Next is preparing Arizona’s future workforce

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What's next?Technology and innovation are vital to Arizona’s long-term economic outlook as the fourth industrial revolution and the impact of a new economy reshape our lives, industries, the workplace, education and the training and skills people need to get and keep good paying jobs.  The work has already begun and the new economy is already landing.

Accelerated by the global pandemic that began in 2020, Arizona State University is preparing to educate the workforce of tomorrow and to help the workforce of today – and the businesses that need them – adapt to the changes happening today. ASU engineering and technology graduates will have critical roles to play with the Fulton Schools of Engineering now serving more than 25,000 students and sending thousands of graduates out into the work force annually.  ASU engineering and technology graduates attract major companies, start new ones, and help those here continue to grow and create high wage jobs, supporting the state’s economic development strategy. 

With a state that made a significant investment in its FY 2022 budget and a federal government that is focused on regaining a position of global leadership in microelectronics manufacturing, research and development, ASU’s commitment to meet its assignment to impact the new economy goes beyond the field of engineering.

ASU’s Learning Enterprise, Knowledge Enterprise, Edson Entrepreneurship and Innovation InstituteCenter, and the ASU Corporate Relations and Strategic Partnerships unit will all focus on enhancing Arizona’s competitiveness and seizing the opportunities that come with the new economy.

Together, these leading ASU units will work on helping start-ups launch, find ways to mobilize intellectual property, help corporate partners and economic development organizations make connections and identify new research opportunities, source seed funding, and work to help companies and their employees get trained or re-trained for the jobs needed by industry and in job opportunities attractive to people shifting careers.

Arizona State University is meeting its assignment for the New Economy Initiative with creativity and commitment from its staff, faculty and students and in partnership with industry leaders and innovators from across the state and around the country preparing to meet the needs of the future and to enhance Arizona’s competitive edge.

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ASU Science and Technology Centers

The New Economy Initiative proposes five Science and Technology Centers (STCs) that would bring together faculty and industry leaders to identify specific workforce needs, develop training programs and create long-term partnerships. The STCs also will be research hubs for industry to work with faculty and students to grow ideas from bench to market.

STCs are physical locations that foster the growth of industries directly leading to job creation, workforce training, startups, and advancing STEM education. Faculty, students and research partners discover, translate ideas from the lab to market, and industry pulls their work forward into the marketplace. Their work unlocks key research challenges, trains current students on future technologies, enables reskilling of existing workforce and catalyzes the region’s startup ecosystem, creating successful spinoffs such as Zero Mass Water, Fluidic Energy and many others.

These five STCs will add to Arizona’s existing two applied research centers focused on industry led research — one for WearTech, the other for Blockchain. Combined, these five new Science and Technology Centers can reasonably project to attract more than 250 new industrial partners and empower global projection capabilities to drive engineering linkages around the world. Further, the investment STCs and the human resources that come with it will accelerate completion of the launch of a global school alliance for engineering design and position Phoenix and Arizona as one of the leading global engineering centers in the world.

Man standing with solar panels
STC on Energy and Materials

a national research resource for advancing new energy materials and device technologies to market, growing industry engagement and workforce training.

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STC on Human Performance

will capitalize on regional strength and technology opportunity to enhance physical and cognitive performance, medical prevention and intervention and drive research from discovery to marketplace.

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STC on Extreme Environments

focus on management and technology opportunities associated with growing population centers; research outcomes to engineer resiliency into the energy, water, materials and transportation systems in the built environment of future cities and regions.

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STC on Advanced Manufacturing

a focal point of this this STC will be the new technologies aimed at transforming manufacturing through 3D printing, robotics and automation, and new materials that leverages current manufacturing strength and evolving maker technologies with strong links to private industry support in aerospace, defense and space systems.

STC on Future Communication Technologies

will drive ASU and the region to the forefront of physical information systems as the “internet of things” continues to develop, and as users increasingly desire greater access, information, reliability, and communications diversity. New paradigms for both sensing and communications are critical.

Supporting Students

Student success for learners of all kinds, at all stages of their educational and career journey is at the heart of the New Economy Initiative. Students at ASU are not just learners, they are inventors, innovators, and collaborators who do not wait for graduation to start making a contribution and having an impact. Meet the Fulton Schools of Engineering Sun Devils here.

ASU Luminosity Lab/PPE Response Network

ASU’s Luminosity Lab is made up of a team of students who work together to help combat the N95 shortage and help businesses in a response to the COVID-19 crisis. The Luminosity Lab is uniquely positioned for this response as a student-led interdisciplinary research unit that works on improving areas including health care and education.

This year, the team developed two sanitization technologies to prolong the life of N95 masks and sanitize high-touch small items. As masks became part of the normal routine during COVID-19, being able to reuse a mask is important for our planet and day to day life. As a response to the crisis in Arizona, the team created the PPE Response Network, allowing health care providers, producers of personal protective gear and processors who sterilize the equipment to work together.

Among the team is the Nikhil Dave, a junior studying neuroscience and innovation in society and student regent on the Arizona Board of Regents, mechanical engineering undergraduate Katie Sue Pascavis, electrical engineering graduate student John Patterson and industrial engineering graduate student Tarun Suresh.

The Luminosity Lab has created a high-performance mask called Floe Mask; top 25 in global mask innovation competition. Using hydrogen peroxide for one system and ozone for the other, the team designed two machines at a much lower cost and smaller scale than machines used to sterilize the materials in large scale hospitals. The team functions as a research and development lab that is designed to bring students together.

