Things and the Internet

The FLATE Focus Future of Work Series has introduced overview connections of Future of Work issues in technology sector headings used by the National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education program: advanced manufacturing technology, agricultural and bio-technologies, energy, environmental technology, information technology, micro & nano technologies, geospatial technology, and security technologies.  In the October 2019 blog, we began to think about specific examples of technologies in these specific ATE education sectors.  That practice continues.

When one asks what impact, new technologies will have on technician education the Internet of Things (IoT) is often the first or at least in the initial set of impactful technologies that must be addressed.  This is a broad classification to be sure and the IoT impact on society has already become apparent.  However, what is or will be its influence on technician education?

Bypassing, this month at least, the IoT’s connection to the information technology technician, an immediate connection of IoT and the Future of Work is the access to new sensors that operate using extremely high frequencies.  Not long ago, with specific exceptions such as applications in some 24-GHz industrial fluid-level sensors, the Gigahertz frequency range was not practical because of challenges with sensor required components, materials, layout, and production tolerances.
 Today this is not the case.  Companies such as Texas Instruments are providing sensors that target robotics and automation applications within the 60 GHz (5 mm wavelength) range.  This higher frequency range also means a new generation of frequency analyzers to verify sensor performance as well as the conformation of output response to an edge computing environment or (for consumer applications) the cloud itself.  These new analyzers are certainly not your grandfather’s oscilloscopes nor will current low frequency analyzers satisfy the technician’s IoT related sensor manufacture, installation, connection, and troubleshooting needs.
The continued increase access to more gigahertz sensors and their application in all the ATE related technologies leads to future technician preparation questions.  Are the classic skills taught in RF electronics courses or in standalone modules in other programs for technicians going to be adequate for the technician working in advanced manufacturing or micro & nanotechnologies?   Do new applications that require technicians to be involved in sensors and measurements that integrate significant analog and digital signal-processing capabilities represent the edge of their skill set or just “business as usual”?   If it isn’t going to be “business as usual”, what advanced skills should the new multiple frequency technician have, how are they to be taught, and are faculty prepared to teach them?
As characteristic and to be honest the fun part of this blog series, it is time to shift gears.  Returning to our operating premise:  "The work to do starts with you."  Your views of both present and future skills related to EHF, Extremely High Frequency, technology in your field is EI, Extremely Important!  A nationwide strategy for technician education needs national input.  Industries in various regions of the country will have different EHF skill use expectations for their technicians.  The goal is to identify the core skills that are the foundation for all EHF applications including, of course, IoT.  NSF-ATE is listening and can put its resources into action in response to what it hears so now is the time to speak up.  Think about the skills needed and the optimal time (place) to learn them. Contact us.  Send us your thoughts

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