with professor Neil Mohammed in the middle) won gold at the Skills Ontario Competition in Waterloo in May, and followed this victory with a convincing triumph in Quebec City at the start of June. In the national competition, they had to assemble an automated sorting system, fix any technical problems, and create a PLC (programmable logic controller) program to sort the parts, while ensuring the final system was functional.
“Winning gold at both the provincial and national events was the highlight of our year,” said Piskun, a second-year student from Brampton. “It was intense, but we had practiced and were ready. Our professors gave lots of their time, and all the class work we did, plus the training we did on evenings and weekends, prepared us to succeed. Plus, Humber’s labs are top of the line, so we knew what to expect.”
Piskun handled the programming while Da Costa, a Thornhill resident, assembled the machine, which consisted of a sorting and transfer station. They also had to ensure the machine and the program could work together.
“We each worked on what we were the most skilled in. I could have done the programming, but Zach is better at it,” said Da Costa, a first-year student. “We work well together and our skills complement each other, so our machine was finished several hours before the other competitors.”
The competition is an annual event sponsored by Festo, a robotics company, for the best mechatronics students in the country. Graduates work in a variety of fields, such as research and development, the armed services, automobile companies, garbage and recycling companies, and more.
“This is a high-demand field and employers are always looking for skilled workers with industrial automation and robotics, electrical, electronics, mechanical, programming and good problem solving skills,” said Neal Mohammed, coordinator of the Electromechanical Engineering program. “Winning medals will make them even more appealing to potential employers. This is something used in the real world, such as manufacturing, pharmaceutical, aviation, packaging, automation and much more. That they dominated Skills Canada is a credit to the program instructors and the curriculum, but mostly, it is a credit to the dedication and skill of Zachary and Dave.”
Both students return to Humber next year, and plan to compete in the Skills Ontario and Skills Canada events. If they win there, they would travel to Germany for the international skills competition.
“We expect to win the Skills events here,” said a confident Piskun. “It would be a dream come true to compete internationally, and represent Canada and Humber College.”