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QCC Awarded National Science Foundation Grant for New Robotics Technician Certificate

March, 2020
  • Jacob Longacre, QCC associate professor of Electronics Engineering Technology
    Jacob Longacre, QCC associate professor of Electronics Engineering Technology discusses the workings of one of the College's FANUC robots.
  • QCC has been host to many Vex robotics competitions.
    QCC has been host to many Vex robotics competitions.

Quinsigamond Community College (QCC) was recently awarded a $298,108 National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant for a new Robotics Technician Certificate program. The program will be designed to offer a curriculum that supports technical communication, teaches problem-solving skills and offers a strong integration of industry-recognized certifications. Underrepresented QCC student populations that participate in QCC’s existing robotics community outreach programs will directly benefit from the program. Additionally, other beneficiaries targeted include 400 pre-college and undergraduate students, who have demonstrated interest in robotics technology.

Robotics education is not a new concept at QCC. It is already a part of the College’s manufacturing and mechatronics programs. According to Jacob Longacre, associate professor of Electronics Engineering Technology at QCC, the new Robotics Technician Certificate will be based on input from industries within the region, as well as local high schools and four-year institution educators. The hope is for the new certificate program to act as a conduit between K-12 robotics outreach programs.

“We want to be sensitive to industries’ needs, how things are changing, and bring more of that interest and need to the program,” Mr. Longacre said.

While QCC faculty and staff have already begun reaching out to industry leaders, the grant funding will now enable QCC to formally begin a comprehensive fact-finding process. This summer, QCC will establish a local business and industry leadership team for robotics, to identify and prioritize the skills desired by local employers. The goal is to have the pilot program tested and in place within three years.

One key component to the program is finding ways in which to engage and inspire students in the world of STEM, particularly those students in middle and high school. For many years QCC has been involved with the VEX Robotics programs. These programs and competitions target high school and middle school students, in an effort to increase interest in STEM from an early age.

“These programs expand students’ interest in STEM and connects those students who may not have these types of technology opportunities,” Mr. Longacre said. “We want our certificate program to get these students excited and interested in robotics.”

“The awarding of this NSF Grant enables us to develop new career pathways for students,” said QCC President Dr. Luis Pedraja. “We must teach not only for today’s industry needs, but also teach to the needs of the future. I believe this program will be a gateway to self-sufficiency for many students.”