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From here, go to work as a mechatronics technician

Many of Tidewater Community College’s certificate programs and associate degrees lead to immediate employment or, in some cases, employment while you’re still in college. We feature these on an occasional basis in our series “From here, go to work.” Here’s a look at one option.

From grocer to IMS Gear

After high school, Cory Blume was working in a local grocery store and going to school part-time. Uninspired, he began exploring other options. After coming to a TCC Open House, and watching a mechatronics demonstration that included a robot and 3-D printer, he changed course.

Commuting from Suffolk, Blume,25, began working toward his mechatronics degree at the Chesapeake Campus. 

Cory Blume at IMS Gear.
Cory Blume at IMS Gear.

“I loved the energy of the campus and the people. From the beginning it’s been a positive experience,” he said.

Three semesters into TCC’s program, Blume toured IMS Gear, an advanced manufacturing firm in Virginia Beach. He learned about full-time apprenticeships and applied on the spot.

Two years later, Blume is excelling at IMS Gear and at TCC. He works with engineers, maintains equipment and installs new systems and stations on the assembly line.

“I definitely have that feeling that this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” he said. “I get up ready to go and always look forward to learning – both at school and on the job.”

Blume will complete his Associate of Applied Science in Mechatronics in December.

“All of my professors have been fantastic,” he said. “They have a depth of knowledge that comes from years on the job. One of my favorite things is tackling a problem in lab, and then seeing that exact same thing on the line at work.”

Mechatronics today:

With the graying of the advanced manufacturing workforce, skilled technicians are in high demand.  TCC’s Mechatronics degree prepares technicians for high paying jobs in two years or less.

The  Associate of Applied Science in Mechatronics covers motor controls, hydraulics, computer programming, pneumatics, programmable logic controllers and more. It’s a one-of-a-kind program in Hampton Roads.

Workers already in the field can train to advance in areas that include new construction, maintenance and assembly lines in major manufacturing plants.

Combining book smarts and hands-on work:

Dean Stout in the Precision Machining Lab.
Dean Stout in the Precision Machining Lab.

Mechatronics is suited for technically savvy students who enjoy hands-on work. Students spend about half the time in classroom instruction and the rest in state-of-the-art laboratories

“The lecture portion provides in-depth theory, and the labs bring it all together,” said Thomas Stout, dean of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. “Most of the instructors are industry pros, giving students a real-world view of the required work.

“Most lines have hundreds of motors and sensors and a computer with programmable logic that tells the line to stop, start and do multiple functions. To be successful, employees have to understand the sequence and how it all comes together.”

The future is bright:

Plenty of advanced manufacturing firms are located in Hampton Roads, providing graduates with ample job prospects. According to the Department of Labor Job Outlook, mechatronics technicians earn a median salary of $57,790 per year or about $27 per hour.

More info:

For more information about the Mechatronics program at TCC, contact Jeff DeCastillia at or call TCC’s new student support team at 757-822-1111.