READI program opens realm of semiconductor possibilities for Greater Lafayette high school students
Fifty-five students from six counties and 12 different high schools in and around Tippecanoe County and the Greater Lafayette area completed a two-week summer program that could give them a leg up in the rising semiconductor industry. The students were recognized for this achievement on June 16 during a graduation ceremony inside Convergence at Discovery Park District (DPD).
The event was the culmination of a partnership between Purdue University and Ivy Tech Community College to develop a talent pipeline of students and increase technician and engineer training to support the region’s expected workforce demand for advanced semiconductor manufacturing. That demand is largely due to the planned construction of SkyWater Technology’s $1.8B state-of-the-art facility in DPD. It is predicted that the 600,000-square foot plant will generate more than 700 jobs with annual salaries ranging from $60K for technicians to $130K for development and management positions.
“Semiconductors are not only fascinating but critical to the economy and security. If you want to get into this area, Purdue or Ivy Tech can be really good places to launch your career,” said Peter Bermel, Elmore Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue, and one of the program’s organizers.
The program was funded through the Indiana Economic Development Corporation’s $500 million Regional Economic Acceleration & Development Initiative (READI). Stewards of the funds are the 17 regions within READI — one of which is the Greater Lafayette region facilitated by Greater Lafayette Commerce — that was awarded $30 million for more than 40 projects. The high school READI initiative received $5 million, which allowed each student to receive a $1,500 stipend upon completion of the program.
The semiconductor camp was packed with a wide range of practical applications — including virtual cleanroom training on integrated chip (IC) fabrication at the Birck Nanotechnology Center, home to the second largest academic cleanroom in the United States.
“Many of the undergraduates who are here don’t even get to do that, so getting to do that in high school is really awesome,” said Morgan Hynes, associate professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue and co-organizer of the summer program.
In addition to building a wearable sensor and learning how to program a robot, the group of rising juniors and seniors, who split their time between Purdue and Ivy Tech, gained exposure to printed electronics and solar cells, designed and fabricated their own printed circuit boards (PCBs) to measure the state-of-charge of a battery, and used semiconductors to solder electronic components onto their PCBs. Ultimately, students worked together in small teams in a three-day workshop to create their own custom projects out of paper electronics, which included a robo-spotter to automate safety in weightlifting, personalized data dashboards, and an electronic safe. This activity was organized by Muhammad Mustafa Hussain, professor in the Elmore Family School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Wedyan Babatain, a postdoctoral fellow at the MIT Media Lab.
“They were excited to construct a device they could take home and enable them to see the real-world application of the components they were using,” said Todd Roswarski, vice chancellor for academic affairs and professor of psychological sciences at Ivy Tech. “Further, they learned the fundamentals of programming robots on small systems, which they then applied by programming industrial scale robots in Ivy Tech’s Advanced Manufacturing Lab. During a visit to Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Lafayette, students saw similar industrial robots operating in a production environment.
Also included in Ivy Tech’s portion of the program was an overview of the soft skills required to be successful in the semiconductor industry. Participants attended a workshop to develop elevator speeches, then delivered them to peers and instructors.
“It was really exciting to see them engage in the hands-on activities and build both confidence and competence in these areas,” Roswarski said.
In addition, the group visited Caterpillar Inc. in Lafayette, where they learned how the company is integrating semiconductors into its large engines, and BorgWarner in Kokomo, where semiconductors are foundational components of the power electronic systems that they produce to run hybrid and electric vehicles.
Organizers already are planning for summer 2024, when the program is expected to continue with even more students.
A video describing the program, including student testimonials, is available.
About Ivy Tech Community College
Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana’s largest public postsecondary institution and the nation’s largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state’s engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns to the needs of the community. The college provides seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor’s degree. More information is available at www.ivytech.edu.
About the Elmore Family School of Electrical and Computer Engineering
The Elmore Family School of Electrical and Computer Engineering is the largest academic unit at Purdue University and the largest ECE department in the country. Established in 1888, the school offers both undergraduate B.S. degrees as well as M.S. and PhD degrees in electrical engineering and computer engineering. The school enrolls more than 1,900 undergraduates (sophomores through seniors) and more than 1,300 graduate students. Degree programs on the West Lafayette campus are consistently ranked in the top 10 by U.S. News & World Report, which also ranks the online master’s program in electrical engineering No. 1 in the nation. Purdue ECE aims to serve and lead the State of Indiana, the nation, and the worldwide profession of electrical and computer engineering by educating the next generation of engineers through discovery that advances fundamental knowledge and its applications, and by innovation and engagement that address global challenges of societal impact.
About the School of Engineering Education
Purdue’s School of Engineering Education focuses on transforming engineering education based on scholarship and research, and envisions a more inclusive, socially connected, and scholarly engineering education. The first school of its kind in the nation (established in 2004), Purdue ENE is a national and global leader of this emerging discipline and maintains a strong research portfolio in pre-college, higher education, and engineering workplaces to advance the student experience as well as improve engineering education culture and workforce practices. Through scholarship, systematic research, policy development, and assessment, faculty researchers rethink the boundaries of engineering education as they address big questions in the areas of creativity, diversity, innovation, and social responsibility. At Purdue's West Lafayette campus, the school delivers three distinct yet complementary programs: First-Year Engineering, undergraduate degrees in interdisciplinary engineering studies and multidisciplinary engineering, and a graduate program (PhD and an online M.S.) in engineering education.