FAMU-FSU College of Engineering Awarded $960K National Science Foundation Grant to Study Robotics and Future Manufacturing Needs


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It seems like every morning when I turn on my favorite radio show, the DJs are talking about whatever random holiday it is. Forget the well-known ones, like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Memorial Day…I’m talking about the random ones. For instance, did you know that today, February 17th, is National Random Acts of Kindness Day? I could actually get behind that one, it’s not quite as zany as Card Reading Day (February 21st, better head to Hallmark now) or International Talk Like a Pirate Day in September. I just learned that next week, February 19-25, is actually Engineers Week, to celebrate how engineers make a difference in the world and why we need them, and to bring engineering to life for kids, teachers, and parents. Florida A&M University-Florida State University’s (FAMU-FSU) College of Engineering will definitely be celebrating, and what better way to kick off the celebration than by winning an award?

nsf-logoThree professors at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering were awarded roughly $960,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct important robotics research. This marks the first time that Florida A&M University has won this national grant: the NSF’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities Research Infrastructure for Science and Engineering (HBCU-RISE) award. The winning professors are Carl Moore, a Mechanical Engineering professor, and Tarik Dickens and Hui Wang, both professors with the department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering.

Dickens, who is listed as the grant’s Principal Investigator, said, “The NSF-RISE Award provides us a great attractor to encourage students at FAMU to follow interesting careers being offered in engineering involving the application of advanced manufacturing.”

(L-R) Professors Carl Moore, Hui Wang and Tarik Dickens are introducing new ideas and strategies to alter the way we manufacture composites via additive manufacturing - highlighted by a Gamified 3D printer (center) for STEM education. [Image: FAMU-FSU College of Engineering]

(L-R) Professors Carl Moore, Hui Wang and Tarik Dickens
[Image: FAMU-FSU College of Engineering]

This program is a research infrastructure award, which supports and helps expand research opportunities at HBCUs that offer science and engineering doctoral degrees. For the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, this award means that Florida A&M will be able to establish a research program in 3D printing, while also developing a recruitment and training system for students who are underrepresented, who will conduct this research and later enter science and engineering PhD programs.

Tarik Dickens, Ph.D [Image: FAMU-FSU]

Tarik Dickens, PhD [Image: FAMU-FSU College of Engineering]

Dickens explained, “NSF has a renewed missions to support ventures that bolster manufacturing in America through basic research and influence on workforce development at multiple levels of education. This grant will help with introducing students and teachers at the secondary level with introductions to practical advanced manufacturing.”

The winning professors’ research will address the future needs of manufacturing, and center around “high performance additive manufacturing of composite structures via reconfigurable cyber-physical biomimetic robotic systems,” as well as high-throughput prototypes for additive manufacturing systems. This important research will help students learn the necessary skills for 21st century manufacturing-related careers in the commercial and defense sectors.

“This is basically a biomimetic principle, given that humans have been collaborative to fabricated parts from raw materials. Here in our research work, we are studying and developing principles to allow multiple…but independent robotic arms act under 3D printing fabrication. The aim is that this ‘mechanized’ collaborative environment will allow additive manufacturing to invade commercial centers, due to smarter and cheaper fabrication,” said Dickens.

(L-R) Jolie Frketic, PhD candidate and Fellow (FSU) and Mayowa Akintola, MS student (FAMU) are two grad students working under the direction of Dr. Dickens (IME). [Image: FAMU-FSU College of Engineering]

(L-R) Jolie Frketic, PhD candidate and Fellow (FSU) and Mayowa Akintola, MS student (FAMU) are two grad students working under the direction of Dr. Dickens (IME). [Image: FAMU-FSU College of Engineering]

According to the abstract for the award, “RISE: High-Performance Additive Manufacturing of Composite Structures via Development of Reconfigurable Cyber-Physical Robotic (CPR) Systems,” the research elements in the project include:

  1. Hybrid composite manufacturing process development, modeling/simulation, and optimization
  2. A cyber-physical system (CPS) for multi-robot collaboration, control, and coordination
  3. A reconfigurable cyber-physical robotic system for scalable demands

According to Dickens, the Leon County School district will also benefit from this research. The college will be teaming up with the district to build printers, and release teaching modules for STEM/STEAM (science, technology, engineering, [arts], mathematics) classrooms, in a summer training program.

According to the HBCU Undergraduate Program page, there need to be quicker gains in successful STEM degree completion and achievement for the underrepresented minority populations, so as to meet the accelerated demands for STEM talent in the US workforce. As we know, the 3D printing industry shares a common problem with the majority of big tech companies around the world: a lack of diversity. That’s why grants and awards like this are vitally important: we need to get more of the underrepresented minority students in at the ground level of STEM learning and research. I’m hoping that as schools around the country prepare to celebrate Engineering Week, they keep this in mind, and try to highlight minority achievements as well.

To learn more about the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering’s Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering Department, check out the department video:

Discuss in the FAMU-FSU forum at 3DPB.com.

[Sources: Tallahassee Democrat, National Science Foundation, FAMU-FSU College of Engineering]


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