Horiuchi is PI for NSF 'ExLENT' experiential learning project

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Top, Timothy Horiuchi (PI). Center, Reza Ghodssi (co-PI). Bottom, Pamela Abshire (co-PI).

Associate Professor Timothy Horiuchi (ECE) is the Principal Investigator and Professors Reza Ghodssi (ECE/ISR) and Pamela Abshire (ECE/ISR) are co-PIs for Democratizing Research and Experiential Education for Microelectronics (DREEM), a three-year, $325K National Science Foundation (NSF) grant. Horiuchi is an affiliate faculty member of the Institute for Systems Research.

The new funding is part of NSF’s new $18.8M Experiential Learning for Emerging and Novel Technologies (ExLENT) program for developing a strong key technology workforce. The initial cohort includes 27 teams, tasked with expanding practical learning opportunities and growing talent nationwide.

About the University of Maryland “DREEM” project

The DREEM project addresses the need for a strong, diverse, domestic microelectronics industry workforce as the U.S. ramps up its domestic semiconductor manufacturing capacity. UMD is partnering with two regional community colleges (the College of Southern Maryland and Montgomery College), as well as regional industrial technology partners. DREEM will expand the pool of research- and industry-ready students by creating a project-based, experiential learning program in microelectronics for second-year community college students.

Electrical and computer engineering programs in community colleges serve a diverse population, and providing new training opportunities can significantly support underrepresented students transferring to 4-year degree programs, boosting their career potential. But the transition from a local community college to a 4-year degree university program is often difficult. For example, students may be the first in their families to attend college, they may lack mentors, they may feel excluded, and there may be financial challenges. This project seeks to provide needed support and an experiential learning pathway from academic research to industrial internships. It will unite and coordinate regional educators and industrial partners to create a more equitable, efficient, road to success in the microelectronics arena.

DREEM will build an 8-month experiential learning project that includes a focused 3-week practical workshop on targeted design skills; a semester-long, hands-on research project with UMD faculty to develop laboratory skills; and a summer internship with industrial partners.

This project will emphasize skills important for the next generation of designers of biosensors and neuromorphic signal processing circuits, with a focus on machine learning. Students will be individually mentored through hands-on research projects, resume preparation and internship applications. They will have access to advanced laboratories and facilities at UMD in College Park, and at the MATRIX Lab, housed in the USMSM SMART Building in California, Md.

About the NSF ExLENT program

ExLENT offers pathways for people with varying STEM experience levels. Of the 27 teams receiving ExLENT awards in its first cohort, nine received an award in the “Pivots” track, which provides professionals in any field with an experiential learning opportunity to build skills and competencies to pivot into careers in key technologies. The remaining 18 teams received awards in the “Beginnings” track. Teams in this track have some experience in STEM fields and will receive additional experiential learning opportunities to deepen their knowledge and skills in key technologies. The UMD DREEM program is part of this track.

"ExLENT will help ensure more equitable access to high-skill, well-paying STEM-driven jobs for workers at any and all stages of their careers or with varying experiences,” said Erwin Gianchandani, NSF assistant director for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP).

"As NSF seeks to support the development of these key technologies, similar support is needed to inspire, cultivate and grow a diverse STEM workforce that can contribute to such innovation," said James L. Moore III, NSF assistant director for STEM Education (EDU). "ExLENT will expand learning opportunities while helping to build the needed professional knowledge, skills and relationships in these critical industries."

View NSF’s full award list for ExLENT.

Published September 28, 2023