YSU partners with Air Force to help meet engineering workforce demands

Youngstown State University is part of a new $30 million workforce initiative aimed at increasing the security and reliability of microelectronics systems used by the military.

The Microelectronics Workforce Development Program, led by the Air Force, provides YSU with $2.2 million to help increase the number of digital design engineers with expertise in microelectronics, a need which the Air Force says current academic programs across the nation are not meeting.

“We look forward to working with area high schools, universities and other institutions to develop programs that will attract more students into this increasingly critical field and will help the Air Force meet the growing demands in this area,” said Pedro Cortes, YSU associate professor of Civil, Environmental and Chemical Engineering.

High school summer camps, competitions and workshops, as well as college scholarships, internships and co-ops, are among the programs YSU plans to launch to increase the pipeline for such positions, Cortes said.

Cortes and Frank Li, professor and acting chair of the YSU Rayen School of Engineering, are leading YSU’s effort, with support from S. Cory Brozina, assistant professor and director of the first-year Engineering Program at YSU; Jason Zapka, YSU assistant professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Emilie G. Brown, outreach coordinator in the YSU College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Additionally, STEM Dean Wim Steelant has initiated collaborations with Eastern Gateway Community College, and YSU will team up with Cleveland State University and the OH-WOW Children’s Center for Science and Technology in Youngstown as part of the outreach component.

“The initiative will establish a pipeline with local and regional high schools,” Brown said. “The overall goal is to create an educational infrastructure that provides engineering students with the skills and knowledge needed in the microelectronics and computer engineering field.”

The program is overseen by the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and also includes Wright State University, University of Akron, University of Toledo, Ohio University and Lorain County Community College.

In addition to the workforce component, the initiative allows YSU, Wright State and Akron to expand ongoing research of microelectronics technologies. Cortes said research at YSU will be further enriched by creating a 3D printing microelectronics HUB that will use additive manufacturing to produce flexible, rigid, wearable and multifunctional electronic hardware. He said YSU’s participation in the project also grows upon his current research on assured and trusted microelectronics technologies.