Ohio State joins $19.2 million national workforce development project on trusted microelectronics

Posted: November 9, 2020
Image of a micrograph

The Ohio State University joined a new initiative led by the Office of the Secretary of Defense to address the urgent need for engineering graduates in the United States specializing in microelectronics.

The Scalable Asymmetric Lifecycle Engagement Microelectronics Workforce Development program (SCALE) is a $19.2 million multi-university public-private-academic partnership led by Purdue University. Its mission is to address the lack of engineering workforce development in the area of microelectronics across the nation.

The small number of engineering graduates who specialize in microelectronics makes it increasingly difficult to satisfy the huge demand by private companies and government agencies for expertise in this this area. SCALE provides mentoring, internships, and targeted research project opportunities for college students interested in three microelectronics specialty areas: radiation-hardening, heterogeneous integration/advanced packaging, and system on a chip.

The Buckeye role in the mission is led by Ohio State Electrical and Computer Engineering Professors Steven Bibyk and Ayman Fayed, and is focused on the system-on-a-chip (SoC) specialty area, alongside Georgia Institute of Technology; Purdue University and the University of California, Berkeley.

Bibyk

Bibyk said most electronic systems today - cell phones, iPods, set-top boxes, digital TVs, automobiles - contain at least one SoC. This technology embodies the highest performance and best power management aspects of information processing electronics in the smallest volume. SoC expertise is key for advancing many electronic systems in numerous applications.

“SoCs are a key electronic component for many information processing innovations, such as Smart Cities, 5G communications, Sustainability monitoring of the Environment via Internet of Things (IoT), Networked Transportation IoT, and bio-medical electronics,” Bibyk said.

For perspective, the United States once held a global advantage in microelectronics manufacturing, but industry consolidation led to just four existing companies capable of semiconductor fabrication at 14 nanometers and below. These are the U.S.-based Intel Corp.; the Taiwan-based Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC); the South Korea-based Samsung; and the U.S.-based (but Abu Dhabi-owned) GlobalFoundries.

Fayed said that SoC development requires graduates with a strong theoretical and hands-on background in multiple areas, including system and circuit design, semiconductor technologies, and microelectronics testing and characterization.

“SoC development requires knowledge that is difficult for most students to acquire within an undergraduate program that is meant to be broad in nature and time-limited. As a result, students with only a bachelor degree, who are the bulk of our workforce, tend to choose working in other areas and specialties,” Fayed said. “We are trying to address this issue by providing more meaningful opportunities for our students to learn and participate in SoC development during their undergraduate programs and encourage them to further pursue this specialty in graduate programs.”

Fayed

Starting early 2020, universities across the nation adopted SCALE funding to focus on specific areas of microelectronics education and workforce development, Including:

• Radiation hardening of microelectronics, led by Vanderbilt University, with the Air Force Institute of Technology, St. Louis University, Brigham Young University, Arizona State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, SUNY-Binghamton, Arizona State University, Indiana University, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and New Mexico State University.

• Heterogeneous integration of electronics, led by Purdue University, with Georgia Institute of Technology, Binghamton University-State University of New York, and Arizona State University.

• System on Chip (SoC) microelectronics development efforts will be launched starting 2021, and will be led by The Ohio State University, alongside Georgia Institute of Technology, Purdue University and the University of California, Berkeley.

Ohio State students interested in participating in the program should contact Prof. Bibyk (Bibyk.1@osu.edu) and Prof. Fayed (Fayed.1@osu.edu).

Story by Ryan Horns, ECE Communications Specialist | Horns.1@osu.edu | @OhioStateECE