“It builds on some things we started seven years ago,” said Dr. A. Darryl Davis, dean of the School of Industry and Technology. He was reacting to President Clinton’s announcement of funds awarded to ECU under the Technology Reinvestment Project (TRP).
The $1.2 million grant builds on a program between ECU and Black and Decker (U.S.) Inc. to use the Black and Decker interactive television network and plant sites as “learning laboratories” for graduate students in lieu of traditional classrooms.
About 120 people from Black and Decker and from the defense industry will be able to earn a master’s degree in industrial technology through interactive video courses. Students will be able to comunicate with their instructors and other students on the television network. Assignments and electronic mail will be transmitted to on-campus instructors from remote locations.
ECU hoptes to offer the program at as many as six industrial sites in North Carolina and Maryland. The North Carolina sites are in Tarboro, Fayetteville and Asheboro. The sites in Maryland are in Towson, Easton and Hampstead.
“It will provide the workers at these plants and nearby military bases an opportunity to earn a master’s degree with a research component based on real world industrial problems,” said Davis.
He said the Technology Reinvestment Project picked ECU for early funding because of its history of working closely with industries in the region. Since 1986, ECU has developed industrial partnerships with Black and Decker, Glaxo, Burroughs Wellcome and many other North Carolina manufacturing firms. The partnerships let graduate students work at industrial sites for experience and to conduct research.
Dr. Barry DuVall of ECU, a professor and the coordinator of partnerships, said ECU has one of the largest industry partnership programs in the country. He said the partnerships have brought in about $800,000 in student grants to date. The grants provide pay to students working at the sites. In the Technology Reinvestment Project, DuVall will also coordinate graduate courses and the development of communication links between ECU and the six Black and Decker sites. It is anticipated the project will start next spring.
“The ECU and Black and Decker grant builds on our partnerships with industries and strengthens our academic programs,” Davis added. “At the same time it moves the university into the important new field of distance learning,” he said.
In announcing the project awards last week, President Clinton said the Technology Reinvestment Project drew 2,850 proposals from more than 12,000 companies, universities, federal research labs, and state and local governments. Forty-one projects were selected for $140 million in grants. East Carolina University’s proposal, “The Factory as a Learning Laboratory--A Practice-Based Masters Degree Program in Inudstrial Technology” was one of the selected projects.
ECU was the only North Carolina university among the first 41 projects approved.
A total of $472 million in federal grants are earmarked for projects that link America’s defense and commercial sectors. The President said the program “will help ensure that we have the best defense in the world while creating new job opportunities for American workers.”