OHIO’s Russ College awarded $2.25 million contract to enhance curriculum and equipment, train southeast Ohio secondary and post-secondary educators

The Department of Defense through contractor ARCTOS Technology Solutions awarded Ohio University a contract to help develop southeast Ohio's engineering and technology workforce.

June 27, 2024


There is a large need for U.S. workers with the skills to manage complex technological and business challenges. Many jobs are available in these areas, but fewer people have diverse skills in engineering and technology, especially in automation and robotics, to meet the demand. A partnership between the U.S. Department of Defense and Ohio University through defense contractor ARCTOS Technology Solutions will help meet this demand by educating the next generation in STEM fields and beyond at the college and high school levels.

The Department of Engineering Technology and Management (ETM) in Ohio University’s Russ College of Engineering and Technology was recently awarded a contract with the U.S. Air Force through ARCTOS. As part of the agreement ETM is receiving $2.25 million to promote education at OHIO and throughout high schools in southeast Ohio. The funding will enhance the ETM curriculum at Ohio University, fund new lab equipment and provide free training in robotics, programmable logical controllers and automation integration to southeast Ohio’s secondary and post-secondary teachers and future educators.

Dr. Zaki Kuruppalil, chair and professor of the ETM department is leading the partnership as the principal investigator. Kuruppalil and fellow Ohio University ETM Professor and Co-Principal Investigator Dr. Paul Deering attended a robotics and automation training program for educators at another Ohio school beginning in 2021. While attending this program for a few summers, Kuruppalil and Deering developed relationships with ARCTOS and proposed how they could improve the program and create a more compact, holistic training at OHIO.

OHIO Professors Dr. Paul Deering (left) and Dr. Zaki Kuruppalil.
OHIO ETM Professors Dr. Paul Deering (left) and Dr. Zaki Kuruppalil (right).

When more funding became available from the U.S. Department of Defense, Kuruppalil and Co-Principal Investigators Deering and Dr. Todd Myers wrote a proposal which was accepted by ARCTOS. Along with the training for educators, the team proposed advancements for the curriculum and equipment of the ETM department at OHIO.

“We are taking this to the next level of what the industry wants,” said Kuruppalil.

The new equipment will be installed at the Athens Campus during the first phase of the contract and utilized towards modified ETM curricular lab activities as well as “train-the-trainer” programs in the areas of robotics and automation. In a later phase, the contract will also support the purchase of equipment for an additional OHIO Regional Higher Education campus to replicate some of the automation and robotics certificates offered currently at the Lancaster Campus.

“This initiative is particularly for southeast Ohio and will benefit the community,” said Deering. “It will give a new dimension to what we offer at Ohio University and in southeast Ohio.”

New robots funded by the contract in an ETM lab at Stocker Center.
New robots funded by the contract were some of the first equipment to arrive at Ohio University.

Robots, programmable logical controllers and other gadgets are anticipated to arrive for the start of fall semester. The equipment will help establish two new state-of-the-art labs in OHIO’s Stocker Center. A robotics and integration lab will utilize 10 new FANUC industrial-scale robots and 11 new Allen-Bradley programmable logical controller (PLC) kits along with conveyors and other accessories. Additionally, a new PLC lab will be used to teach PLC and mechatronics courses during the school year and train educators during the next two summers. This lab will include 12 new Amatrol PLC trainers which also have Allen-Bradley PLCs.

Kuruppalil says the equipment will give students entering the workforce an edge and make them more valuable to future employers.

“Students will also have the opportunity to earn FANUC and Allen-Bradley credentials using the new equipment,” he said. “Students with automation, robotics, integration and mechatronics skills are in high demand with manufacturing reshoring to the United States.”

Additionally, the contract will help Ohio University:

  • Modify five existing ETM courses to include enhanced automation and integration, and combine them to make an advanced automation certificate which will be built into the ETM curriculum and accessible to other majors
  • Create a new program on OHIO’s Chillicothe campus based on the automation and mechatronics certificate program at the Lancaster campus
  • Fund new equipment at OHIO’s Chillicothe campus
  • Analyze what digital thread means to the industry by defining it through surveys and  literature review