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Tuesday, 31 May 2016 15:07

National Science Foundation Offers Grant for Training Tomorrow's Technicians

Emphasizing the importance of advanced materials in automotive design, the National Science Foundation has awarded a Michigan community college $200,000 for lightweight vehicle manufacturing education.

Awarded on May 10, the money will pay for Washtenaw Community College (WCC) curriculum related to making bodies-in-white and other auto parts out of lighter, stronger materials. The grant also will fund the addition of lightweighting as a consideration into a regional (Great Lakes) auto design challenge.

The college is partnering with Wayne State University (WSU). The goal is to engage industry and educators in developing a talent pipeline and initial curriculum addressing the material properties as well as optimization and manufacturing processes associated with lightweight materials at the high school and community college levels to meet emerging industry needs for technicians in the manufacturing industry. A central element of this proposal involves the introduction of a new arrangement of course design and delivery. The manufacturing industry is shifting to a systems approach rather than the traditional silo manufacturing practices. WCC will utilize this project to create a model for community college curriculum development utilizing this systems approach.

The overview course will be multidisciplinary, project-based and designed around specific lightweight materials or categories of materials (aluminum alloys, plastics and polymers, carbon fiber composites, etc.) rather than focused on specific manufacturing disciplines. For each material or group of materials, the course will be arranged so that an overview of the material properties, applications, design for manufacturability, and manufacturing processes will be presented. As an introductory course, this will facilitate students identifying specific areas of interest in which to continue their studies. It will also provide a broader context for these students to build a systems approach into their study of advanced manufacturing or advanced transportation. A comprehensive evaluation is being developed to continuously enhance the project activities and provide opportunities for researching and evaluating the success of the project and its deliverables, as well as the sharing of best practices.