Through support from National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA) Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program, the Department of Mechanical and Material Engineering at University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) has become home to a premier opportunity for students from Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU) exploring the latest developments in 3D printing technology.

The second annual Advanced Manufacturing Summer Institute provided hands-on experiential learning opportunities while also creating technology and engineering career pathways for the 14 students from six schools who participated.

Students formed small teams to design, build and test aerial drones using 3D design, 3D printing and meteorological analysis tools in UNL’s state-of-the-art engineering facilities. On the last day, the teams carried out final flight testing of their drones and participated in a poster-presentation session involving hundreds of undergraduates participating in UNL summer research projects. The drones have been sent to students’ home institutions where they will be available to engage the next cohort of students in design and development work.

Throughout the program, students heard presentations from industry leaders, UNL and other participating university faculty, and National Laboratory subject matter experts on topics that included computer-aided design engineering, engineering analysis, prototyping, manufacturing, programming, mechatronics and robotics. The presentations focused on providing theory and background knowledge needed to complete the students’ engineering projects. Students also received training in communication, teamwork, and leadership skills.

This institute is just one of many such education enrichment programs that NNSA sponsors for diverse students. UNL also partners with the American Indian Higher Education Consortium to run this program as part of the TCU Advanced Manufacturing Network Initiative. The participating schools were: College of Menominee Nation, Cankdeska Cikana Community College, Northwest Indian College, Haskell Indian Nations University, Nebraska Indian Community College and Navajo Technical University.

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