(Columbus, Neb.) – The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded an $893,698 grant to Central Community College.
The three-year grant will allow CCC to develop a “Mechatronics with Instrumentation and Controls” program in an effort to help Nebraska meet a growing need for process instrumentation and controls (I&C) technicians.
“This program will be a huge asset to Nebraska, especially food processing, ethanol, soy and power generation facilities,” said CCC Training and Development Director Doug Pauley who led the development of the grant proposal and serves as the project’s principal investigator. “I’ve heard about the need for instrumentation technicians for many years. It’s our hope to partner with equipment suppliers and industry in developing one of the best programs in the country.”
To accomplish this goal, CCC will use its state-of-the-art Mechatronics Education Center and its business, education and community relationships to develop an I&C specialization within the college’s existing mechatronics associate of applied science (AAS) degree program.
“The new specialization will help create a pipeline of skilled I&C technicians and promote a Nebraska workforce with improved skills, knowledge and abilities ultimately leading to more competitive businesses,” Pauley said.
While the first year of the existing electromechanical and the new I&C programs are similar, the I&C fundamentals will be applied in a processing environment rather than an advanced manufacturing environment.
“The I&C pathway will be the first AAS degree program in Nebraska to focus on the unique needs of processing facilities,” Pauley said. “This is important because there’s a shortage of qualified skilled technicians for both processing and manufacturing businesses so they compete with each other for graduates of manufacturing-related technician programs.”
As part of the grant, CCC also will offer professional development and awareness activities on mechatronics career pathways for secondary educators and their students; implement strategies to attract women, Hispanics and military veterans from rural communities into the program; and adopt methods for enhancing student retention and completion.
“NSF grants are highly competitive and I’m excited to be part of it,” said Project Director Dan Davidchik. “This project is a logical extension of the valuable resources that we’ve developed at CCC in mechatronics and STEM education and awareness over the past decade. By partnering with secondary schools, we’ll help grow the state’s future technical workforce and show young people that some of the best opportunities are right in their own backyard.”