Jack Brzezinski Takes MCC Students into the World of Robotics

Jack Brzezinski with robotic students

The robotics field is rapidly becoming a major source of technology jobs, and McHenry County College (MCC) robotics instructor Jack Brzezinski is helping MCC students fill them. Robotics technology encompasses a number of well-paying, high-tech occupations, including robotics technician, robotic software engineer, system simulation designer, or CNC machinist.

McHenry County College is currently the only college in northern Illinois to offer an associate degree in robotics. The institution recently received a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor for nearly $600,000 over three years to expand manufacturing and robotics training programs that will ultimately meet industry needs for highly skilled workers.

When students ask him why they should study key areas of manufacturing, including robotics, engineering, automation and 3D modeling, Brzezinski says, “because ordinary people can create extraordinary things.”

Many are unaware that in today’s workplace, robotics and manufacturing go hand-in-hand. Throughout McHenry County—and throughout the nation as well—manufacturing is shifting and now requires new skill sets, including more advanced critical thinking, math and computer skills, Brzezinski said. In addition, a large segment of employees are nearing retirement age, causing manufacturing employers to require an even larger pipeline of potential talent to fill vacant positions. As the county’s largest business sector, manufacturing is at a critical point in its evolution.

Brzezinski’s goal to teach more students in robotics skills will help meet the demand in both manufacturing and health careers. He recalled some startling statistics at a robotics conference that he attended in Ann Arbor, Michigan last summer.

“The headhunter I met at the conference said there are $50 million worth of unfilled wages in a 50 to 60 mile radius of Ann Arbor, because of a shortage of trained workers,” he said.

“The situation is critical now throughout the entire U.S. because if we have no skilled labor to grow, manufacturing won’t be possible,” he added.

Most recently, Brzezinski taught Introduction to Robotics (ROB 110) to high school students enrolled in MCC’s dual-credit program. This spring, he is teaching Introduction to Robotics (ROB 110), Physics Programming (ROB 200) and Simulation for Robotics (ROB 150). Students who want to earn double credit hours may take a Learning Communities (or “twofer”) class next fall that combines Composition I (ENG 151) and Intro to Robotics (ROB 110).

In the future, Brzezinski will teach an Artificial Intelligence class to expose students to the future wave of robotics.

“We’re living in a time when computing power is exceeding the power of our brains,” he said. “Artificial Intelligence is not just used in the military anymore.”

Brzezinski, a native of Poland, earned a master’s degree in Poznan University of Technology, an MBA from Adam Mickiewicz University and a Ph.D. in computer science from DePaul University in Chicago.

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