The National Center for Autonomous Technologies (NCAT)—recently funded with a grant (#1902574) from the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (NSF ATE) program—will prepare technicians for careers working on unmanned vehicles that operate on land, sea, or air. The new center’s multi-disciplinary approach will encompass the array of emerging technologies utilized by autonomous vehicles from their composite-material structures to their geospatial-informed navigation systems.
To accomplish his ambitious goals for the new center Principal Investigator Jonathan Beck has partnered with multiple ATE center and project leaders. One of the center’s co-principal investigators is Jill Zande, associate director, co-principal investigator and competition coordinator for the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center.
The center’s staff at Northland Community and Technical College in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, will also leverage industry activity in the Red River Valley and the assets at Northland’s aerospace site, the Minnesota State Transportation Center for Excellence, St. Cloud State University, and the University of North Dakota. The university operates the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, one of six Federal Aviation Administration test sites for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that are also known as drones.
These cross-discipline and cross-state-boundary collaborations add another dimension to the center’s goal of preparing technicians to work with the convergence of technologies that are integral to airborne drones, remotely operated underwater vehicles, and autonomous automobiles.
“What we are doing is training students to be adaptive and nimble, to think outside the box as they look at changing skill sets that will be required over the course of their careers in autonomous technologies. There’s a lot of jobs that are increasing the skills sets that are required … big changes to the skills sets that’ll be required, but modifications to a lot of the existing job titles,” Beck said.