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September 26, 2013 | Tom Ballard

Roane State’s Bob Gatton is a disciple for “new manufacturing”

Roane State 2-tekno(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article was submitted by Roane State Community College and describes a program on whose advisory board the Editor of serves.)

Bob Gatton wants to spread a simple but powerful message.

Manufacturing is not what it used to be.

“When you start talking about factories, people have this mental picture of being covered in soot,” Gatton said. “That’s just not true anymore. Most factories are clean and automated.”

As director of Roane State Community College’s National STEM Consortium Program, Gatton is in a position to train people for today’s high-tech manufacturing jobs. The college has developed two one-year certificate programs — mechatronics and composite materials — with funding from a $19.7 million grant awarded to the National STEM Consortium.

The consortium includes 10 community colleges in nine states, and the grant falls under the U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Act (TAA) grant program.

Through the grant, each college developed certificate programs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) that can be implemented nationwide to meet critical labor market needs. Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland leads the consortium.

The mechatronics program trains people to maintain and repair high-tech automated manufacturing systems, and it includes instruction in electronics, mechanics, computer science, robotics, and process control.

“If you are an electrician, you can only look at one aspect of an automated system,” Gatton said. “But with an automated system, you are dealing with two, three or more systems at a time. Mechatronics gives students a broad discipline that applies to many different industries.”Roane State’s one-year certificate program in composite materials teaches students skills needed for entry-level jobs in composites manufacturing. With his extensive background in manufacturing, Gatton knows the importance of composite materials to industries.

“The composites industry is growing, and it will continue to expand in the future,” Gatton said.

Gatton spent 11 years with Philips Consumer Electronics, two years with LG Philips Displays and one year with SIM2 USA. His experience includes product development, project management, new program implementation, marketing, sales, strategic planning and distribution. He assisted Carnegie Mellon University in developing STEM curriculum and has an extensive knowledge of the composite materials industry and the East Tennessee market. He worked with local start-ups Simple Control and Tru-Design (a partner in the composite materials program), and he has written for a variety of media outlets.

With his combination of manufacturing expertise and marketing savvy, Gatton is ready to promote a new view of manufacturing.

“It’s a brains operation, not a brawn operation,” he said.  “You don’t have to be able to lift an engine block. It’s more what you know how to do. With the education we now offer at Roane State, we can put people in a position to make a much better income in manufacturing.”

To contact Gatton and to learn more about the mechatronics or composite materials certificate programs, call (865) 354-3000 ext. 4894, email or visit

Gatton’s office is in the new Roane State Clinton Higher Education and Workforce Training Facility, 214 Nave St. in Clinton.

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