Minnesota State College Southeast received a $516,513 grant from the National Science Foundation. This grant, guaranteed for three years, will build on MSCSE’s success in creating high school partnerships that provide college credits and credentials to students throughout southeast Minnesota.

Through the project -- Rural Electronics Education Hub Pilot in the Upper Mississippi River Basin -- MSCSE will expand the pipeline of skilled technicians into electronics careers. The grant is modeled after an NSF award made to the college in 2019 of $441,952 to establish a rural advanced manufacturing education hub.

“This latest NSF grant will expand our partnerships with regional high schools by increasing opportunities for high school students to earn certificates in electronics and CNC,” Interim President Larry Lundblad said. “Currently, high school students from 10 regional schools are served through this model. The grant will allow more school districts to provide their students with greater opportunities in career and technical education.”

Heather Conley, dean of academic innovation, explained that the college was adding a basic electronics certificate which will include four core classes: Intro to DC Electricity, Intro to AC Electricity, DC Theory and Circuits, and Digital Electronics I.

“These courses are common to a number of career pathways taught at the college, giving younger students flexibility as they learn about where they’d like to focus their attention,” Conley said.

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The 9-credit Introduction to Electronics Certificate is targeted to high school students, but will also be used for entry-level training or for under-skilled or displaced workers in the region. At MSCSE the certificate can lead to further studies in mechatronics, biomedical technology, electronics technology, electrical engineering technology, and computer engineering technology.

Marc Kalis, an electronics instructor at MSCSE, is responsible for project oversight, management, curriculum development, and acquisition of equipment and curricular materials.

“The grant calls for us to provide instruction through a combination of methods including face-to-face lab instruction, online theory, and online simulation,” Kalis said. “We will start out with students coming to our campuses for the lab component as much as possible. But given the situation with COVID-19, it’s good timing for us to explore online and distance learning options.”

In addition to curriculum development and technology acquisition, the NSF grant calls for the college to develop recruitment and support strategies to encourage female, underserved/underrepresented, and Native American students to select STEM education pathways and enter the workforce in electronics-related careers.

“We are excited to be able to serve the region in this way,” said Lundblad. “Employers throughout our area are constantly in need of employees for high-demand, high-wage jobs that require specialized skills in electronics, mechatronics and related fields. This new NSF grant will help MSC Southeast and our partners meet those needs.”