The Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) has awarded Miami University nearly $600,000 to help improve Ohio’s workforce development capacity by supporting in-state students in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). With the new Choose Ohio First grant, Miami’s College of Engineering and Computing will recruit and support more than a dozen Ohio students per year studying robotics, manufacturing or automation.
The scholarship program is part of the larger Choose Ohio First initiative, OHDE’s strategic effort to bolster Ohio’s economic strength by ensuring a ready workforce for STEM and medical related industries. The scholarships were awarded to nearly 60 colleges and universities in Ohio, up from 35 in 2020.
“As part of the largest number of institutional grantees in COF history, (Miami’s) proposal to provide STEM scholarships will help improve Ohio’s workforce capacity to innovate and grow our economy,” said Randy Gardner, chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education, in a letter to recipients.
Miami will primarily use the grant to support incoming first-year students focusing on areas under the Industry 4.0 paradigm, which includes robotics engineering, manufacturing engineering and process control. The grant will also help about five students per year earn a graduate certificate in advanced manufacturing and materials.
Students work in a robotics engineering lab (image taken pre-COVID-19 by Scott Kissell).
“Miami University prides itself as a state institution that provides access to a diverse student body,” said Beena Sukumaran, dean of the College of Engineering and Computing. “The Choose Ohio First grant provides financial assistance to students from socioeconomic backgrounds that cannot afford a high quality college education in an area of regional and national need such as engineering. We are very grateful to the ODHE for this student support and I am very thankful that Professors Kumar Singh and Fazeel Khan are leading this effort.”
Fazeel Khan and Kumar Singh, both professors in the Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, are spearheading Miami’s COF efforts. Through the university’s “Boldly Creative” Strategic Academic Enrichment Initiative, they recently launched a project to better align engineering programs at Miami with industry needs in robotics, automation and advanced manufacturing.
“The Choose Ohio First funding will help fuel Miami's new academic initiatives to shift to the Industry 4.0 paradigm, while also fueling the state’s goals for improving workforce training and the number of people entering into STEM disciplines,” Khan said.
Singh said the grant will also allow the college to improve its diversity to include more students from underrepresented groups.
“We hope we can use this funding to support those students who are really interested in these programs but may be financially in need,” Singh said. “We hope this funding can help create more access to these fields and engender greater diversity among our student body.”
The COF scholarship program began in 2008 in an effort to increase the number of Ohio students enrolling in and successfully completing STEM programs at Ohio’s public and independent colleges and universities.
Miami has previously received two four-year COF grants for the Bioinformatics scholarship program (2013-2021), which has provided annual scholarships of up to $5,000 for more than 75 students.
The latest COF awards are part of a focused strategy to increase enrollment and completion in STEM fields to strengthen Ohio’s talent pipeline in STEM occupations and related industries. ODHE is also promoting the use of COF funds to assist students to obtain credentials and certificates in STEM areas, with a special emphasis on computer science and related technology fields, allowing them to add more demonstrated skills to their portfolio.