Normandale Vacuum and Thin Film Technology Department Receives National Science Foundation Grant

By Steven Geller - Director of Media and Public Relations

Normandale Community College's Vacuum and Thin Film Technology Department recently received a three-year grant for $870,720 from the National Science Foundation (NSF); NSF-ATE 1700624.

The grant is for the Vacuum and Thin Film Technology Department to finalize the awarding of credentials through a distance program of study in Vacuum and Thin Film Technology. The grant will also help the program continue its great work on distance education offerings.

The department has redesigned the Vacuum and Thin Film Technology Lab with telepresence technology equipment so they could teach lessons in the classroom and to a cohort of distance learners simultaneously. Normandale Vacuum Technology instructor Del Smith has conducted distance-learning courses with students and instructors in Northern Ireland, California, Utah and Wisconsin.

Vacuum Technology (a system maintaining pressure below atmospheric pressure) is an unseen but critical area of technology that is vital to our modern way of life. Vacuum-based systems are required for everything from making computer chips to smart phones to food packaging. Most of the vacuum equipment is very complex, expensive (up to tens of millions of dollars per system) and requires specialized education to design, build and maintain.

Normandale is the only two-year college in the nation to offer an Associate of Applied Science and certificates in Vacuum Technology. The College has worked for 20 years with local industry leaders to develop a curriculum to prepare students to be ready to contribute at companies that need employees. Along with their work with local industry, the program recently drew interest from Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, who both visited this past spring and spent time talking to Normandale students about their advanced research institutions and interviewing them for potential jobs.

"This second grant from the NSF to the Vacuum and Thin Film Technology Department signifies the great progress that has been made in offering educational opportunities locally and nationally for this critical technology," said Smith.