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Posted: December 7, 2007
Program prepares for increasing nanotechnology worker demand
(Nanowerk News) Job seekers in Oklahoma currently cannot find any ads or postings for companies seeking nanotechnology technicians, said Sheryl Hale, manager, innovative programs, research and development at the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.
Mike Sluch, nanotechnology instructor, and Dolph Hayden, interim assistant chair, Electronics Technologies Division, examine software and equipment in the new nanotechnology laboratory and classroom at Oklahoma State University-Okmulgee. Courtesy photo
“We expect more and more Oklahoma manufacturers to incorporate nanotechnology into their current operations,” she said.
To help train nanotechnology technicians, the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education and Oklahoma State University-Okmulgee created the Oklahoma Nanotechnology Education Initiative.
“We look at it as a way to build a pipeline of trained workers,” Hale said.
The initiative received a $598,000 Advanced Technological grant from the National Science Foundation. The money will be used to address two issues to train skilled workers to meet the expected demand for nanotechnology technicians, said Bob Klabenes, president of OSU-Okmulgee.
“First, we have to develop awareness and excitement among middle school and high school students about the enormous career opportunities this field will offer,” said Klabenes. “Then, we have to have sophisticated teaching facilities and labs so that students can have hands-on learning experiences with extremely complex equipment.”
Nanotechnology laboratories and classrooms will be in a new building on the OSU-Okmulgee campus. The facility will include atomic force microscopes, including specialized software for analyzing nanomaterials data, a scanning tunneling microscope and a fiber-optic spectrophotometer system.
“As we progress with the initiative, we will order more equipment and software,” said Dolph Hayden, interim assistant division chair for engineering technologies.
Mike Sluch has been hired as nanotechnology instructor. In 1999, he moved from Russia to the U.S. to work in the University of South Carolina’s Chemistry and Biochemistry Department. In 2001, he became senior research scientist for Sciperio Inc., an Oklahoma City-based technology company focusing on U.S. Department of Defense-sponsored research and development in addition to the commercialization of technology-related business opportunities.
Students at OSU-Okmulgee can earn an associate in applied science degree in nano-scientific instrumentation through the Engineering Technologies Division. Courses include Characterization of Nanostructures, Nanoscale Devices and Systems, Nanomaterials and Nanofabrication, and a Nanotechnology Internship.
Curriculum is being developed for the career technology system, Hale said.
“We are in the process of hiring a program coordinator who will help develop the curriculum,” she said.
The three-year National Science Foundation grant will help the career technology system incorporate microtechnology and nanotechnology into pre-engineering academies, manufacturing, aviation, health care, and automotive courses. The career technology program could start as early as next fall.
Oklahoma’s career technology system is working with the Southwest Center for Microsystems Education in Albuquerque, N.M., and Pennsylvania State University to develop curriculum.
“Educational programs that support the application of microtechnology and nanotechnology are critical to Oklahoma’s economic development,” said Phil Berkenbile, state director, career and technology education. “The success of our state’s economy hinges on our industries’ ability to stay globally competitive. Oklahoma needs a work force to spur innovation as its economy diversifies into aerospace, information technology, advanced manufacturing, biotechnology, health, energy, weather and device development, all of which are becoming more entrenched in the state.”