Instructor Omar Tantawi earns Motlow National Science Foundation Grant
LYNCHBURG, TN – Motlow State Community College, led by Principal Investigator Omar Tantawi, has been awarded approximately $108,000 of a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation as part of a collaborative project to address the shortfall of qualified robotics technicians in the workforce. Motlow has previously received two state grants to establish robotics centers in McMinnville and Fayetteville. The NSF award is the second federal grant that Motlow's Mechatronics department has received in the last two years, bringing the total federal funds granted to more than $650,000. Motlow's Smyrna campus will be one of three hosting sites for train-the-trainer workshops on intelligent industrial robotics. The award will fund purchasing a collaborative robot unit in Smyrna to be used for the project purposes. "We are very pleased to work with other community colleges and universities to offer this robotics training to support our high-technology industries," said Fred Rascoe, dean of career and technical programs. "I am very excited to be a part of a wonderful consortium of educators and technology experts in robotics. The delivery of this training is exactly what industry needs to continue its delivery of products and processes in a cost-effective and efficient manner." The grant supports Motlow's position as a leading institution in mechatronics and robotics on both the state and the national levels. It is further evidence of the College's commitment to workforce development. Funds will be used to purchase a collaborative robot unit to be used for the project purposes. The project is a diverse collaboration of four academic institutions: Motlow, UT Chattanooga, Chattanooga State, and Lawson State. It impacts major manufacturers in the eastern and central regions of Tennessee and Alabama through training for high-demand skills to sustain the development of the regions' manufacturing industry. Work within the project includes developing intelligent robotics curricular modules, train-the-trainer workshops for educators, identifying skill sets needed for handling next-generation robotics, developing a knowledge base of next-generation robotics for secondary and post-secondary educators, and providing awareness of next-generation robotics. Peer-reviewed publications are expected by the end of the project. In 2019, East Asia dominated nearly 75% of the world's industrial robotics market, and in 2016 the electronics sector surpassed the automotive industry in robotic demand in China, Japan, and Korea. The International Federation of Robotics forecasts intelligent robots are quickly taking the lead in the robotics industry, confirming a robotics revolution is already taking place in East Asia that is expected to spill over to the United States. A skilled workforce must be prepared to handle the upcoming tsunami of skill needed in intelligent industrial robotics.