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SE-Tech nano program receives $830k NSF grant

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Nano Grant
MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone recently joined Southeast Technical faculty and area business leaders to discuss the NSF grant. From left to right: CAD instructor Jim Ziegler, President Jim Johnson, Chancellor Rosenstone, math instructor Alice Zimmer, and electronics instructor Marc Kalis.

This fall, there has been big talk about a little thing called “nano” at Southeast Technical. The excitement centers around an $830,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, which will help the college establish the Nanotechnology Partnership for Rural Education Pathways, also referred to as NANOprep. Through this program, Southeast Technical will continue to be a leader in advancing high-tech programs that have significant potential for the regional economy.

MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone recently visited Southeast Technical to learn more about the grant and how it may lead to regional partnerships between the college and area businesses. “Finding the right partnerships and making them deep and real is key,” Rosenstone noted. “This grant could make the area a magnet for nanotechnology, and I’m looking forward to being along for the ride.”

What is nanotechnology?

“Nano” means small. Think thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair, or the smallest fraction of time, a nanosecond, and you are at the nanoscale. Nanotechnology is the study of how matter works at the most basic molecular and atomic level. In many cases, nanotechnology can alter common items to provide new benefits. Waterproof clothing, for example, involves a very thin coating applied via nanotechnology to tightly knit stain-repellant fabric. Likewise, the latest flat panel televisions are made even thinner and more flexible with nanowire electrodes.

What is the future impact of nanotechnology in the workforce?

The NSF reports that more than half of all new products will be developed with nanotechnology by 2015, and accordingly, nanotechnology has been noted as the driver of a second industrial revolution. In the coming years, few industries will remain untouched by nanotechnology. Manufacturers at all levels will need to conduct additional research and development to improve production and stay competitive. And most importantly, they will need to hire knowledgeable, skilled technicians to implement these processes. The

The NSF forecasts a demand for two million nanotechnology workers worldwide in 15 years, including 800,000 to one million in the United States. Nanotechnology job titles include laboratory technicians, research technicians, electron microscope operators, cleanroom technicians and materials specialists, to name just a few.

What does the latest NSF grant mean for Southeast Technical?

With support from the latest NSF grant, Southeast Technical will pursue a cultural change in its approach to recruiting students and exposing them to 21st century skills—not only in nanoscience programs, but also in new programs that involve a variety of emerging technologies. The largest draw will be an introductory survey course highlighting nanoscience. The new course demands no prerequisites, serves as an elective to a variety of existing technical programs, contains modules that will be embedded in Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) courses, and will be offered for dual credit to high school students and other educators. To help Southeast Technical build pathways for students, the workforce, industry, high school students and high school teachers, the grant will provide $50,000 in tuition stipends for participants in the introductory survey course.

View the full version of this article in Southeast Technical’s Connections magazine.