Thursday, June 22, 2017

CVTC Grant to Boost Manufacturing, IT at High Schools

SMART Grant of nearly $900,000 focuses on automation, programming

Article Photo - CVTC Grant to Boost Manufacturing, IT at High Schools

CVTC instructor Andrew Kott, left, demonstrates equipment in the CVTC Mobile Manufacturing Lab during the Manufacturing Show in March. Thanks to a new National Science Foundation grant, the lab will soon include a small-scale simulation of an automated distribution center and will also be coming the Durand and Menomonie school districts while maint

Students at four rural high schools will benefit from instruction in Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Mobile Manufacturing Lab in the next school year, which will soon have expanded capabilities in automation and information technology.

That’s just one of the benefits Menomonie, Durand, Owen-Withee and Greenwood high schools will receive from a partnership with CVTC, made possible by a federal grant to CVTC of nearly $900,000. The schools will also be able to start extracurricular robotics clubs; teachers will receive extra training at CVTC; and students will be able to earn industry-recognized credentials before they graduate.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded CVTC a Smart Manufacturing and Resources for Transforming the Future (SMART Future) grant in June, first announced by Congressman Ron Kind’s office on June 12. CVTC applied for the grant in order to partner with rural high schools to incorporate industrial automation and networking principles into the high school curriculum.

"This grant provides a tremendous opportunity for more young people to learn about how automation, programming and networking are used in modern industrial settings," said CVTC President Bruce Barker. "By developing skills in these areas, students can get a jump start on a fabulous career, which will in turn meet the workforce needs of local businesses."

One component of the partnership could start in the next few weeks. “We’re looking at a two-and-a-half day training for teachers the last week of July,” said CVTC Dean of Manufacturing Jeff Sullivan.

The grant also called for establishing robotics clubs in the member high schools. The grant includes funds for teacher stipends to supervise the clubs.

An NSF grant to CVTC in 2013 enabled the College to build the Mobile Manufacturing Lab, which provided access to equipment and a CVTC instructor to Owen-Withee and Greenwood high schools as well as two other rural school districts since 2014. The new grant will allow CVTC to develop a small-scale simulation of an automated distribution center in the lab, which can demonstrate to students the linkage between automation, networking, programming and supply chain management. The grant also allows the lab to be brought to Menomonie and Durand high schools for nine-week segments for the first time.

“We will be bringing the lab to the partner school districts in the coming school year, but it may take until the following school year to fully utilize the lab as planned,” Sullivan said.

In addition, CVTC will be working with the partner school districts to incorporate principles of automation, networking and programming into existing high school curriculums. Sullivan anticipates the plans will also lead to students having the opportunity to earn credentials, such as certification based on student skills using a multimeter, which is used to measure electric current.

Sullivan thanked Grassland Dairy, Rockwell Automation, Fanuc Robotics and other companies that helped in the process of obtaining the grant.

“During my conversations with Wisconsin employers in the advanced manufacturing, IT, and automation sectors I continually hear about the need to get more trained workers to fill open jobs. This grant will help Chippewa Valley Technical College provide our young people the training they need to compete for advanced manufacturing and technology jobs,” said Rep. Kind. “Making sure we have the workforce to fill these jobs will strengthen the rural economy and help Wisconsin businesses grow.”