Understanding, Supporting, and Creating Curriculum Pathways for Industrial Automation Careers
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This project is supporting and creating curriculum pathways to increase the number of qualified technicians in the areas of operation, troubleshooting, design and integration of automated manufacturing systems (industrial automation). The curriculum pathways include a series of courses and learning experiences that equip students for a successful career in automated systems and industrial automation. The project is developing career pathways that lead from high school to the workforce, using web technologies to make industrial automation education more accessible.Intellectual Merit:Many curriculum articulation efforts have focused on establishing dual credit programs for general academic subjects or on particular types of technology, such as mechatronics and robotics. There has been relatively little emphasis on automated systems education or establishing dual credit programs in industrial automation that begin at the high school level. To overcome this shortcoming the project is: 1) assessing industry workforce needs and skill sets in the area of industrial automation, 2) identifying gaps and inefficiencies that affect students'' ability to smoothly transition from high school to two or four-year college to jobs in industry, 3) developing curriculum pathways and articulation agreements to efficiently prepare students to enter the workforce, 4) developing tools (e.g., web-accessible automated systems and virtual learning environments) to make hands-on learning experiences more accessible to learners with limited instructional resources, and 5) pilot-testing the tools within three clusters consisting of (at least) one high school, one two-year college, and one four-year college.Broader Impacts:The project is helping provide U.S. companies with technicians and engineers who have a deeper understanding of industrial automation concepts, and who are better prepared to adapt to changes in production goals, automation processes and organizational restructuring. The partnering institutions are working with a significant number of underrepresented minority students and the propagation plans are providing further opportunities for students from all backgrounds to learn the concepts associated with system integration.The project is further contributing to rural technician education, by engaging two-year college participants from west Texas to work in the wind and solar energy industries. Since there has been relatively little emphasis on automated systems workforce preparation, the project is creating model career pathways from high school to the workforce and using web technologies to make industrial automation education more accessible to all. The project''s focus on automated manufacturing to benefit the energy industry is helping address the global priority on the critical shortage of highly qualified workers to positively impact the nation and its related economy.