Blue Bell, PA —Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) is the newest member, and the first community college in the Commonwealth, to join the Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium (PSGC) under a three-year, $36,000 project, which is funded in part by NASA and is developed in coordination with Temple University.
In its role, MCCC is charged with inspiring educators and equipping them with the strategies, tools and resources to engage students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) literacy. This includes building strategic partnerships between formal and informal STEM education providers and the industry. Montgomery’s Engineering program will accomplish its objective in three ways: by building on the work of its Student Engineering Research and Nanotechnology Laboratory (SERNL); by offering engineering outreach programs at local high schools; and by investing in undergraduate internship and scholarship programs.
“These initiatives focus on mentoring engineering students and exposing them to innovative research opportunities throughout the educational pipeline—starting in high school and continuing through graduation from a four-year university,” explained Dr. David DiMattio, dean of STEM at MCCC.
Research is the key focus of MCCC’s Student Engineering Research and Nanotechnology Laboratory (SERNL), which functions as an incubator for emerging technologies. The lab was initially created in 2013 to support MCCC’s QuadForge Undergraduate Research Program, an open source research project that affords freshmen and sophomore engineering and computer science students with the opportunity to develop autonomous quadrotor flight vehicles, also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
As part of the QuadForge project, students began developing and testing a world-first nanotechnology weatherization coating, in cooperation with industry partners, that allows UAVs to fly in bad weather environments, such as sea mist, snow and rain. The PSGC funding will enable students to continue experiments with advanced hydrophobic and superhydrophobic nanotech developments, as well as to explore new materials, such as knitted nanofibers.
“The work students are doing in our SERNL incubator has the potential of protecting NASA-related payloads and other industrial endeavors from water, oil and hydraulic fluids. This is groundbreaking stuff!” said DiMattio.
For the outreach portion of the PSGC project, MCCC will build on its successful partnership with North Penn High School (NPHS), where, for the past three years, SERNL students and faculty have introduced high school students to STEM disciplines, like mechanical and electrical engineering, chemistry, math and computer science, and key topics and concepts, such as design processes and tools and systems engineering.
This past summer, NPHS and MCCC students achieved another world first by immersing live electronic components in water for 11 continuous days without a failure and performing underwater assembly of multiple mechanical and electronic components. This fall, MCCC and NPHS’ Engineering Academy are partnering with Florida-based UltraTech International to continue their exploration of nanotech coatings for electronic components. The PSGC funding will enable MCCC to expand these programs to more high schools in order to increase STEM literacy among junior and senior high school students in the region.
The final portion of MCCC’s PSGC project will focus on growing undergraduate internship and scholarship opportunities for students by building strategic partnerships and linkages between STEM education and STEM industry.
“Internships and scholarships are critical tools in keeping undergraduate STEM students focused on their studies,” said DiMattio. “Select students can engage in research at a lower financial burden and can, at the same time, increase their skills and proficiencies in emerging STEM technologies.”
MCCC’s partnership with Temple University will also continue to provide students with unique opportunities. For example, last summer, two MCCC students had the opportunity to observe sounding rocket payload launches at Wallops Island, Va. as part of Temple Engineering’s RockOn grant project.
To learn more about Montgomery County Community College’s Engineering programs, visit http://www/mc3.edu/academics, then click on Areas of Study, followed by STEM.