NSF Grant Establishes Manufacturing Research Site at Behrend

Dr. Faisal Aqlan, assistant professor of industrial engineering.

Dr. Faisal Aqlan, assistant professor of industrial engineering.

Credit: Penn State Behrend

Funding includes research stipends for high school and community college instructors

A $554,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will establish a manufacturing and automation research site at Penn State Behrend, where instructors will develop STEM-based manufacturing curriculum models for high schools and community colleges in three states.

The funding includes stipends for thirty-six teachers, who will attend six-week residency programs over three summers. The first cohort will be selected this month.

The groups will study manufacturing simulations and automation processes in order to develop hands-on curricula for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics classes. More than 6,000 students in Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio are expected to benefit from the effort, according to the National Science Foundation.

The funding was secured by Dr. Faisal Aqlan, assistant professor of industrial engineering, and Dr. Greg Dillon, professor of engineering. Their research team also includes Dr. George Walters, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Melanie Ford, lecturer in computer science and software engineering and director of Youth Education Outreach at the college.

Aqlan will oversee the summer programs, which will be based in the Research Experience for Teachers (RET) site, located in the new manufacturing systems lab in the Jack Burke Research and Economic Development Center. The lab is coordinated by Aqlan and is equipped with manufacturing stations and advanced machinery, including 3D printers and production robots.

“Studies show a need for between two and three million jobs in manufacturing in the coming decades,” Aqlan said. “We want to help close that gap, and we can do that, in part, by encouraging high school students to be open to manufacturing.”

Teachers will research a variety of manufacturing styles, including craft production, lean manufacturing, and mass customization. They will tour industry sites to see the processes in use.

“We want teachers to know and understand how manufacturing works and how systems function in different settings,” Aqlan said.

The RET site will complement Penn State Behrend’s K-12 outreach efforts, which engaged approximately 23,000 youth and educators in 2017, as well as the materials research at the college’s $16.5 million Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Center. The RET team will assist teachers with project management, scientific writing, and academic presentations and will work with schools to develop student manufacturing clubs.

For more information about the RET site or the summer residencies, contact Aqlan at [email protected].