WSU-led team wins $30M 'cyber workforce’ contract

Vance Saunders, director of Wright State’s cybersecurity program, will manage the Assured Digital Microelectronics Education & Training Ecosystem program. Contributed

AFRL at Wright-Patt will direct the effort

Leading a team of six Ohio academic institutions, Wright State University has won an Air Force contract for nearly $30 million to train undergraduates to develop and design microelectrectronic devices.

Called “Assured Digital Microelectronics Education & Training Ecosystem” — or “ADMETE” — the contract is worth over $29.75 million for three years, with $9 million set to be released in the first year, Wright State said Monday.

The award is aimed at training undergraduate engineering students with the skills to design and develop digital microelectronic devices and systems.

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“The goal is to develop a seamless environment of career-long education and training and a timely completion of educational credentials, overcoming any institutional barriers, curricular differences and policy hurdles,” Wright State said.

The current ADMETE team consists of Wright State, the University of Akron, Youngstown State, Ohio University, the University of Toledo and Lorain County Community College. As the program grows, other academic institutions may be added.

The program is being managed by Wright State under the direction of Vance Saunders, director of university’s cybersecurity program in the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

“These computer chips provide the processing power for everything we’re doing in technology right now,” Saunders said in Wright State’s announcement. “Most of them are manufactured outside the United States, and we don’t have the infrastructure to manufacture them all ourselves. We need to be able to assess the trustworthiness of this hardware.”

The contract builds on what Wright State said is the ongoing research and development of “innovative, assured and trusted microelectronics technologies being conducted at Wright State, Youngstown State and the University of Akron.”

The goal is to meet security and trusted computing requirements.

“So the Air Force, under the direction of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, is working to ensure that microelectronics systems from commercial foundries are trusted, assured and protected,” the university said. "The effort applies to currently fielded microelectronics no longer in production, microelectronics in production, and next-generation cutting-edge microelectronics in development.

“Meeting the demand requires a thriving workforce of digital design engineers with expertise in assured and trusted microelectronic systems,” Wright State added. “The Air Force says current academic programs across the country are not meeting this need.”

“No one has been putting the infrastructure in place to take the results of all this research and train the next-generation workforce in how to use it,” Saunders said in Wright State’s release.

He said the goal is to create a system in which graduating high school seniors would take courses at technical schools, two- and four-year colleges, work as interns with businesses, and harness that toward a degree in digital electronics design and development.

The program would likely be part of an electrical engineering, computer engineering or related degree.

The money will be used to hire expert faculty, develop classes, create lab space and conduct research, the university said.

“And there will be a huge marketing effort,” Saunders said. “We need to be screaming about this to every high school student in the state, letting them know about the fun and exciting opportunities in the field of digital microelectronics.”

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