RSCC wins $1M grant to boost mechatronics, cyber security

Roane State has won a $999,950 state grant that will be used to expand dual-enrollment studies in mechatronics and computer technologies at 11 high schools in four rural East Tennessee counties.

Dual-enrollment courses enable high school students to obtain college credits.

The community college’s grant proposal, titled “Fast Forward for Success,” was one of 28 selected for funding out of 61 requests filed under the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education program.

That effort prioritizes learning opportunities in rural counties and enhances career and technical education statewide, according to an announcement from Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s office.

“These funds directly support our workforce-development efforts in distressed and at-risk counties and are a key component of our strategy to prioritize rural Tennessee,” Lee said in the announcement.

The grant to Roane State will allow high school students in Morgan, Campbell, Roane and Loudon counties to take college-level courses in cutting-edge programs developed by the community college.

Mechatronics is the engineering of electrical and mechanical systems. Cyber defense involves systems to thwart hacking and other electronic intrusions.

“The grant is a game-changer for cyber security and computer information technology in general for us at Roane State,” said George Meghabghab, professor of computer science.

Meghabghab and Gordon Williams, the program director for mechatronics, will serve as project directors for “Fast Forward for Success.”

The contract for that grant runs through June 2, 2022.

“Roane State is thankful for the opportunity to develop the skills of students in our service area,” said Teresa Duncan, the college’s vice president for workforce and community development. “We are in the business of talent development in order to build a strong workforce pipeline.”

The dual-enrollment courses will be taught either at the high schools or at Roane State campuses.

Students in Roane County’s five high schools, for instance, will come to the community college’s campus in Roane County, where a new mechatronics lab is to be installed.

One goal of the grant is to enable students who earn technical certificates in Early College programs to obtain employment in either mechatronics or cyber defense within a year of graduation.

Area industries and manufacturers seeking employees will be brought into the program.

Employers that have already committed to providing work-based learning experiences include ORAU/ORISE, Covenant Health, Centriworks, Proton Power and SL Tennessee.

Ultimately, the grants are intended to boost the state’s “Drive to 55” program. That’s an ambitious effort to get 55 percent of Tennesseans equipped with a college degree or certificate by the year 2025.

Roane State is a two-year college providing transfer programs, career-preparation programs and continuing education.

Founded in 1971, the college has campuses in Crossville, Harriman, Huntsville, Jamestown, Knoxville, LaFollette, Lenoir City, Oak Ridge, Wartburg and Clinton.

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