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Oct. 30, 2023

Dean Leo Kempel leads historic effort to boost semiconductor education

MSU Engineering Dean Leo Kempel leads historic effort to boost semiconductor education

Oct. 30, 2023

Monday marked an important day for semiconductor education at Michigan State University and economic development throughout the entire state. 

MSU College of Engineering Dean Leo Kempel and officials from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Lansing Community College and Fraunhofer USA shared groundbreaking investment news.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in MEDC grants and matching funds will support efforts to increase semiconductor curriculum and youth educational opportunities at MSU and LCC.

MSU's College of Engineering will receive $148,000 in state grant funding from the MEDC to support high school semiconductor learning opportunities. It already received this year $200,000 from the MEDC in support of undergraduate education for semiconductors and the college's Michigan EV Scholars program.

This investment news comes just days after the MSU Research Foundation secured a $400,000 federal grant to support advanced materials research.

“These grants reinforce the critical importance of MSU’s expansion and growth," Kempel said.

The MEDC is investing a combined total of more than $3.6 million statewide - the largest investment of its kind in state history - to promote semiconductor learning and career opportunities. 

Investment news was shared Monday at the Fraunhofer USA Center Midwest Facility on MSU's campus. Fraunhofer has a 20-year partnership with the College of Engineering and plays a key role in the future of semiconductors research because it builds synthetic diamonds. 

Fraunhofer USA President Thomas Schuelke attended Monday's press conference and said he's grateful for the German company's relationship with MSU and excited to see how the new investments will benefit the state. 

“With Michigan’s continued support for science and technology, we can rest assured knowing Fraunhofer USA has a great home at MSU for whatever societal challenges come next," said Schuelke, also an MSU electrical and computer engineering professor.

Other guests in attendance Monday: State Rep. Julie Brixie, (D-East Lansing), State Rep. Graham Filler (R-St. Johns), Avazeh Attari, MEDC's director of higher education partnerships, and Lee Gardner, LCC's director of job training.

Semiconductors summer camp

For MSU, the $148,000 grant from the MEDC supports new and free on-campus learning opportunities for middle and high school students.

Starting this summer, the MSU College of Engineering will lead a summer camp focused on teaching students in underserved areas the importance of semiconductor manufacturing and processing. The camp's curriculum and format will be created by Professor Nelson Sepulveda-Alancastro.

It will come at no cost to students and include free meals, transportation and lodging. The college's goal is to increase participation each year. The first round of students will be selected this spring. 

"Our vision is for Michigan to be home of the leading education institutions in America in semiconductor learning," Kempel said.

Funding from the MEDC will also be used to expand MSU’s current EV Scholars program and create a new program for current students focused on semiconductors. 

Engineering & Digital Innovation Center plans 

The college has positive momentum with semiconductor education and career readiness at time when it's underway with plans to build the Engineering & Digital Innovation Center at Red Cedar Road and Shawn Lane. 

Currently in the design and fundraising phases, the EDI Center is a project in partnership with the State of Michigan and private donors. 

The collaboration also includes five other colleges: Natural Science, Communication Arts and Sciences, Arts & Letters, Social Science and the Eli Broad College of Business. 

Kempel is grateful for support the college has received for the new project and confident MSU is well-positioned to continue leading the state in innovation. 

"We truly believe we are the state university for Michigan," Kempel said. 

For more information about the EDI Center's status, check out the recent story from MSU Today.