Last week we noticed that GovDataDownload had published an article looking at how colleges and universities are partnering with technology companies to educate and train students on campus in preparation for entering the workforce. This initiative puts cutting-edge tools in students’ hands, allowing them to learn firsthand how the newest and most advanced technologies can be used to assist the public and private sectors. Read on to learn more from Ryan Schradin.
The pace of innovation that we see across the government and private industry has created a massive need for technology talent that graduates from college with the hands-on experience and expertise required to hit the ground sprinting – just running wouldn’t be fast enough. That same rapid pace of innovation can also create challenges for students who may find the technologies that they work and interact with in college antiquated in comparison to the technologies that they’re leveraging in their jobs.
“The speed of technology is so fast that there can be a gap between curriculum and industry,” explained Tonya Witherspoon, associate vice president for Industry Engagement and Applied Learning at WSU. To help train a new generation of America’s high-tech workforce, cutting-edge colleges and universities – such as Wichita State University – are partnering with leading technology companies to build facilities and curriculums that can prepare students to make an immediate impact in the public and private sectors. They’re also working to get the latest and greatest technologies into the hands of students to eliminate the “gap between curriculum and industry” that Witherspoon described.
Thanks in large part to these new public-private partnerships and high-tech facilities, students graduate from college ready to drive the digital transformation initiatives that are revolutionizing the way companies and government agencies operate – increasing efficiency, improving operations, and generally making customer and constituent service better.
New Facility Powers Innovation and Learning Opportunities
A new facility recently opened on the Wichita State University Innovation Campus is a public-private partnership between the university and NetApp, and was designed to support the students and other partner companies as they learn and develop exciting new technologies. The facility, which had its official ribbon-cutting this week, was built with an open office plan and contains more than 600 workstations and a large data center to be used for product development and testing.
“NetApp is bringing all of their engineering prowess and their alliance partners right on our campus,” said Witherspoon. “[NetApp is] helping our students and our faculty dive deep into the research and technologies that are changing the world.”
One of the ways NetApp is accomplishing that is by conducting the testing and certification of NetApp E-Series storage arrays at Wichita State University before they are installed in customer locations. This enables more than 100 WSU students to work at part-time NetApp jobs in testing, quality control, and support as part of their technology education.
Chek Tan, a graduate of WSU who worked at NetApp for 5 years as a student contractor before becoming a full-time employee, explained how exciting and beneficial this system can be when he said, “I was able to work with real live equipment, understanding how to create reports, run tests on storage systems that no one had ever seen before.” Today, he leads NetApp’s E-Series Solutions team that including the NVIDIA DGX SuperPOD AI Infrastructure E-Series testing and the NetApp AI SuperCluster projects.
But there is more to this new facility than simply testing and certifying NetApp equipment. The data center and data fabric in the facility that has been provided by NetApp are intended to help drive the research and development work being done on the Innovation Campus on behalf of government agencies. And it’s already being put to work for the research and development of exciting new aerospace technologies for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).
Supporting the Creation of Digital Twins for the Military
A cooperative effort between the university and the DoD involves advancing the creation of digital twins for military assets that exist in the physical world. This is an essential step for utilizing advanced manufacturing techniques for creating parts for legacy aircraft and other platforms that are still in use by the military.
For example, the B-1 bomber is a 50-year-old aircraft that is still in use today. Since industry OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) focus on the current models and newer platforms, there can be inadequate support for older platforms – like the B-1 bomber – that can hamper military readiness.
Wichita State University is working with the DoD to disassemble, scan, and reassemble aircraft to create digital twins. These digital twins can open the door to the use of advanced manufacturing processes – such as additive or subtractive manufacturing – to create necessary parts for legacy platforms.
Unfortunately, the process of creating digital twins – and the digital twins, themselves – create a lot of data. And NetApp is supporting the effort, providing the underlying storage infrastructure and the management capabilities to allocate resources in multitenant environments and hybrid clouds.
John Tomblin, senior vice president for Industry and Defense Programs at WSU, explained that thanks to NetApp technology the university has made it possible for companies to respond to DoD bids with new parts requests that might otherwise have gone unfilled.
“Digital twinning extends the life of assets where parts can be made, parts can be sourced, they can be 3D printed, if necessary,” Tomblin said. “NetApp technologies are providing the secure, high-performance storage needed to execute the twinning initiatives.”
But the creation of digital twins isn’t the only way NetApp technologies are being used for innovating government programs at Wichita State University. NetApp technology is also being leveraged for artificial intelligence and machine learning simulations for missile defense use cases.
NetApp’s new facility on the Wichita State University Innovation Campus is helping to create new and exciting learning opportunities for students and preparing them for high-tech jobs in the public and private sectors. It’s also providing the storage and data fabric necessary to power advanced government projects and initiatives that will help our military by increasing readiness.
And the results speak for themselves. According to Witherspoon, at Wichita State University, “Last year, we had over 5,100 students placed with over 500 industry partners, and they earned $27 million in wages…”
That’s a phenomenal example of how – when universities and private industry partner together – the students reap the benefits.
To learn more about the new NetApp facility on the Wichita State University Innovation Campus, click here.