Desert WAVE

In 2019, after working together for ten short months, a team of ASU women engineering students placed third in the world at the international RoboSub competition in San Diego. They designed, built, tested and defended their design and launched their submarine against 55 teams from around the world.

This year, they beat their own record and placed second – and they did it virtually.

Desert WAVE (Women in Autonomous Vehicle Engineering) is an underwater robotics team that has twice participated in the competition hosted by the Office of Naval Research and the nonprofit organization RoboNation.

In their spare time, the team members work with local K-12 girls to introduce them to the world of STEM through robotics. Last year, they hosted a hackathon for local middle school students to making holiday toys accessible to children with disabilities.

“The success of the team was taking 11 women and convincing them that they were worthy. Worthy to compete, worthy to learn, worthy to set goals that ordinarily would have been out of their reach,” said team member Jessica Dirks.

“We went to college to be competent engineers: to learn what other engineers had done in the past and to avoid those mistakes,” Dirks continued. “But we came out of this team confident-- to make our own mistakes, to recover from these errors, to ask questions, and to speak out in class amongst strangers.”

Elizabeth Jones

Elizabeth Jones has helped create a diverse community of engineers at Arizona State University that inspires confidence in young people pursuing STEM fields. Jones recently won the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Outstanding Collegiate Member Award, honoring engineers who have contributed greatly to SWE, college engineering, and the community. From across the nation, only 10 society members are selected each year for the prestigious award. The society of women engineers, focuses on global advocacy, service, and nonprofit organization supporting women and diversity in engineering and technology.

Elizabeth Jones has been a lead advocate for women in engineering before her ASU Journey. In high school, Jones developed a community that inspired her take on engineering challenges and defy social norms. Jones quickly assumed leadership roles as she is currently the president of the ASU SWE chapter. Under her leadership, she increased ASU’s Society of Women Engineers. She has also served as the ASU section’s outreach officer where she expanded events like GEAR Day, an opportunity for younger students to explore engineering through interactive activities.

Jones is now working on a project focusing on the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges (NAE) of education and joy themes for interdisciplinary opportunities to promote diversity and inclusion in engineering outside of the classroom.

After all of her accomplishments as an undergraduate student, Jones will continue her education for a fifth year for her master’s degree in electrical engineering through the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering 4+1 program.

Nick Hool

Life is full of curveballs. But what if a drug-free device could temporarily alleviate anxiety, leading to enhanced human performance? It’s Nick Hool’s vision, and business venture, made possible by his innovative research at ASU.

The Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering alumnus started Hoolest Performance Technologies in Phoenix in 2017, to further the development of a noninvasive vagal nerve stimulation device. The nVNS device (think earphones), stimulates the vagus nerve through small electric impulses, temporarily calming some of the body’s core functions like heart rate and breathing, which are controlled by the vagus nerve.

Hool, who was a competitive golfer in high school, and managed his anxiety with prescription drugs, went down the road of biomedical engineering to find a drug-free way to treat anxiety. Through his graduate research, his doctoral work and many other ASU resources, Hool’s small startup team won the 2018 ASU Innovation Open and $100,000 in seed funding. The nVNS device is currently undergoing clinical trials through the Food and Drug Administration.

“I don’t think there is a better feeling than seeing your efforts actually make a difference in someone’s life, whether it is building a nerve stimulation device or even just sitting and talking with someone,” said Hool in a recent ASU Now article. “It is all one long process, but it has been the most rewarding process I’ve ever been part of.”

Amongst a number of achievements, Hoolest Performance Technologies was also one of the first companies to be invited to the WearTech Applied Research Center in Phoenix where industry partners collaborate and develop wearable technologies to improve the quality of life

Zach Smith

ASU Engineers give back to the community and organizations that shaped their engineering experiences. The members of the engineering community at Arizona State University have developed ways to engage young people and get them excited about the field of work. Zach Smith is one of those engineers.

Smith is working to make an impact in the lives of others, through education on STEM fields and fostering diverse leadership skills. Zach Smith, a first-year computer science student at ASU began participating in FIRST Lego League in Flagstaff, Arizona. ASU facilitates robotics programs in Arizona for the nonprofit organization FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). From kindergarten through 12th grade, students can participate in multiple levels of robotics activities. The organization uses these programs to encourage students to pursue engineering and STEM careers, and to become leaders and innovators with a strong grasp of work-life skills for the 21st century. This competition inspired Smith to achieve an engineering career at a young age. Working in this capacity allowed him to find the very career he was most interested in: engineering.

Student engineers participate in leadership roles, skill-building workshops and outreach activities to educate the next generation. The Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering host school-year and summer outreach activities for young students to learn how to code, make video games, build robots and explore sustainable energy production. Along with these programs, Smith serves as a mentor himself, teaching the important lessons for all areas of robotics competition: robots, research projects and core values. He finds it rewarding to be able to give back to those who helped along his journey.

“Seeing these students grow in the same way I did gives me hope for future engineers,” Smith said. “I know they have the skills necessary to solve the problems of tomorrow.”

Q&A with Dean Kyle Squires

Ken SquiresKyle Squires, dean of the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering at ASU talks about why the Workforce Readiness Initiative is so important to Arizona’s economic future.

Why is the expansion of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering so important?
“We have the greatest enrollments of any other college of engineering in the United States. We’ll soon be the top producer of engineering and technology graduates in the country. But we’re always reminded by our corporate and community partners that there’s a greater need for talent than we’re even able to produce. If we really want to create high-value jobs, great standards of living, trends from the technology economy of the Valley, this investment is what will allow us to do that.”