The Department of Defense has awarded Virginia Tech researchers $3.8 million in support of the Office of Naval Research’s Manufacturing Engineering Education Program.
The goal is to establish programs to better position the current and next-generation manufacturing workforce to produce military systems and components that assure technological superiority of the department, according to the Department of Defense’s website.
“The Virginia Tech team will work to create a multidisciplinary program that seeks to create and sustain a workforce for the design, application, and fabrication of structures supporting systems, such as communications, radar, and additional related areas in applied electromagnetics,” said Bradley Davis, research assistant professor at the Hume Center for National Security and Technology and principal investigator. “Together we will work to develop student and industry participant expertise in the critical technologies needed in design and manufacturing for the Department of Defense and commercial platforms.”
The project will focus on applications, designs, manufacturing, and testing of structures by introducing composite construction and processing, advanced manufacturing (including 3D printing), and the application of these technologies in fabricating solutions, such as structurally integrated antennas and radomes.
Davis leads an interdisciplinary team from across Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, including mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and industrial and systems engineering, to develop new courses that educate students in the cross-functional application of materials and processes for such applications as conformal and embedded antennas in aircraft wings.
Michael Bortner, assistant professor of chemical engineering and co-principal investigator, will serve as the team lead for composite materials and processing. Other engineering faculty involved in the research are Scott Case, Steven Ellingson, Chris Williams, Majid Manteghi, Jaime Camelio, Steve McKnight, and Jack Lesko.
The program will enhance the university curriculum and offer unique industrial continuing education opportunities. Organized teams of undergraduate and graduate students will participate in related research programs that will be implemented in the form of a combination of courses and short courses.
These teams will leverage a program introduced by Alan Michaels, director of the Electronic Systems Lab at the Hume Center, called Vertically Integrated Projects, also sponsored by the Office of Naval Research. This program offers students opportunities to participate in multidisciplinary teams that will design and apply skills to produce solutions to specific research problems, write reports, and present outcomes in seminars and symposiums.
As part of the program, students will be offered new coursework focused on electromagnetics, composite processing, additive manufacturing, and advanced antennas. Additionally, numerous short courses and workshops will be developed for the Department of Defense professional community.
Within the funded project, an industry/government/university consortium will be created to help direct and fund further research efforts. Minimal consortium fees will be used to fund experiential learning programs specifically targeted at attracting undergraduate students to fill the workforce development pipeline. Industry partners will engage with students through research team reviews, recorded guest lectures, internships, cooperative education, and graduate research sponsorships.