Engineering the Future: James Endl’s Journey in Vehicle Network Innovation

Note: MNT-EC recently teamed up with Wingspans, an exciting new career platform, to connect with more community college technician programs. Links and more info below. 

James Endl’s career as a Vehicle Network Communications Architect at GM is a testament mostly to his perseverance. Working remotely from Indian Land, SC, he combines his childhood love for cars with his expertise in electrical and electronics engineering, a skillset honed through studies at Madison Area Technical College and Milwaukee School of Engineering.

He designs the diagnostic gateway of vehicles, a digital “door” allowing communication between a car’s internal system and the external world. This gateway, residing in the Central Gateway Module (CGM), is akin to a home’s internet router, managing data flow between different vehicle components. He goes into more detail in the full post, which makes the CGM accessible to almost any level of reader (way to go, James — you should teach!). 

Despite his successful career now, James’ journey wasn’t straightforward. He initially struggled with choosing the right path, facing setbacks at MSOE. His turnaround began at Madison Area Technical College, where practical, applied learning in electrical engineering technology ignited his passion. Overcoming fears and challenges, he eventually returned to MSOE, achieving academic success and paving his way to a fulfilling career.

James Endl’s story is inspiring, showcasing how determination, passion, and a constant thirst for knowledge can lead to a successful and fulfilling career in the ever-evolving field of vehicle network communications.

Read the full post: Wingspans: James Endl

Editor’s Note: The full post on Wingspans is a must read. Click the highlighted link box above. 

More on Wingspans from their website: 

“Wingspans takes an immersive approach to career discovery just short of experiencing the job yourself. It’s an archive of authentic and heartfelt career stories—nothing scripted or sugar-coated. If you can see it, you can be it.

–Wingspans website

The site has 700+ in-depth career stories, including 40+ mini-documentaries, that are integrated into over 10,000 pages on our site.

Director’s Message — Building Robust Collaboration At Community Colleges

ATE's MATEC Networks National Resource Center A technician participating in a MATEC Networks National Resource Center professional development course checks a critical dimension.

In the rapidly evolving field of nanotechnology, the concept of ‘collaborative innovation’ becomes increasingly significant. The National Advanced Packaging Manufacturing Program from the American Semiconductor Innovation Coalition stands as a testament to this, highlighting the indispensable power of community in this dynamic sector. 

As the Principal Investigator of MNT-EC, my engagements with leaders across government, academia, and industry have not only illuminated their crucial roles in education and workforce development but also mirrored the collaborative essence of the SEMI and ASA partnership.

These collective endeavors, spurred by the landmark CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, are pivotal in our shared mission to regain global leadership in semiconductor manufacturing and secure long-term economic competitiveness for the nation.

The Importance of Community 

The maxim, “it takes a village,” is essential (and exciting, frankly) as we invite young people and those new to the field to navigate this intricate landscape; the need for robust networking, effective mentorship, and collaborative efforts is vital. As a related aside, the MNT-EC actively mentors and guides the next generation, fostering the broader goal of creating an innovative nano culture.

This blog post ventures into these essential areas, offering insights and strategies to reinforce connections. By nurturing these relationships, we not only enhance collaboration but also unlock the potential for groundbreaking innovation and more effective solutions to our industry’s pressing challenges.

The Need for a Collaborative Approach – What’s Different?

In addressing the pressing challenge of a disconnect between educational institutions and industry needs, our initiative aligns with the goals of the ASIC work and SEMI-ASA partnership. This alignment is critical, especially considering the focus on revitalizing semiconductor research and manufacturing in the U.S. and the collaborative model set forth by SEMI and ASA.

Engineers AND Technicians

Let me share an example on the value of both engineers and technicians. We may forget or not realize how often they work together. They need each other. Such is the case for 2-year colleges and 4-year colleges, each usually training only one of these careers; we need each other. 

At Pasadena Community College, I have been involved in many transfer student success stories. My two-year students graduate and transfer to four-year schools, most often engineering programs. In some cases, students complete their two year degree or certificate and start a technician-level job immediately. But they later inform me of how their company is paying them to upskill, either with more certificates or transferring in later to a four-year college. 

The synergy between engineers and technicians is crucial. Engineers rely on the practical insights and expertise of technicians to realize their designs in the real world. Technicians, on the other hand, rely on the theoretical and design expertise of engineers to understand the broader context of their work and to implement solutions effectively. This collaboration is essential for innovation and efficiency in almost every field – from the military to complex fields like semiconductors. We need this synergy at the community college and four-year college levels.

