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Posted: March 13, 2008
Oakland Community College snags $1.9 million grant for nanotechnology study
(Nanowerk News) The study of the smallest things is bringing big money to Oakland Community College's Auburn Hills campus.
A $1.9 million grant was awarded to the campus Tuesday for its plans to develop a center for the study of nanotechnology.
"We are just beaming. We got exactly what we asked for, which is really pretty unheard of," said Pat Dolly, president of OCC's Auburn Hills campus.
Nanotechnology is the way discoveries made in the research and development of nanoscale materials are put to work, according to the National Nanotechnology Initiative. A sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick, and one inch contains 25,400,000 nanometers.
"That's why your cell phone got smaller -- it's bringing everything down in scale," said Sharon Miller, dean of workforce development services.
The campus asked for $1,960,497 to build a nanotechnology lab, purchase equipment and hire faculty in the grant application it sent to the U.S. Department of Labor.
"We have included, in the $1.9 million, funding to train current employees," Miller said.
That means 400 current employees of local businesses and 50 of their new hires can receive training in nanotechnology at no cost to them or their employers.
"For people who are in advanced manufacturing, it's an absolute edge for them to have that skill set. They need to understand the elements of nanotechnology," Miller said.
Oakland County's Economic Development team identified nanotechnology as one of 10 emerging business sectors they would like to encourage growth in, Miller said.
"With the college being one of the major players in the economic development arena and a long-standing partner with Oakland County, we identified nanotechnology as something we could help with," Miller said.
While nanotechnology can be applied to a broad range of industries, it will be especially pertinent for automotive companies. Ford Motor Co., Delphi Corp. and RHK Technology are some of the industrial groups that have partnered with OCC to write the grant and develop the center.
The idea of developing a nanotechnology center started more than a year ago when Auburn Hills campus officials were working on their academic master plan.
"We looked to where future jobs were going to be, where Michigan is headed and how we could build off the rich technology base here," Dolly said.
Miller and Tahir Khan, the interim dean of technology, began working on the curriculum last summer, Dolly said. Plans for an associate's degree in material sciences -- the discipline nanotechnology falls under -- are in the works.
Oakland University and Wayne State University have also partnered with OCC in the endeavor so students can transfer to finish degree programs in material sciences there.
"Everything converged at the right time, and the grant opportunity came up," Dolly said.
OCC is one of 69 community colleges out of 341 applicants to receive the grant, which is available because of the Community-Based Job Training Grants Initiative introduced by President Bush in his 2004 State of the Union address.
Additional partners working with OCC are the Southeast Michigan WIRED Region, Southeast Michigan Workforce Agencies Coalition, Oakland County Planning and Economic Development Services and Automation Alley, The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, Michigan Small Tech Association and eight other community colleges in Southeast Michigan.
"We'll be the specialty college for this region and will help other community colleges to learn about and be able to teach about nanotechnology," Miller said. "It's really a regional effort to build the workforce."
The lab will be added to the campus' advanced technology center and will be named the Center of Expertise in Nanotechnology for Material Science.
Dolly said the grant is an affirmation that the college is moving in the right direction.
"It lets us know we're right on target in terms of preparing Southeast Michigan for the next 15 or 20 years," she said.