National institute awards grant to innovate engineering technology curriculum

The NIST Gaithersburg campus in the spring. (Photo credit: J. Stoughton/NIST)

In mid-April, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced that Purdue Polytechnic was granted nearly $150,000 to generate new teaching modules for students in several sub-disciplines of engineering technology.

The faculty leads tasked with developing and implementing these modules are:

  1. Milton Aguirre
  2. Paul McPherson
  3. Margaret Phillips

Aguirre and McPherson are both actively teaching within Purdue Polytechnic, the university’s college for technology, and Phillips primarily serves as the associate head of information studies with Purdue Libraries alongside a courtesy appointment at Purdue Polytechnic.

The Gaithersburg, Maryland-based NIST is a branch agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and describes its mission as “advancing measurement science, standards and tech to enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.”

“[Purdue Polytechnic’s] modules will include instructional videos, hands-on practice lessons, and assessments for educating undergraduate and graduate students on standards and regulations for emerging technologies,” NIST said in a statement earlier this year. “They will be built using a badging platform that allows instructors and/or students to import badge information into their own open badge systems and display it on other platforms.”

NIST has a longstanding relationship with Purdue University, funding new pedagogy that has entrusted Polytechnic professors like McPherson with implementation plans since 2016. Altogether, Purdue’s past NIST-funded projects include:

  1. A 2016 NIST grant titled “Standards are Everywhere: An Information Literacy Approach to Standards Education” awarded to Professors Margaret Phillips, Paul McPherson, and Michael Fosmire
  2. A 2022 NIST grant titled “Integrating Electric Propulsion Standards into Aerospace Education” awarded to Professors Tracy Yother and Mary Johnson
  3. A 2023 NIST grant titled “The Role of Standards in Product Innovation - Educating the Importance of Standards Related to Emerging Technology Developments” awarded to Professors Milton Aguirre, Paul McPherson, and Margaret Phillips

Such collaborations have attracted international attention, and have brought outsiders to Purdue in the hopes of learning from and partnering with Polytechnic faculty. “These successful grants over the past decade [recently led] to an opportunity for us to host visitors from the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards, and the Korean Standards Association,” Aguirre said.

Aguirre explained that faculty from Purdue Polytechnic’s aviation and engineering technology departments partnered with Purdue Libraries and the School of Information Studies to walk the two Korean delegations through the steps involved in “develop[ing] a grant program similar to that of NIST.”

In recent news, Purdue University has just partnered with South Korea-based semiconductor company SK Hynix to build a nearly $4 billion facility in West Lafayette, Indiana. Aguirre noted his hope that such a partnership can be synergized with Polytechnic faculty’s new connections with Korean standards agencies. NIST support can play a meaningful role in concurrently “developing bonds between industry, faculty and standards professionals from Korean organizations.”

“The goal is to foster deeper collaborations that explore ways to develop a world-class curriculum for students on the importance of technical standards.”


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