Engineering technology and industrial distribution, Blinn College receive $1 million NSF grant

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Four professors in the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution at Texas A&M University are part of a three-year National Science Foundation Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers grant that includes Blinn College. The grant will be used to encourage middle and high school students to learn about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and the types of career paths those fields offer.

The combined grant totals $1,049,364, with Texas A&M receiving $834,654 and Blinn receiving $214,710.  

(Pictured above from left) Dr. Michael Johnson, Dr. Joseph Morgan, Dr. Jay Porter and Dr. Matthew Kuttolamadom from engineering technology and industrial distribution will be working together on the funded project, “Connected STEM — Promoting STEM Education through Connected Devices and Building Automation.”

They will also be working with Dr. Jennifer Whitfield from the College of Science and Dr. Bugrahan Yalvac from the College of Education and Human Development.

Johnson, principal investigator for the project, said that they will promote STEM via “a combination of Internet of Things and 3-D printing,” and will “develop solutions for building automation using those technologies.”

“The technologies were chosen because they’re exciting new areas that companies are interested in and obviously we want the students to hear about these things and use them in class, and hopefully that stimulates their interest in science and engineering,” Johnson said.

To start this process, teachers will travel to Texas A&M over the summer to learn about product design, the product development process, 3-D printing and computer-aided design (CAD), as well as electronics design and communication protocols necessary to make connected devices actually work.

From there, the teachers will put together modules that will teach math and science concepts to students utilizing the technologies learned over the summer.

In addition to educating teachers in STEM, faculty members are working with Blinn to develop dual-credit courses for high school students. 

In these courses, students will use technologies focused on building automation to spark interest and get them to learn in-depth about engineering, all while receiving credits from both Blinn and their high school.

Max Hibbs, Blinn College dean of mathematics, business, engineering, & technology, will be the primary liaison engineering technology and industrial distribution faculty will work with to create the dual-credit courses.

“Two of the most exciting and transformational technologies today are connected devices, also known as the Internet of Things, and 3-D printing,” said Hibbs. “As major companies adopt these technologies, the workforce of the future will need to be comfortable working with these connected devices, how new manufacturing processes work and understanding the role these technologies can play in the modern enterprise.”

Blinn will begin offering its first dual-credit courses developed from the project in fall 2017.

“Connected devices and 3-D printing will be a part of everyday business life, especially in manufacturing,” Hibbs said. “By showing students how STEM and ICT education has hands-on applications, we can help them understand how important these curricula are, and the career opportunities they can offer.” 

In addition to the dual-credit courses, ETID faculty will be running summer camps for students in the Bryan and College Station, Texas, area as well as South Texas.

“We’re going to work with some of our industry partners to make sure that we can get some industry personnel into the classrooms to talk to the students about technology and engineering careers,” said Johnson.

Industry partners currently on board with the project include National Instruments, Texas Instruments and Schneider Electric.

A large part of the awarded funds will be used to purchase relevant technological equipment for participating schools, as well as stipends for teachers who attend the summer workshops.

Johnson stressed that the key goal is to make the process sustainable, allowing teachers to continue implementing STEM principles and opportunities well after the project is over.

“In addition to the outreach aspect, there’s also a research aspect of how we can use authentic product development opportunities to get students excited about STEM,” said Johnson.

Engineering technology and industrial distribution consistently pioneers new and innovative research in engineering education, evident by recently funded projects and outreach initiatives that help local communities, Texas A&M and beyond.