SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC) has received a significant six-figure grant from the renowned National Science Foundation (NSF) for the college’s new Automation and Robotics program.
The $345,725 grant will help fund the program ahead of its conjoined launch with the new Robert W. Plaster Center for Advanced Manufacturing scheduled for next month. The $40 million center is 120,000 square feet and will host the new program.
Along with the Automation and Robotics program, the new center will feature a 30,000-square-foot, two-story manufacturing space and 15,000 square feet for industry partners to train employees and conduct research.
According to the NSF, the grant program has two main aims: to improve and expand automation and robotics instruction for manufacturing at two-year colleges; and to increase the awareness of automation and robotics career pathways for secondary students.
The facility is the first of its kind in Missouri, and will be used for drafting, design, mechatronics and cybersecurity programs, among other purposes.
OTC Manufacturing Department Chair Danelle Maxwell told The Heartlander that OTC is putting its outreach efforts toward middle- and high-school students with the hope of peaking their interest in automation and robotics careers earlier on. The current median salary for automation and robotics can bring over $71,000 per year, Maxwell says.
“There’s a tremendous amount of career opportunities and a really high-wage potential,” Maxwell said. “They can do that through a two-year degree program at OTC, especially if they do A+. It’s pretty easy to do that debt free.”
Maxwell says new students must first begin foundational classes and training to ensure they understand simple hydraulics, pneumatics and other foundational aspects of the program. New students will learn industrial safety, industrial electricity, motors, controls, programming and fluid power.
“Computers are involved in everything we do; automation takes it to the next level,” Maxwell said. “I am super excited about the opportunity. It just shows that the National Science Foundation see’s the value in what we are doing and that we are positioned to benefit students in workforce development. It’s really nice to have someone outside validate the things we are doing here locally.”
To learn more about the Robert W. Plaster Center for Advanced Manufacturing or OTC’s new Automation and Robotics program, visit its website.