Community colleges, pivotal in bridging the gap towards an engineering degree, must navigate the complexity of simultaneously preparing technicians for the workforce, as well as preparing transfer students for entrance into an engineering program at partner universities. Our approach advocates for more responsive communication and authentic partnerships within the micro nanotech education ecosystem.

This partnership would provide for a centralized partner, such as ASIC or the ASA to foster synergy among community colleges and K-12 educators, within the university system, while also providing support in connecting community colleges to industry partners, and government bodies. The partnership’s mission would be to align education with industry needs, particularly in the nanotechnology sector, and create a seamless pathway from education to employment. Current initiatives have striven to provide this space but have limited K-12 and community college partners, whose voices are essential if we are to successfully prepare our students for the workforce or enter university MNT education pathways.

Our effort within the MNT-EC National Center is to evolve current initiatives in synergy with the objectives set by the NAPMP and the SEMI-ASA partnership. By focusing on advanced semiconductor packaging and workforce development, we aim to complement the efforts made by our university partners, many who oversee initiatives driven by the CHIPS for America Workforce and Education Funds. Practical steps that can be supported by these efforts are:

  1. Facilitating Regular Interdisciplinary Workshops and Strategy Sessions: These sessions would bring together stakeholders to discuss challenges, share insights, and develop unified strategies for workforce development.
  2. Developing Collaborative Projects: Joint research and curriculum development projects would be a cornerstone of the partnership, providing practical experience to students and valuable insights to industry partners.
  3. Pooling Resources and Funding: The initiative would explore innovative funding models to support its efforts, reducing resource competition and maximizing impact.

Together, we can build a future where education aligns seamlessly with the industry’s needs, reflecting the SEMI-ASA partnership’s collaborative spirit and the strategic objectives of the NAPMP. 

We invite educators, industry professionals, and policymakers to join us in this endeavor, contributing to a workforce that is as diverse and innovative as the field of nanotechnology itself. 

Our collective effort is vital for maintaining the extraordinary benefits of providing an advanced micro nanotechnology education and ensuring economic and environmental sustainability in U.S. domestic manufacturing.

Community & Resource Links

American Semiconductor Academy Initiative | SEMI

Vision for NSTC — American Semiconductor Innovation Coalition (ASIC)

Dean’s note: The CHIPS Act: A call to action – Berkeley Engineering

American Semiconductor Academy (ASA) Initiative and SEMI Partner to Bolster Microelectronics Industry Talent Pool | SEMI

American Semiconductor Innovation Coalition (ASIC)

CHIPS Act includes new support for workforce training, providing opportunities beyond R&D for higher education | Berkeley

More about the post image

ATE’s MATEC Networks National Resource Center

A technician participating in a MATEC Networks National Resource Center professional development course checks a critical dimension.

Supported in part by the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program, MATEC Networks’ National Resource Center provides venues for creating, sharing and promoting digital resources and faculty professional development for semiconductor manufacturing, automation, electronics and micro–nanotechnologies.
Credit: ATE Centers Impact 2016-2017 via the NSF Multimedia Gallery.

The Nanoscale World of Matt Feyerheisen and the Power of SEM Technology

Note: MNT-EC recently teamed up with Wingspans, an exciting new career platform, to connect with more community college technician programs. Links and more info below. 

Embark on a microscopic journey with Matt Feyerheisen, a Field Engineer at Nanoscience Instruments, where the unseen becomes seen through the lens of Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEMs). 

With a background spanning from visual communication to microelectronics, Matt’s role is pivotal in examining the elemental composition of materials down to the electron level. SEMs, capable of magnifying objects a million times, are instrumental in industries from pharmaceuticals to aerospace, ensuring the integrity of products that shape our daily lives.

Matt highlights the diversity of applications: “You can’t really see the details of what I do because they’re so small… a human hair is 70 microns wide… One micron is a millionth of a meter.” His work ensures that the gap between contacts in computers is sufficient to prevent short circuits, a critical aspect of our digital world.

The job isn’t just about magnification; it’s about precision and problem-solving. Matt shares an anecdote: “There was one client where we had to take their machine in because there was a problem… it looked like a piano wire was wound around some type of pedestal.” It’s this meticulous attention to detail that ensures the reliability of equipment used in critical research and development across various sectors.

For potential students and enthusiasts, Matt’s journey is a testament to the ever-evolving field of nanotechnology, where learning never ceases, and every tiny detail can lead to a giant leap in innovation. His story is a compelling invitation to explore a world where the smallest elements make the biggest impact.

