UMass Dartmouth receives $500K Skills Capital Grant Program award

A professor speaks with 5 students in his office

As the widespread use of intelligent robots in industrial settings continues to accelerate, the demand for cyber-ready workers is predicted to rapidly grow. UMass Dartmouth has received a $500K award from the Massachusetts Skills Capital Grant Program for Industrial Robotics and Cybersecurity.

The funding will be used to create an Intelligent Industrial Robotics and Cybersecurity Testbed to support students and gain career-relevant technical experience. The intent is to foster K-12 engagement through Our Sisters’ School in New Bedford and through the substantial network of faculty affiliated with the Kaput Center for Research and Innovation in STEM Education at UMass Dartmouth. Community college engagement will be undertaken through CONNECT, the southeastern Massachusetts public higher education partnership.

Equipment will be used to educate K-12 students involved in relevant STEM programs at Bristol Community College as well as Our Sisters’ School, a non-sectarian middle school, which serves economically disadvantaged girls from New Bedford. Approximately 72 students from Our Sisters’ School as well as 250 participants in the on-campus STEM for Girls summer program in hands-on learning opportunities. It is anticipated that the Testbed will appeal to students at regional community colleges and increase the pipeline of skilled cybersecurity-prepared workers available to employers both regionally and statewide.

The Intelligent Industrial Robotics and Cybersecurity Testbed will also expose UMass Dartmouth students to cyber- and robotics-relevant experiences. The new program aims to reach all 1,002 colleges of engineering undergraduate students, with a focused engagement for the more than 500 computer science, electrical computer engineering, mechanical engineering, and physics majors. The 193 graduate students in those disciplines will also have some focused exposure to the cyber testbed as part of their curriculum, and it is also expected to provide some exposure to the 130 Charlton College of Business Management Information System majors, and 19 technology management graduate students.

Additionally, the program will provide a tool for integrating some of the most exciting concepts in electrical and computer engineering, computer science, robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, signal processing, and cybersecurity in an environment where students can literally see physical machines responding to commands. Robotics and related software hold immense promise to enhance the quality of life for individuals with disabilities. This program will enable the next generation of faculty and students to extend engineering technologies in service to the community while gaining valuable and career-relevant experience.