Tartu Vocational College (VOCO) emphasizes the promotion of technical skills and engineering education, with a focus on mechatronics. In a collaborative project named “Hybrid Learning Lab for Industry 4.0 Mechatronics,” VOCO, along with partners from Croatia, Poland, and Portugal, developed and tested new learning modules over a two-year period. The project aimed to align mechatronics education with industry expectations.

The project began with a survey to understand industry needs, revealing a common expectation for mechatronics technicians to possess programming skills, technical documentation proficiency, and the ability to install and operate mechatronics systems. Soft skills such as responsibility, problem-solving, and teamwork were also deemed crucial.

With these expectations, VOCO teachers Rasmus Saar, Jevgeni Kuznetsov and Julia Kovalenko created and tested a Smart Green Building learning module as an example. This module incorporated language integration and soft skills development through teamwork. Working in international teams, students tackled an energy-saving task, fostering communication, problem-solving, and responsibility. The use of English as the working language further enhanced language skills.

The success of the Smart Green Building learning module is based on the practical tasks. Students had to solve independently task on how to regulate the indoor climate using Shelly smart house components. Teacher Rasmus Saar emphasized the importance of practical, problem-based learning methods in developing both professional and soft skills. He believes that self-discovery encourages students to think independently and enhances their confidence.

Looking ahead, VOCO plans to further develop problem-based learning modules in engineering disciplines. Short-term goals include updating the building automation curriculum and integrating problem-based learning into language education and vocational training. International Erasmus students are welcomed to come to learn Smart Green Building course in VOCO too.

Rasmus Saar expect to increase the use of problem-solving learning method in VOCO. For example, the students in partner school in Portugal complete practical final projects. Such projects, involving building automated lines or robotic systems, allow students to showcase a broader range of professional skills and ensure alignment with industry expectations.

“Hybrid Learning Lab for Industry 4.0 Mechatronics,” project is financed by European Union Erasmus+ programme.