Matt earned a certificate through Rio Salado, an MNT-EC Partner, and his full profile is highlighted on the Wingspans website for any of our community to read or listen to the audio MP3 file on site (click through just below Matt’s photo “Listen to Profile” on the Wingspans site). 

Read the full post: Wingspans: Matt Feyerheisen

More on Wingspans from their website: 

“Wingspans takes an immersive approach to career discovery just short of experiencing the job yourself. It’s an archive of authentic and heartfelt career stories—nothing scripted or sugar-coated. If you can see it, you can be it.

–Wingspans website

The site has 700+ in-depth career stories, including 40+ mini-documentaries, that are integrated into over 10,000 pages on our site.

This is an early look at one of the community college posts via our brief summary, but we hope you go visit the public Wingspans page for the full and energizing story about Matt Feyerheisen here.

The Making of an Intel Chip

Check out this captivating virtual journey deep into Intel’s cutting-edge semiconductor manufacturing facilities, where the technological engines driving our digital world are brought to life.

In this immersive experience, you can move around in a full 360 degrees (for most of the video it is worth moving your mouse around — high speed access and 4K is recommended, but not necessary). The video unveils the astonishing intricacies hidden within clean rooms that are 1,000 times cleaner than the most sterile hospital operating environments. Get an up-close view of the state-of-the-art, multimillion-dollar machinery that is essential for crafting the microchips powering our modern era. And for the truly adventurous, take a virtual spin along the automated superhighways that whisk silicon wafers through this sprawling technological labyrinth. [Remember – you can drag your mouse left, right, up, down.]

Intel Newsroom Video via YouTube 2023

What makes this tour even more fascinating is Intel’s pivotal role in addressing the surging global demand for semiconductors. As our world continues to depend on technology, the demand for these microprocessors skyrockets. Intel, with its history and advanced manufacturing prowess, is positioned to meet the need for chips. 

As most MNT-EC Think Small readers know, the importance of ensuring a robust, sustainable, and secure semiconductor supply chain is paramount. To achieve this, in tandem with Intel and many other semiconductor manufacturers, we’re seeking to keep you updated on micro- nanotechnology programs across the USA with our community college partners (and we’re here to help them as they build new programs and need curriculum guidance and materials — if you are an educator or an administrator, you can learn more about our recent Intro to Nano Canvas course here). 

Intrigued by the latest in technology and its transformative potential? You can peruse our MNT site, of course. You can also visit the Intel Newsroom which shares groundbreaking technology news  covering developments in client computing, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, data centers, and international news. 

Semiconductor Jobs – Knowledge Skills and Abilities

What Are KSAs and Why Are They Important for Your Future Career?

As you start exploring different career paths and preparing for your future, you may come across the term “KSAs.” But what exactly are KSAs, and why are they important?

MNT-EC, working with Industry Partners, including the SEMI Foundation and NIIT, created a document to help you navigate the Microsystems Process Technician career pathway.

In this blog post, we’ll break it down for you in simple terms.

What Are KSAs? 

KSA stands for Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities, but are also known as competencies. Companies and schools often create KSAs to help clarify what specific job requirements are, what you will need for a specific role, and ways you can pick the courses to help you develop skills for that career path. Some companies will ask the job candidate to create or answer questions around their knowledge, skills, and abilities.

In a nutshell, these are the attributes and qualities you need for successfully performing a job. They are typically demonstrated through relevant experience, education, or training. Let’s take a closer look at each one, pulling in the definitions from the PDF directly:

  • Knowledge is a body of information applied directly to the performance of a function: How well does a student understand a concept theoretically?

  • Skills are observable competencies needed to perform learned psychomotor acts: How well can a student execute a specific activity?

  • Abilities are competencies to perform an observable behavior or behaviors that results in an observable product: Does the student meet expectations outside of strictly technical expertise?

By combining knowledge, skills, and abilities, you can showcase a well-rounded profile to employers. Building knowledge through learning, acquiring skills through practice, and leveraging your innate abilities create a strong foundation for career growth and success. Assessing and developing your KSAs can help you align with the requirements of your desired field and enhance your potential for professional advancement.

You can review the new MNT-EC KSA document below in the PDF reader, or click the download button to save it to your computer (below the embedded PDF, keep scrolling…).

ASEE Videos on Future for Micro and Nanotechnology Technicians

The Micro Nanotechnology Education Center at Pasadena City College was highlighted within the official broadcast at this year’s American Association for Engineering Education (ASEE) Annual Conference. The video was presented as a case study and documentary of what MNT-EC and its students are doing in various programs, internships, and research opportunities.

