Mohawk Valley Community College (MVCC), located in central New York State, has been awarded a $557,487 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support a project through which MVCC will develop a series of micro-credentials to increase the number of skilled technicians in the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry.
“This timely project addresses the imminent, crucially important UAS workforce demands of the nation – demands that are foreshadowed by the current industry needs of the Mohawk Valley region of Upstate New York,” explains Timothy Thomas, associate dean of the physical sciences, engineering and applied technologies department at MVCC. “Our region has become a national hub of drone technology research and development, and as such, we are observing an emerging need for UAS technicians with a specialized set of skills for working with remotely piloted systems.”
Over the next three years, the college will develop and implement five micro-credentials that consist of four courses each, providing students with highly specialized, specific skills without requiring completion of a full degree: UAS Components, UAS Fabrication, UAS Operations, UAS Electronics and UAS Data Analysis.
MVCC also will use the grant money to launch two new degree programs: associate in applied science degrees in UAS Fabrication and UAS Electronics.
“The purpose of our NSF project is to create a flexible workforce development platform that utilizes micro-credentials that ladder from a stand-alone credential to a degree program to support the emerging UAS industries,” Thomas continues. “Flexibility is key. An existing electrical repair technician may only need a short-term course on the unique electronic systems of drones, while a career-changing engineer may need a comprehensive two-year degree that covers all UAS components, functionalities and similar elements.”
The grant also will allow the MVCC to purchase new equipment, including a “micro” drone; sensor packages that will enable agricultural and infrastructure inspection; and LiDAR. This equipment, supplemented by existing UAS technology owned by the college, will help students as they prepare for UAS careers, says MVCC.