UofL receives $750,000 in federal funding to enhance advanced manufacturing workforce

From the Lane Report

The University of Louisville has received $750,000 to launch the Robotics and Additive Manufacturing Pathways to SUCCESS (RAMPS) program aimed at preparing workers for the automated workplaces of the future that involve collaborative human-machine interfaces and 3D printing.

The skills needed by nearly all manufacturers will soon be shaped to some degree by the rapidly accelerating robotics and machine learning revolution, including automation, robotics, additive manufacturing and artificial intelligence. RAMPS will allow UofL’s Louisville Automation and Robotics Research Institute (LARRI) and other centers to purchase additional advanced equipment, such as a robotic quadruped, and introduce future workers to these devices.

Made possible by funding secured by U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth from the U.S. Department of Education, RAMPS aims to address workforce needs in the advanced manufacturing industry sector and enhance employment opportunities for underrepresented groups. It will allow LARRI, the Additive Manufacturing Institute of Science and Technology (AMIST) and Micro/Nano Technology Center (MNTC), all based in the J.B. Speed School of Engineering at UofL, to obtain additional equipment and pilot programs to increase awareness and access to training in robotic and additive manufacturing technology over the next year.

“I’m so proud to have secured $750,000 in federal funding for UofL’s RAMPS program, which will help students excel in the industries of tomorrow,” Yarmuth said. “Manufacturing is a key sector of our local and state economy, and robotics and automation will tremendously impact how businesses and industries operate moving forward. UofL is a national leader in innovative training programs, and through its RAMPS program, students will have access to the state-of-the-art equipment and training that will best position them to succeed in our rapidly changing workforce.”

Using existing and new equipment and leveraging the knowledge and skills present in the UofL facilities, RAMPS leaders will introduce K-12 students, high school graduates and university students to robotics and additive manufacturing and help train them to use these advanced technologies in the workplace.

Berfield anticipates that AMIST will add equipment used in the aerospace, automotive, dental and biomedical industries, among others. Workers at Kentucky’s multiple manufacturing facilities are expected to be disproportionately affected by the shift toward automation, making programs like RAMPS essential to advance employment opportunities in the Commonwealth.

RAMPS leaders expect around 200 students will be exposed to these technologies in the first year as part of pilot projects, followed by more robust and formalized workforce training programs and curricula to be developed in future years.

In addition to training workers, RAMPS will elevate UofL’s programs at LARRI, AMIST and MNTC by further improving the high-quality learning environment within these centers, attracting highly qualified faculty and talented students and increasing opportunities for additional funding.

Since the opening of LARRI’s dedicated robotics lab on the UofL campus in October, it has hosted more than 400 K-12 and college students, industry professionals and researchers to learn about existing and potential uses of robots, drones and other technology.