Penn State will receive $4.2 million over the next three years from the National Science Foundation to continue the work of the National Nanotechnology Applications and Career Knowledge Network (NACK Network), founded at the University with a four-year grant from the NSF in 2008.
The NACK Network provides national coordination of workforce development programs and activities on behalf of NSF in an effort to meet industry needs for skilled micro- and nanofabrication workers.
"The continuation of NSF support reflects the successes the NACK Network has achieved in working with industry and educational institutions in finding ways to meet the growing needs for highly trained personnel," said Stephen Fonash, NACK Network director and Kunkle Chair Professor of Engineering Sciences.
The market value of U.S. products incorporating nanotechnology will total $1 trillion by the year 2020, according to an NSF report, and nanotechnology's share of the gross domestic product (GDP) will be 5.0 percent. The nation in 2020 will require 2 million people in the primary workforce engaged in nanotechnology production.
"Jobs in nanotechnology demand advanced skills and critical thinking, and offer the opportunity for so many 'gee whiz' moments that can excite students, even in secondary schools," Fonash said. "To have faculty and teachers who understand nanotechnology's workforce impact and who can create these eye-opening moments, they must be trained and have educational materials and equipment resources in hand, including web-accessed and web-operated tools. NACK's objective is to create and sustain these resources and to develop pathways from high school to skilled manufacturing careers across the country."
The NACK Network is a working, productive nanotechnology workforce development partnership involving educational institutions across the U.S. The network's mission is to enable core-skills nanotechnology education at two-year community and technical colleges and four-year universities and colleges through partnerships with research universities. It emphasizes broad student preparation and fosters sharing of such resources as course lecture information and lab materials, workshops for curricular development and faculty preparation, and industry-developed workforce skill standards.
The NACK Network currently has hubs built on this concept of nanotechnology education partnerships between a research university and other post-secondary institutions in place in seven states and Puerto Rico. Its Pennsylvania hub, for example, involves more than 30 undergraduate institutions and Penn State. Educators from all 50 states have accessed and used NACK Network materials and services, which are available at www.nano4me.org. A report by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology recently cited NACK's success in "bringing meaningful core-skills nanotechnology workforce education to technical and community colleges across the nation."