National Science Foundation grants to help ISU, Ivy Tech meet needs of industry

June 4 2007

AutomationTek to serve 2,000 students per year

National Science Foundation grants will help Indiana State University and Ivy Tech Community College fight the state’s brain drain by funding a project to develop training methods for automation technicians that are in high demand by industry.

Called “AutomationTek,” the project will serve the growing needs of Indiana manufacturers, especially those in the pharmaceutical and automotive fields, said Gerald Cockrell, professor of electronics and computer technology at Indiana State, and project director.

Funded by three-year grants totaling $566,511 to Indiana State and $266,348 to Ivy Tech-Wabash Valley, AutomationTek is expected to support approximately 2,000 students per year.

It will include detailed expert instruction, video and audio feedback, and evaluation. The structured, modular format lends itself to degree programs a well as to employed workers who need specific training. Each component takes students through a complete, progressive learning system that first teaches through simulation, and then allows interaction through real-time remote lab operation.

Faculty from ISU’s College of Technology and Ivy Tech-Wabash Valley will work with the university’s Center for Instruction, Research and Technology in developing new learning tools for AutomationTek.

"As part of this grant project, the team will create state-of-the-art learning modules to assist students in their growth in learning about automation technology, using the newest technology available," said Kenneth Janz, director of the center and co-director of the project.

“Indiana manufacturers need consistent training for automation technicians. This project addresses that need,” Cockrell said. “We will develop up to 60 modules that can be delivered in a number of ways, either hands-on in the classroom or via the Internet. It’s anytime, anywhere delivery. The time commitments that people have these days make it necessary for us to deliver some of this content in this way.”

AutomationTek will develop training in such areas as robotics, 3-D design, process control and batch control.

“These are the types of things that our automotive industry and pharmaceutical industry do,” Cockrell said. “Once we get the model developed it will be an easy matter to develop more modules and try to keep up with ever-changing technology.”

AutomationTek relies on the strong relationships both Indiana State and Ivy Tech have with industry; experience in distance education; established articulated degree programs; emphasis on active learning; and innovative, individualized instruction.

Cockrell is a pioneer in the design and development of distance delivery of real-time laboratory experiences. Students from as far away as Guatemala and Russia have operated Indiana State’s process control lab via remote control. With remote operation of equipment becoming more common in the workplace, successful remote operation of equipment for education and training supports Indiana’s commitment to continued manufacturing growth and has long-range potential for global impact.

"This NSF grant further cements the long-standing relationship between Indiana State University and Ivy Tech Community College," said Don Arney, professor and chair of technology and instructional services at Ivy Tech-Wabash Valley. "Ivy Tech and ISU have several transfer degrees and have worked together on many cooperative opportunities, particularly within our respective programs related to Technology and Distance Education. Ivy Tech, Terre Haute, has been a pioneer in distance education via the Internet, having served more than 100,000 students from Indiana, The U.S. and from around the world.

"We are excited about the potential Automationtek brings to the region and our students and how it will enhance the development of Ivy Tech's Advanced Manufacturing Center being implemented in our new Center for Workforce Development."

Arney will serve as director of Ivy Tech's portion of the project. Joe Ashby, assistant professor of electronics and computer technology, will serve as a co-director of ISU's project.

Contacts: Gerald Cockrell, professor, electronics and computer technology, Indiana State University, (812) 237-3394 or gcockrell@indstate.edu; Kenneth Janz, director, Center for Instruction, Research and Technology, Indiana State University, (812) 237-9632 or kjanz@indstate.edu; or Don Arney, professor and chair, technology and instructional services, Ivy Tech Community College-Wabash Valley, (812) 298-2232 or darney@ivytech.edu

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Indiana State University, (812) 237-3743 or dave.taylor@indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

National Science Foundation grants will help Indiana State University and Ivy Tech Community College fight the state’s brain drain by funding a project to develop training methods for automation technicians that are in high demand by industry. The project, called “AutomationTek,” will serve the needs of Indiana manufacturers, especially those in the pharmaceutical and automotive fields.

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