YSU Receives $2.2 Million From Air Force  

By Krista Ritz
Jambar Contributor

Youngstown State University electrical engineering students are provided job training opportunities in a multimillion dollar program from the U.S. Air Force.

Jason Zapka, assistant professor in electrical engineering technologies and program coordinator, has the role of trying to create an “excitement level” for students in the engineering program.

“If you can create early excitement, you have the potential of getting really good students that are happy and excited with the work they’re doing,” Zapka said.

As the need for electronics grows over time, Zapka said there is a gap in the number of people going into those fields. However, YSU offers many engineering programs for students.

“We have a lot of the courses within the electrical engineering and electrical engineering tech program already to discuss and give [students] the appropriate background to make them job-ready,” Zapka said. “If [students] are interested, then they need only to pick one of those two programs, depending upon their area of interest, and we have something in place in that regard.”

For this program, Zapka said the idea is to create an outreach ecosystem for K-12 students, as well as college students, to generate interest in microelectronics.

“We’re learning more and getting students interested in this area,” Zapka said. “We get more electrical engineering and electrical engineering technology programs, so there are more students trained and [will] have a background in it that are available in the workforce in the coming years.”

Pedro Cortes, assistant professor of civil, environmental and chemical engineering, said this project experienced some minor setbacks.

Cortes said this program needs full personnel such as research professors and an outreach coordinator. These positions are grant-funded and are expected to be filled by spring.

“We were expecting to start this summer, even before this summer,” Cortes said. “With COVID, things went really slow, so we started six months later.” 

The initiative focuses on setting a safe and healthy environment for everyone involved. There are even plans for virtual communication.

“There’s a lot of hands-on [activities] being planned so now we have to think about social distancing,” Cortes said.

STEM Outreach coordinator Emilie Brown promotes this program in schools and throughout the community. She said she hopes many undergraduate and graduate students will be a part of this upcoming program.

“As a civilization, we can only advance as quickly as our workforce can fill the demand and, right now, there are still many holes to fill,” Brown said. “We need more people pursuing higher education in critical STEM areas and ADMETE [Assured Digital Microelectronics Education & Training Ecosystem] seeks to create one of those pipelines and support students with scholarships and other resources as they work toward their degree.”

The program will provide workshops, summer camps, internships, research assistant positions and scholarships for YSU students. These activities will help high school students become active within the field.

“There are plenty of opportunities available at YSU for students looking for them. I have seen students do amazing things here and go on to prestigious graduate programs, professional schools and employment,” Brown said. “This particular program is important because it serves to fill a critical need in our ever-advancing technological world.”