Pasadena City College Builds National Approach To Micro Nano Technology Education

In 2020, Pasadena City College (PCC) received a $7.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation ​Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program to develop new approaches to teaching students about micro nano technology. 

The new “Micro-Nano Technology Education Center” (MNT-EC) will be a collaborative center that brings together various educational institutions (30 and counting) and private corporations in micro-nano technology fields. PCC Natural Sciences professor Jared Ashcroft will lead the effort, drawing together researchers, scientists, educators, and industry professionals from a growing network of schools and industry.

According to a recent PCC article by Alexander Boekelheide, PCC to lead $7 million effort to expand nanotechnology education, in an interview with Dr. Ashcroft: “Community colleges have to evolve in what they teach. We need to converge these different technologies so we can prepare students for future jobs, not the jobs in the field of five years ago. Industry and research are driving nanotechnology forward and it’s time for us to have our teaching be a part of that,” he said.

From the NSF grant award, there are four major objectives (you can also read more on the About page) for the new Micro Nano Technology Education Center. Dr. Ashcroft clarified how the Center is continuing to learn and adapt in comments below.

  1. Develop coordinated national approach to advance Micro- Nano Education.
  2. Deliver professional development to enhance knowledge, skills, and abilities.
  3. Conduct strategic outreach, recruitment, and retention of traditional and under-represented faculty and students.
  4. Create a deep industry/education alliance that supports student success.

Develop coordinated national approach to advance Micro- Nano Education

There are currently several advanced technological education programs in nano. It is very challenging for a community college or K-12 school to know which programs curriculum and activities are optimal. The MNT-EC will bring the current curriculum and activities to one site and delineate appropriate grade levels for each activity. If we can get a consistent approach to MNT education that is vetted and organized to grade level so it is easier for educators to implement in the classroom it will be a success.

Deliver professional development to enhance knowledge, skills, and abilities

Success in this area will be if we can find 10 partner sites that utilize the professional development in their classrooms and to have 5 actively engaged community college MNT-based technical education programs that are each awarding a minimum of ten certificates.

There are several current professional development opportunities in MNT through all the partners. The MNT-EC goal is to support these professional development activities, but more importantly once the workshops are over to continually engage the participants to keep the interest in nano tech education implementation in their coursework or programs going. 

Conduct strategic outreach, recruitment, and retention of traditional and under-represented faculty and students

The goal of MNT-EC is to provide opportunities to all students in micro and nano technical education. The majority of students, especially at community colleges are unaware of the opportunities in technical education and do not have any idea what a nano-based career can look like.

In addition, we want to increase awareness and participation in MNT-based academic and career paths with a focus on recruitment at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). We will utilize undergraduate research opportunities as a means to provide hands-on experiences in micro and nanotechnology, which has been shown to increase success in all students, but especially with underrepresented students.

Create a deep industry/education alliance that supports student success

In terms of student awareness and success, the Center’s emphasis is on showcasing the jobs available in microtechnology and nanotechnology. There are several major organizations or corporations looking for technicians: Intel, Micron, national government labs, such as, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, among others. If we’re honest and practical, when a student evaluates a degree path, they are ultimately asking — Can I get a job in this field? If the answer is not obvious and the path clear, they are not likely to even take the first step. Colleges with micro and nano programs need to change that. 

Currently we are organizing a Business Industry Leadership Team. Success will be that industry partners actively engage with the MNT-EC and provide insight on what technologies we should be preparing our students so they are ready when entering the micro nanotechnology workforce.

The MNT-EC, in less than a year, has started collaborations with the following institutions and organizations. You can visit the MNT Partner Page, or feel free to peruse the list shared below. Partners are a group of educators and professionals who contribute to MNT-EC’s products and services. They provide vetted content, professional development opportunities, and expert mentoring services through MNT-EC.            

Academic Partners

ATE Partners

Industry Partners