ASTERIX Conference Fuels Diversity to Power the STEM Workforce of the Future

asterix fall 2022 group

The ASTERIX Consortium’s semi-annual meeting was held at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering in Tallahassee, Florida. (M Wallheiser/FAMU-FSU Engineering)

Industry and faculty from different colleges had the chance to network on the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and Florida A&M University campuses at the semi-annual ASTERIX conference. It was the first time the conference took place at the college. 

The Advanced Sensor Technologies for Applications in Electrical Engineering-Research and Innovation excellence (ASTERIX) Consortium highlighted objectives for the upcoming year and champions the goal of building a more diverse STEM workforce pipeline.

“We are excited to host the ASTERIX Consortium meeting on our campus this year,” said Shonda Bernadin, associate professor in computer and electrical engineering. “Our sponsors can interact directly with the students and see the positive impact of ASTERIX programming. This marks the third year of the program and we are seeing the benefits for our graduate and undergraduate students as well as in our capacity to engage students in research.”

The consortium is funded by a $1.5 million-dollar, five-year grant from the Department of Energy. The group is working to empower a more diverse STEM workforce and provide opportunities for minority students to excel in careers in science, technology, engineering and math. 

The ASTERIX Consortium has three academic partners, Florida A&M University, Florida International University and Miami-Dade College (FIU-FAMU-MDC); and three industry partners, Kansas City National Security Campus, Consolidated Nuclear Security and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The partnership focuses on technology using novel manufacturing techniques to manufacture the next generation of sensors and electronics and areas of interest to the U.S. Department of Defense. The FIU-FAMU-MDC alliance serves one of the largest populations of Hispanic and African American students nationwide, creating a pathway for minorities to pursue engineering careers.

Sastry Pamidi, chair and professor of the computer and electrical engineering department at FAMU-FSU Engineering and the associate director of the Center for Advanced Power Systems, is working with Bernadin as co-investigator for the grant. 

“We have developed a long-term, and productive relationship with our partners,” Pamidi said. “The partnerships benefit our students and support our efforts in training future workforce for the government sector and the nuclear industry. In addition to funding from the ASTERIX grant, industry partners have supported us with additional grants and paid internships for our students.”

Since the ASTERIX consortium began in 2020, the grant helped support more than 40 graduate and undergraduate FAMU-FSU College of Engineering students and six high school apprenticeship students. The high school students had opportunities to conduct and present on various research topics over the summer semester. 

The consortium is committed to providing resources to minority-serving institutions and outreach opportunities for K-12 in communities.

“We have had several success stories in the first few years,” Bernadin said. “Bringing industry and academia together will bring more ideas and support sustainable solutions that will allow diversity to flourish.”


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