Faculty chosen to help make Digital Lab

By Allison Krecek

Faculty are preparing to help the workforce in advanced manufacturing after they were chosen for a developing role for the Digital Lab for Manufacturing.

The Digital Lab for Manufacturing was announced by President Barack Obama Tuesday and is to be built on Goose Island in Chicago.

NIU will lead the technical workforce training in regard to advanced manufacturing, said Mansour Tahernezhadi, associate dean of research and graduate programs.

“We would be preparing our students in the advanced manufacturing arena, and we would also work with community colleges to make sure the students are keeping up to date with advanced manufacturing initiatives,” Tahernezhadi said.

Promod Vohra, dean of the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, is hopeful about what NIU and the other universities will bring to the table.

“We will bring our many innovations … we also have several elements of manufacturing in which our faculty members are doing active research,” Vohra said. “We will bring that research and try to digitize the manufacturing industry for the benefit of small- and medium-sized manufacturers.”

NIU will start making progress in the manufacturing field by getting help from the faculty. Jenn-Terng Gau, associate professor of mechanical engineering, is a faculty member who may play a role.

Gau has experience in researching the mechanical engineering side of manufacturing at places like Harley-Davidson and General Motors.

“I’ve been working in manufacturing for years, so I know the kind of difficulty they will be facing,” Gau said. “I know I will be able to provide help and work on improving manufacturing and innovation.”

Gau said prior experience will allow him to overcome difficulties that may arise.

“I know there will be some challenges, but I do not believe they could not be overcome,” Gau said. “I will help NIU and the other universities to make sure that this can be carried out smoothly and successfully.”

Some of the other universities that will help the Digital Lab for Manufacturing create this are University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern University and University of Chicago.

“I feel that every university will bring their strengths to the table and then we will try and create a whole project that is based upon individual strengths and has a unique outcome,” Vohra said.