AT--Falcon-ROVStudent achieves academic excellence following work experience with ATSA Defence Services.

TAFE is often viewed as an institution for those pursuing a trade, however, Hunter TAFE proves a course can cater to students of all interests and academic abilities.

It was through the TVET Electro Technology course that university undergraduate, Rebecca Atcheson, was able to obtain work experience with ATSA Defence Services during her high schooling in 2010.

ATSA, a provider of Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs), taught Rebecca how to build a B-ROV robot from scratch. Now a Mechatronics Engineering student at the University of Newcastle, Rebecca has since won various international scholarships in mechatronics.

Hunter TAFE's Head Electronics Teacher, David Leask says "Over 140 students are enrolled in this course at Newcastle campus, with a cohort as large as this there are people interested in just about every domain where electricity is represented".

"You could have a student that wants to be a licensed electrician sitting next to a kid that wants be a computer science graduate - it's quite diverse".

"And then you have Rebecca, a girl from a local state school who expressed an interest in robotics and mechatronics and so ATSA fell beautifully into the area that she was headed".

"A course traditionally viewed as something people would take to become a tradesperson covers a wide variety of arenas. These often range from military to medical, broadcast to defence, therefore I have been pushing hard for ten years to cater for students who are interested in some of these areas," says David.

When Rebecca gained airtime with the local media regarding her involvement with the defence services company, David said "the phone started ringing almost immediately with people enquiring about the course and also about Rebecca and ATSA.

"It generated a lot of interest and shone light on what we do as educators, it also reinforced the fact that we need to aim for the highest level and keep our doors open to high achieving students in the Hunter region."

Rebecca and another young student (Ben Brown) went on to win a bronze medal after progressing through to the national Worldskills Mechatronics competition held at Sydney Olympic park last year.

David believes ATSA played a big role in Rebecca's academic achievements having provided a mentoring opportunity she thoroughly enjoyed.

As a result of this experience, David changed the delivery structure at Hunter TAFE to prepare students for the study of mechatronics and electrical engineering studies, a departure from common philosophy that all study must be at school to achieve this level of education.

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