Q&A with Simon Brodeur, Conseiller pédagogique
Simon Brodeur began programming CNC machines in the early 2000’s and his teacher was extremely creative with 2D and 3D designs. They would use shades of gray translated into number values to make a 2D machine 3D. This was done with architectural woodwork designed with 3D software. He also worked as a technician at the faculty of Architecture, helping students building models for their projects. Eventually, the machines got better and better and Simon says you can now pretty much do whatever you want as long as you have the right tools. Simon has a degree in Education, and he eventually got involved in designing training programs in mechanical engineering and BIM, where he could convey the changes occurring in Industry to the educational teams. The key is choosing the most important skills like programming and how they can be transferred in many work situations.
Q. Please tell us about Cégep du Vieux Montréal
A. Our college is one of the largest institutions in Montreal and is dedicated in good part to creative sectors like architecture, cinema and videogames. One of our largest departments, Mechanical engineering, offers a large range of courses, including Robotics and 3D design, both in long term programs and adult short term programs. We also specialize in BIM and offer a wide variety of training sessions to individuals and companies.
Q. Can you provide more information on the program involving automation and robotics?
A. Our program is an intense hands-on approach to setting up robotic cells in a working environment. It is divided into three short semesters that cover all the basics of robotics all the way to servo-motor programming. After six months you will have enough experience to start working professionally on a team of programmers or integrators. Of course, you need to have some prior training either as an electo-technician or an engineer since we only focus on robots, programmable automation controllers, and programming the process between the different machines involved: our lab functions like a small factory with conveyors between machines and robots.
Q. How has this program been received by the students and those in industries who use automation?
A. So far, we have had very positive feedback and many of our students are either at work during the program or find work shortly after. We provide meeting opportunities with employers during and after the program. We also work with companies who are looking for new employees.
Q. What does the future look like to you with regards to automation?
A. Right now, in Québec, the market is very active with important investments happening with the help of Investissement Québec and the Ministry of Economics. Since the employment level is at an all time high, training existing resources becomes central to getting ahead as an organisation, and so people come to us to get the right training. Automation is the central piece of making a company profitable in today’s market.
Q. What is an interesting project/case study/product where automation and BIM is being implemented or has been implemented?
A. Although we would like to see robots in the field, the current technology is mostly valuable in prefabrication. The most interesting and promising tech is where you can go directly from the 3D construction model to the CNC of machining solution that you have. This is being implemented in different sectors of the building parts. Interoperability is the key to making this transition accessible to more companies, as solving issues in programming can be costly. Some companies have come up with good solutions that allow them to produce building parts quickly and on demand. But the bulk of them have yet to get set up properly for it.
Q. What are some of the major challenges that you feel automation will help to overcome?
A. Cost is certainly one of them. Security has been successfully addressed and now, the most important frontier is education. The problem with technology is the time needed to learn how to use and operate it. Machines have the same problem as software: they have to speak a common language to be set up to work together. As we progress towards better programming languages and a better educated workforce, automation will become natural to a significant part of the workforce. Today, learning to code is as important as learning human languages.
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