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National workforce development project focused on microelectronics

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The Ohio State University joined a new initiative sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense to address the urgent need for engineering graduates to develop defense technologies, especially in the area of microelectronics.

The Scalable Asymmetric Lifecycle Engagement Microelectronics Workforce Development program (SCALE) is a $19.2 million multi-university public-private-academic partnership led by Purdue University

The small number of engineering graduates who specialize in microelectronics makes it increasingly difficult to satisfy the growing demand from private companies and government agencies for expertise in this this area. SCALE provides mentoring, internships and targeted research project opportunities for college students interested in three microelectronics specialty areas: radiation-hardening; heterogeneous integration/advanced packaging; and system-on-a-chip.

“The workforce development program will be scalable to be used by any interested higher education institution,” said Mark Lewis, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering.

"The program will be conducted in partnership with the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division as a nationally coordinated network of government, industry, and university partners, regionally executed," he said. "The goal is to create an asymmetric workforce advantage in microelectronics."

Steven Bibyk
Bibyk

Ohio State's role is led by Electrical and Computer Engineering Professors Steven Bibyk and Ayman Fayed, and is focused on the system-on-a-chip (SoC) specialty area, along with Georgia Institute of Technology, Purdue University and the University of California, Berkeley.

Bibyk said most electronic systems today—cell phones, iPods, set-top boxes, digital TVs, automobiles—contain at least one SoC. This technology embodies the highest performance and best power management aspects of information processing electronics in the smallest volume. SoC expertise is key for advancing many electronic systems in numerous applications.

“SoCs are a key electronic component for many information processing innovations, such as smart cities, 5G communications, sustainability monitoring of the environment via Internet of Things (IoT), networked transportation IoT, and biomedical electronics,” Bibyk said.

Ayman Fayed (headshot)
Fayed

For perspective, the United States once held a global advantage in microelectronics manufacturing, but industry consolidation led to just four existing companies capable of semiconductor fabrication at 14 nanometers and below. These are the U.S.-based Intel Corp., Taiwan-based Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., South Korea-based Samsung, and the U.S.-based (but Abu Dhabi-owned) GlobalFoundries.

Fayed said that SoC development requires graduates with a strong theoretical and hands-on background in multiple areas, including system and circuit design, semiconductor technologies, and microelectronics testing and characterization.

“SoC development requires knowledge that is difficult for most students to acquire within an undergraduate program that is meant to be broad in nature and time-limited," he explained. "As a result, students with only a bachelor degree, who are the bulk of our workforce, tend to choose working in other areas and specialties. We are trying to address this issue by providing more meaningful opportunities for our students to learn and participate in SoC development during their undergraduate programs and encourage them to further pursue this specialty in graduate programs.”

In addition to Ohio State's lead role on SoC microelectronics development efforts, partner universities will be involved in specific areas of microelectronics education and workforce development critical to national security. Radiation hardening of microelectronics is led by Vanderbilt University, with the Air Force Institute of Technology, St. Louis University, Brigham Young University, Arizona State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, SUNY-Binghamton, Arizona State University, Indiana University, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and New Mexico State University. Heterogeneous integration of electronics is led by Purdue University, with Georgia Institute of Technology, Binghamton University-State University of New York, and Arizona State University.

Ohio State students interested in participating in the program should contact Prof. Bibyk (Bibyk.1@osu.edu) and Prof. Fayed (Fayed.1@osu.edu).

edited version of story by Ryan Horns, Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Category: Faculty