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Funding & Development

College Announces Major Grant for Industry 4.0 Education

Project Aims to Prepare Versatile Technicians for Smart Manufacturing Careers

RALEIGH, N.C. (August 16, 2022) - Wake Tech is pleased to announce that the college has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant of $520,783 to enhance Industry 4.0 training for students pursuing careers in advanced manufacturing.

Wake Tech's project, entitled "Preparing Students for the Industry 4.0 Technician Workforce," is funded through NSF's Advancing Technological Education (ATE) program.

The three-year project will work to increase the hands-on aspect of technician education to ensure students in Biopharmaceutical Technology, Electronic Engineering Technology, Mechanical Engineering Technology, Mechatronics and Facilities Maintenance Technology have greater career options in modern manufacturing environments that demand interdisciplinary skills. The project also aims to broaden participation and recruit more women into these programs at the college.

Wake Tech announced the grant during today’s Board of Trustees meeting.

Industry 4.0 (I4.0) is a reference to a fourth industrial revolution featuring digitization of manufacturing by technologies such as big data and analytics, cloud computing, cybersecurity and smart manufacturing. Industry 4.0 is the interconnection of these technologies in a systemic fashion in which technicians are trained across systems.

Specifically, Wake Tech's project includes:

  • Surveying the local 4.0 industry to understand the skills needed and prepare faculty to deliver that training
  • Enhancing and developing new classes with interdisciplinary rigorous STEM content and hands-on lab activities
  • Developing an Industry 4.0 certificate embedded within industry certifications
  • Creating new Work-Based Learning or apprenticeship opportunities to bolster employability skills and prepare students for the workforce or a four-year degree pathway

All five programs included in the grant will be housed at Wake Tech's future Eastern Wake Campus in Wendell. The college is building a $60 million, 80,000-square-foot Technology 4.0 facility at the new site, dedicated to training in smart manufacturing, intelligent automation, robotics, mechatronics and microelectronics. The facility will also include co-location space for university partners and a maker space lab for student collaboration.

The grant will also support the purchase of highly automated factory simulation equipment, which will be housed in the Center for Building Technologies on Southern Wake Campus until the new Eastern Wake 4.0 facility is built.

Lora Eddington, dean of Biotechnology, Engineering and Skilled Technologies programs at Wake Tech, said the grant will allow the college to develop and implement adaptable knowledge, resulting in more versatile technicians with both technical and critical thinking skills who can see problems and know how to fix them.

"Today, technicians need to be adaptable to diagnose, troubleshoot and perform adjustments on equipment and processes to maintain efficient operations," Eddington said. "This grant will enable Wake Tech to create a unique certificate that threads a common skill set for technicians, allowing them to be successful in any industrial environment.

"We are grateful for the support of the National Science Foundation, our elected officials and our industry partners on this project, which will allow Wake Tech to better understand our region's manufacturing skills gap, upskill our faculty, update our labs with modernized equipment and train technicians for modern manufacturing environments," she added.

Wake Tech has received 21 NSF awards since 1978, and 13 of those are ATE awards. NSF projects at Wake Tech have built institutional and departmental experience in working with partners to provide Wake Tech students with technician training and research experiences.

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April 2024

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