IVCC receives $230,000 NSF grant

 Illinois Valley Community College has received a grant of $230,000 to improve the preparation of technical students for the world of work.

The three-year Advanced Technological Education grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) focuses on programs in engineering design, electronics, manufacturing and business.

IVCC instructors Dorene Perez, Jim Gibson and Rose Marie Lynch, participated in a grant workshop co-sponsored by the NSF and the American Association of Community Colleges Oct. 5 – 7 in Washington D.C. Perez, program director of computer aided design and computer aided engineering, heads the grant program as principal investigator. Gibson, program director of electronics, and Lynch, communications instructor, are co-directors.

The grant-funded program builds on the existing Making Industry Meaningful In College (MIMIC) project which teams students in engineering, electronics and business into student companies to design, produce, market and sell products. Under the grant, the one-semester MIMIC project will become the focal point or capstone for the two-year technical programs.

Engineering and electronics students will begin working on product designs and reengineer previously designed products as freshmen. In the fourth or last semester of their programs, they will be joined by manufacturing and business students and form companies to produce and sell the products.

"MIMIC has been a successful project because it provides valuable workplace experience with teamwork, communication and problem solving," Perez said. "But the one semester time frame has not allowed enough time for the students to design viable products."

Gibson said the expanded project will do a better job of simulating an industrial setting.

"Students will be exposed to continuous quality improvement from their first classes at IVCC," he said. "We can use MIMIC as a thread to tie the programs together."

In addition to making the technical programs more project-based, the grant also creates a leadership track for promising technical students and provides support for students to succeed in their courses, including assistance to non-native speakers of English.

Several grant activities will involve students from high schools in the IVCC district. Lynch explained that NSF is committed to increasing the number of skilled technicians in the U.S. by attracting more students to two-year advanced technology programs.

"NSF emphasizes better preparation in science, technology, engineering and math," Lynch said. "But they are committed to developing communication, teamwork and problem solving skills as a part of workforce preparation."

The IVCC grant is one of only 50 awarded to community colleges by the NSF in 2005 from 242 grant applications. A panel of reviewers composed of college faculty, practicing scientists and other technical professionals recommended IVCCs proposal for funding.

One reviewer wrote that, "This is a very good proposal and will positively impact technical education and make our workforce more flexible."

NSF is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering.

The MIMIC project, which serves as the core for the grant, was created ten years ago by Perez and accounting instructor Alice Steljes, now retired from IVCC. The award-winning project has been featured at several national and international conferences including the American Society for Engineering Education International Colloquium in Beijing, China in September 2004. MIMIC is sponsored by IVCCs Tech Prep team and supported by a Carl Perkins grant.