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Navajos get funding for manufacturing school

National Science Foundation, Commerce Department support manufacturing school
The coal-fired Navajo Generating station on Navajo land is slated to close by the end of next year unless a new owner can be found. Navajo Technical University is offering degrees and training in manufacturing for displaced energy workers, such as those in the declining coal industry.

Navajo Technical University, based in Crownpoint, New Mexico, has been awarded a $3.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to establish a Center for Advanced Manufacturing.

The department will have an emphasis on 3D modeling and simulation, polymer and metal additive manufacturing, advanced manufacturing post processing techniques, materials testing and metrology, according to a university news release.

“The goal for the center is to provide opportunities for students so they can learn and gain experience in a working environment,” said H. Scott Halliday, director of NTU’s Center for Digital Technologies.

The center will provide enhanced technical education and workforce training, foster research and stimulate economic development. The NSF funding will also help the university develop new certificate, associate of applied science degree, and four-year degree in mechanical engineering.

Halliday said he expects the new department will appeal to visiting researchers and foster academic partnerships with the university.

Several universities have already made a commitment to collaborate with NTU, including Colorado School of Mines, University of New Mexico Indigenous Design and Planning Institute, Utah’s Multiscale Mechanics and Materials Laboratory, University of Nebraska’s Mechanical and Materials Laboratory and Montana Technological University.

In September, NTU was also awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to build a Metrology and Materials Testing Center to help re-employ and train workers displaced in the energy sector, such as from the declining coal industry. The Navajo Nation contributed $1.5 million in matching funds.

As part of the Center for Advanced Manufacturing, the testing services will be offered to industry and other institutions, and include a certified lab for student learning. It is estimated to generate $15 million in private investment, and generate 500 high-tech, high-wage jobs.

“The Trump Administration is fulfilling the president’s commitment to America’s coal workers as the Department of Commerce issues new investments that will help countless communities thrive,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “Through this project, Navajo Technical University will help the region diversify and rebound by providing opportunities for local workers.”

The coal-fired Navajo Generating Station near Page, Arizona, is scheduled to shut down at the end of 2019 unless a new owner can be found. The plant, and Kayenta Mine providing the coal, is relied on for jobs and royalties that fuel the economies of Navajo and Hopi Tribes. But current owners say it is cheaper to buy electric power generated from natural gas plants.

NTU has begun planning for construction of a new building for the Center for Advanced Manufacturing and hopes to break ground in spring 2019. Besides its main campus in Crownpoint, NTU also has instructional sites in Teec Nos Pos and Chinle, Arizona, and in Kirtland, New Mexico.

For more information, visit www.navajotech.edu

jmimiaga@the-journal.com

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