Motlow Mechatronics awarded $545,000 grant by National Science Foundation

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Motlow State Community College
Motlow Professor Khalid Tantawi and President Michael Torrence

Motlow State Community College and Mechatronics Professor Khalid Tantawi have been awarded a $545,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a 36-month project to introduce the concepts and technologies of Smart Manufacturing to the educators of advanced manufacturing in the United States.

The project, titled “Smart Manufacturing for America’s Revolutionizing Technological Transformation” will feature Motlow as a national hub for training Smart Manufacturing for Mechatronics and Advanced Manufacturing educators across the nation.

Smart Manufacturing, defined in Congress in 2015 and also known as Industry 4.0, combines automated processes with networks of advanced sensors, data analytics, and information and communication technologies needed to support improved productivity. It has been widely recognized as a groundbreaking technological trend with the potential to transform manufacturing industries.

Current efforts in the United States have not resulted in the growth of a workforce trained to utilize Smart Manufacturing techniques. To overcome this knowledge gap, technical educators need to have opportunities to become well informed about such advances in technology. These educators are then able to prepare technicians with the skills needed for rapidly changing industries.

“The Motlow Mechatronics educational program continues to set the standard for providing highly-trained technicians for industry,” said Dr. Michael Torrence, Motlow president, who also serves on the board of Online Learning Consortium, a national non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of quality digital teaching and learning experiences. “Receiving this substantial grant underscores Motlow’s commitment to integrating technology into the classroom, and substantiates the College’s ability to contribute to the much needed advancement of technological education for industry in our country. I am very proud of Dr. Tantawi and his team for their exhaustive work in obtaining the NSF grant.”

Dr. Tantawi is an Assistant Professor of mechatronics at Motlow’s Smyrna Center, and was the winner of the 2017 Faculty Excellence Award. He obtained his PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2012, and his master’s degree from the same university in 2011.  He also holds a master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from Institut Supérieur de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace, France, and a Bachelor of Science in Mechatronic Engineering from the University of Jordan.

Tantawi was one of two U.S. trainers for Siemens Technik Akademy for certifying instructors for Siemens Mechatronic Systems Certifications (level 1).  He was the elected chair of the Engineering section of the Tennessee Academy of Science for 2016/2017. He is also an active academic auditor, a member of the Tennessee Textbook Advisory Panel, and the European Commission’s Erasmus Mundus Association.  He has more than 30 journal and conference publications, and is the founder and advisor of Motlow's chapter of the American Chemical Society (ACS) as well as the SkillsUSA Chapter.

As part of this project, training workshops and resources will be created and offered for educators in mechatronics and engineering technology programs. These resources will also be made available to manufacturers and local industries to increase their involvement within this technology area. The project will contribute to improving the education of future manufacturing technicians and the nation's workforce.

The goals of the project will be to:

  • Create educational modules and workforce development tools on Smart Manufacturing
  • Identify the skill sets and needs of Smart Manufacturing professionals
  • Develop a repository that serves as a knowledge base for industry and STEM educators
  • Increase awareness about Smart Manufacturing
  • Develop a knowledge base of best practices for Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) site visits

The educational modules on Smart Manufacturing will be implemented in train-the-trainer workshops and webinars. Topics covered in the modules will include: an overview of technologies used in Smart Manufacturing; sustainable manufacturing; additive manufacturing; the fourth industrial revolution and manufacturing innovations; data science in manufacturing; and adaptive control systems and machine intelligence.

An online platform will be established as the repository for the developed materials and resources, and will allow educators and manufacturing personnel in industry to exchange ideas on applications and techniques for Smart Manufacturing. Results from the project will be widely disseminated within technical communities and venues.

This prestigious award reflects NSF's statutory mission and is deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria. Furthermore, it is evidence of the prowess of the nationally recognized Motlow Mechatronics educational program.