MNT Center Director, Dr. Jared Ashcroft closes out the video explaining how the MNT-EC is working toward pulling together the different institutions, community colleges, universities, industries, and nonprofits, to get them working together. “The goal is to have the Micro Nanotechnology Education Center working as the glue that pulls all of these institutions together,” he said.

Here is the full 5 minute video (5 min, 41 seconds to be precise).

And here is the 60-second-ish trailer if you need the quick version:

Learn more about ASEE and the annual conference.

Random Small

November 1, 2022 Update:

#1: The National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) 2023 conference will be held April 13-15, 2023 on the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus in Eau Claire, WI. The conference abstract submission window runs from October 3 to November 30, 2022.

NCUR is seeking volunteers to review abstracts submitted to the NCUR 2023 conference. They expect this review work to occur during the December 2022 timeframe, following the November 30 abstract submission deadline.

Anyone interested to serve as a reviewer should visit the Abstract Reviewers Wanted page, from there you can go to the Reviewer Signup page. Reviewers will be required to create a new account within the conference submission system if they do not already have one.

#2: Learn about the new NSF workforce development program TODAY, Nov 1 at 12PM Pacific time.

The U.S. National Science Foundation launched a new $30 million workforce development program, Experiential Learning for Emerging and Novel Technologies, or ExLENT earlier this month. 

Learn more about the program by joining the Introduction to ExLENT webinar
on Tuesday, November 1, 2022 at 3:00 p.m. E.T.

Register for the Webinar
Click the link above left to register for this webinar.

ExLENT offers workforce development opportunities to help individuals gain valuable work experience in emerging technology areas such as advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, quantum information science, and semiconductors and microelectronics. With awards of up to $1 million over three years, the program will promote partnerships between organizations in emerging technology fields and those with expertise in workforce development. 

ExLENT proposals are due March 2, 2023. For more information, visit Experiential Learning for Emerging and Novel Technologies (ExLENT).

#3: Sometimes the Think Small team is drinking from a firehose and cannot keep up… You can check out THREE New Scholarship and Internship opportunities linked below. BUT they will also be added to the Scholarship page in the Students & Families section by November 2, in case you want to share that page with students and faculty you know. Hint, hint.

  1. Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education
  2. 2023 MSTP Summer Scholars
  3. Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Innovation and Tech Transfer Idea Competition (MITTIC)

October 3, 2022 Update:

The news section you are in right now is called Think Small. It is where we publish various news-oriented content; something that demands a longer article usually. But we have not had a way to collect and curate the many cool things that you – MNT partners, members, educators and students, and others, occasionally want to share.

Welcome to the new series I’m tentatively calling “Random Small” to provide us with a bucket, and I mean that in the most positive way, in which to put these important, but shorter tips, job or internship postings, upcoming events that we didn’t have a chance to get on the calendar (yet), and other, well, random items that need a home. You get the idea and here’s a few for this first post.

  • Normandale Community College is considering offering an 8-week section of its “Foundations of Vacuum Science” online course (VACT 1010). This course is designed for individuals who are interested in pursuing a career as a technician whose role it will be to support maintenance and troubleshooting of vacuum systems. The start date for this class would be Monday, October 17th, and the class would conclude by mid-December.
    • If you have a prospective student or others in your networks, especially organizational contacts. They can contact Kim Klein ( if interested in this class. Kim will be able to help them with the registration process.

  • Every year the NNCI has the “Plenty of Room at the Bottom” photo contest. Lots of great entries and if you receive our email newsletter, then you saw the hedgehog photo, which was a Most Whimsical winner from last year, which is from:Artist: Evgeniya Moiseeva, Huson Lab, University of Louisville. Tool: Thermo Scientific Apreo C SEM. Description: Solidified droplets of Gold on the side of the E-Beam evaporation ceramic crucible.

  • On our MNT LinkedIn page, you will find updates on colleagues, job listings, internship and apprenticeship opportunities, and more. Plus, as you’ve read above, we’re trying to include many of those items here on Random Small. The linked post takes you to a recent University of Southern California, Viterbi School of Engineering job for a  Nanofabrication Lab Technician.
    • Note: We are considering a jobs/internship/career-oriented email on a 2 to 4 times per month basis. If you are interested, drop TJ an email. Again, we do post some of these on LinkedIn.

  • The MNT Calendar has the latest workshops and professional development webinars that you may find informative or worth sharing with your students and colleagues. 

  • more tk


TJ McCue, Editor

P.S. Feel free to drop me an email note if there’s something you think we should know about.