nsf1Grant will fund curricula development opportunities in area of lightweight materials

Washtenaw Community College has been awarded a $200,000 National Science Foundation Advanced Technical Education (NSF, ATE) grant designed to instruct students and educators on the most up-to-date information regarding lightweight materials in the automotive design and manufacturing processes.

The grant, titled “Training Tomorrow’s Technicians in Lightweight Materials: Properties, Optimization, and Manufacturing Processes,” will fund work over a three-year time span starting in July. Terms of the grant also include a collaboration between WCC; Wayne State University in Detroit, a recognized leader in advanced manufacturing research and education; and the Square One Education Network. Square One is an organization which focuses on educating K-12 students in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Illinois in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to prepare them for the workforce of the future.

Lightweight materials are now broadly used in the automotive industry, both with manufacturers and suppliers in the area of vehicle design and manufacturing, to improve vehicle fuel efficiency and meet increasingly stringent federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy [CAFÉ] regulations by 2025.

Research has shown there is tremendous job growth in the areas of Advanced Transportation Systems and a corresponding need for trained technicians in the area of advanced manufacturing – which focuses on what a car is made of and how it is built.

“Through our conversations with business leaders in the automotive industry, we understand the imminent needs for employees equipped with skills in the area of lightweight materials,” said WCC President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca. “This NSF grant will allow us to create curricula and professional development programs to create a model for other community colleges to follow. We are very proud of this opportunity.”

The grant is designed to accomplish the following:

  • Develop college curricula and programs and resources to educate students with skills needed for jobs in advanced manufacturing and automotive technology in the area of lightweight materials.
  • Create professional development opportunities through Wayne State University for community college faculty and K-12 teachers centered on lightweight materials.
  • Introduce lightweight materials into the Square One Full-Size Innovative Vehicle Design Challenge – an annual event which assembles high school student teams from across the Great Lakes region to compete with cars they design and build in driverless, hybrid, electric and connected radio-controlled categories.
  • Contribute lightweight materials curricula to the online library and learning hub for the Lightweight Innovations For Tomorrow [LIFT] library.
  • Develop an ongoing supply of technicians skilled in lightweight materials to meet current workforce and industry demands.
  • Establish an advisory board composed of Michigan-based companies such as Michigan Aerospace, MICHauto, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and Ann Arbor SPARK, designed to help WCC develop relevant lightweighting curricula and provide industry insight to WCC faculty.

“This grant affirms both the talent and hard work of faculty here at WCC and those at Wayne State University,” said Brandon Tucker, Dean of Advanced Technology & Public Service Careers at WCC. “The result is a win for our students as they will be exposed to the latest technologies, which in turn prepares them to be competitive as they transition in the workforce.

“We are also looking forward to working with Square One to begin to instill in K-12 students an understanding on how lightweight materials are integrated into the automotive manufacturing environment,” Tucker added.

WCC recently announced the establishment of the Advanced Transportation Center [ATC] that will merge the rapidly growing industries of Automotive Transportation Servicing, Intelligent Transportation Systems and Advanced Manufacturing. Curricula developed from the grant work will be integrated into the courses throughout the center.

[This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1601261. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.]

For more information about the WCC Advanced Transportation Center, visit wccnet.edu/atc.

By Susan Ferraro, APR
Director of Media Relations