Northland Community & Technical College awarded grant to form National Center for Autonomous Technologies

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The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Northland Community & Technical College and five partner agencies a $7 million grant to form the National Center for Autonomous Technologies (NCAT), which will be hosted on Northland’s Aerospace site in Thief River Falls, Minnesota.

The NCAT will join the NSF’s large circle of Advanced Technological Education Centers (ATE).

“We will build upon the work of several other NSF ATE program investments, including Northland’s DRONETECH programs, MATE, CAAT, and GeoTech,” says Jon Beck, Northland Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) instructor & NCAT principal investigator.

“These, in addition to other investments, will contribute to the NCAT meeting the rapid developments in autonomous technologies.”

According to Northland, the NCAT will focus on air, land, and sea autonomous technologies, which includes UAS, connected automated vehicles (CAV), and UUVs.

“Our mission has four main tenets,” says Curtis Zoller, Northland associate dean of Aerospace & Agriculture, “to educate the educators, to promote student involvement, engage the workforce and community, and to act as an education hub for autonomous technology across the country.”

The NCAT will provide educators and industry professionals with professional development workshops. The center will also promote and provide support to encourage more engagement in STEM and autonomous technologies in secondary and post-secondary education, especially in underserved areas.

To help identify and solve everyday issues with autonomous technology, the NCAT will also look to involve workforce and community stakeholders.

“Northland has driven innovation in autonomous technology education for almost a decade,” Beck says. “The NCAT will provide significant advancements in technical education required to sustain the United States as a leader in autonomous technologies.”