MatEdU Welcomes InnovATEBIO As New Partner And Ally

In a National Science Foundation (NSF) article in late 2020, The future of how things are made, the NSF began asking researchers to “reimagine the future of how things are made, laying the groundwork for manufacturing that is sustainable; takes full advantage of artificial intelligence;  incorporates advancements in fields such as bioengineering and materials science…” 

NSF is already helping those imaginations to move fast, by investing approximately $250 million per year in advanced manufacturing research. The article states that “advances in computer-aided design to drive development of 3D printing and sustained advanced nanomaterials, NSF’s decades-long investment in fundamental research has transformed manufacturing, resulting in products modern society has come to depend on.” 

Advanced manufacturing, for many people, brings to mind large machinery that melts, cuts, and bends metal, among other things, but a fundamental part of innovation in manufacturing and many other industries, is the field of materials science. 

Materials science is increasingly joining together with other specialties, in this post we’re highlighting how biology, or more specifically, Biotechnology experts are teaming up with Materials Science experts. MatEdU and InnovATEBIO, led by NSF Principal Investigator, Dr. Linnea Fletcher, and based at Austin Community College, are teaming up to create and increase technician-level skill to serve the companies, new and old, at the intersection of these two fields. 

The InnovATEBIO website states: “Advancing the U.S. bioeconomy will require a growing biotechnology workforce that is well educated and diverse. Located at Austin Community College in Texas and partnering with institutions of higher education, high schools, industry, and non-profits throughout the country, the InnovATEBIO National Biotechnology Education Center, an NSF-funded Advanced Technological Education Center, works with the biotech community to scope out workforce needs and address them by educating highly skilled technicians. InnovATEBIO supports a cadre of well-trained instructors and is helping to increase the number and quality of biotechnology education programs, as well as introducing a wide range of underrepresented students to biotechnology.”

For example, in her detailed InnovATEBIO presentation, Bio-inspired and Sustainable Design: Towards Functional Materials (YouTube video link), Dr. LaShanda Korley, at the University of Delaware, highlighted how her Center (funded under the NSF PIRE program) takes inspiration from “nature to design new materials that can change toughness in response to their environment, are safer and more effective biological implants, will transmit nerve-like electrical signals, and can respond to the environment to initiate biological processes with an eye toward soft robotic applications.” 

Like MatEdU with its National Online Resource Center and course modules, InnovATEBIO offers “Courses in a box” with materials to help instructors get a new course off the ground quickly. 

These resources may include:

  • course description
  • student outcomes
  • reading assignments or references to a textbook or articles
  • laboratory exercises
  • lecture materials
  • classroom activities
  • homework assignments
  • exams and quizzes
  • videos

Here are a few of the InnovATEBIO courses: 

Bioinformatics for Biology and Biotech

Contributed By: Sandra Porter

This bioinformatics course was developed by Dr. Sandra Porter over a ten year period as a semester-long course in the biotechnology program at Austin Community College with a …

Chromatography Techniques

Contributed By: Oana Martin

This course introduces the basic concepts involved in the separation of molecules. The purpose of this course is to give students a basic understanding of the basic underlying …

Hazardous Materials

Contributed By: Mary Ellen Kraus

Welcome to the Hazardous Materials course-in-a-box. This course is not designed as a safety training course. The educational philosophy of this course, like that of most of the … 

Laboratory Math for Biotechnology

Contributed By: Mary Ellen Kraus

Bench work in the biotechnology laboratory requires that technicians possess certain fundamental math skills and the ability to apply these skills. 

If you are interested in Biotechnology jobs, including biomaterials jobs, you will want to visit the BioTech Careers page on LinkedIn (via InnovATEBIO) as well as the main site that is run by the Digital World Biology team (again funded via InnovATEBIO). The site receives 500,000-plus visitors each year and helps students find biotech careers. 

Finally, our recent MatEdU post: HI-TEC Event Supports Materials Science Workforce Of The Future, reports on related biotech presentations and materials science resources.

Drone Technicians Benefit From Materials Science Curriculum

According to market analysts, the unmanned autonomous vehicle market (UAV, but also aka Drones) is estimated to exceed $100-plus billion in the near future. Demand is coming from the commercial and civil government sectors, as well as in construction, agriculture, and insurance, among others. For education, this presents an equally large opportunity — to prepare students for technical work involving drones. 

Man holding UAV or Drone
Photo by David Henrichs

At MatEdU, being a well-known resource for materials and materials education, we have been keenly watching technician education strive to keep up with these market forecasts. 

The Use of Composite Materials in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)

As most MatEdU News readers know, drones are smaller than traditional aircraft and that brings a limited “fuel” capacity (lithium-ion batteries, in most) limiting flight time. Add a payload (as Amazon, or the military want to do) or equipment such as a camera or 3D scanning sensors and you shrink that flight time dramatically. With that in mind, composite materials and exploring new ways of creating lighter materials becomes paramount to market growth and student opportunities as technicians, researchers, and operators. 

Composite materials take on an important, arguably a pivotal role, in making a drone. This is part of the reason why MatEdU has partnered with the National Center for Autonomous Technologies (NCAT) housed at Northland Community and Technical College as the nation’s first accredited UAS Maintenance program.

“Studying the Advanced Materials used in a drone’s composite structure is a key objective of the UAS maintenance certificate program. An alliance between NCAT and MatEdU is a natural fit as students working with drones are going to need to understand how to repair and care for the structural elements of a UAV,” Mel Cossette, principal investigator of MatEdU, said. Cossette is also a Master Mentor in the Mentor-Connect project that mentored Jonathan Beck, principal investigator of the center as he and the NCAT team worked toward their most recent and successful NSF ATE grant. 

Materials Science Impacts The Entire Drone 

If you were wondering how materials science and drones come together, consider that almost every part of the drone can be improved by deeper understanding of materials. For instance:

As the unmanned autonomous vehicle market grows, so does the need for skilled technicians. The NCAT/MatEdU alliance will be leading out in that marketplace to help students around the nation prepare for the opportunity. 

Additional Resources:

To learn more about Mentor-Connect, visit their website or read this ATE Impacts article, Center Builds on ATE Collaborations for Cross-Discipline Autonomous Vehicle Technicians, that includes information about Jonathan Beck’s experience working with the organization and Mel Cossette. 

If you are interested in learning more about What Materials Are Drones Made Of?, you can click through to an in-depth materials science educational handbook that provides an in-depth guide to carbon fiber and many other materials. Or browse all of the MatEdU Modules that offer guidance on Composite Materials.