Northland Community & Technical College Selected To Launch National Science Foundation UAS Education Initiative

THIEF RIVER FALLS, MINN. – Northland Community & Technical College (NCTC) has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Program. The award provides nearly $200,000 to be utilized over three years. The project, entitled “Revolutionary Opportunities for Highly Educated Unmanned Aircraft Systems Technicians,” will be under the direction of Northland instructors, Jonathan Beck and Thomas Biller. The project will expand access and awareness about the rapidly emerging UAS industry through education and career pathways development in collaboration with educational institutions, industry, and existing NSF ATE Centers.

NCTC President Anne Temte commented, “I am so pleased by this award. Recognition by the National Science Foundation is truly an expression of confidence in our capabilities and our vision for the future.”

“This grant will allow Northland to continue its first-in-the-nation education programming in unmanned aircraft systems to promote their growing use in the commercial sector. At the same time, we will leverage NSF’s nation-wide network of advanced technology centers and STEM expertise to develop best-in-class, technician level training for this revolutionary technology,” states Jim Retka, Dean of Career and Technical Education.

“UAS are a revolutionary technology impacting many industries,” notes Jonathan Beck, Principal Investigator. “The power of commercial utilization of the technology lies in technician education. This NSF ATE project will expand access to UAS education and develop pathways to exciting careers for highly educated technicians embracing new technology. We will partner with high schools, colleges, industry and other NSF ATE projects to cultivate imagination and provide education in the technical proficiencies, making future visions a reality.”

“These are exciting times for all of aviation and the technologies coming online are amazing!” says Tom Biller, Co-Principal Investigator. “Through the grant funding established by our NSF project, we can continue to push this technology and the exciting career possibilities down to the high schools where kids can get exposed to some of the important reasons STEM curriculum matters so much!”

Northland will work with existing NSF ATE Centers including: 360° Manufacturing and Applied Engineering ATE Regional Center of Excellence at Bemidji State University, the National Resource Center for Materials Technology Education (MatEdU), and the National Resource Center for Aerospace Technical Education (SpaceTEC). Many institutions in the region also pledged support for the project initiatives including the University of North Dakota Center for UAS Research, Education, and Training, and high school consortiums; Pine 2 Prairie and the North Valley Career and Technology Center. Each of these external project partners plays a pivotal role in the success of the project.

Support for this project is provided by NSF/ATE DUE Award #1501629. Findings and opinions are those of the institution and not of NSF.

Northland Community and Technical College is a comprehensive college with campuses in East Grand Forks, Minn., and Thief River Falls, Minn. One- and two-year degrees, transfer programs and diploma certification are available in a variety of majors, as well as workforce training and continuing education programs. NCTC is a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.

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NCTC is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

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