NCTC awarded National Science Foundation grant to advance Unmanned Aircraft Systems and geospatial education

NCTC awarded National Science Foundation grant to advance Unmanned Aircraft Systems and geospatial education

THIEF RIVER FALLS, MN – Northland Community and Technical College (NCTC) announces that the National Science Foundation, Advanced Technological Education (ATE) division has awarded a grant (DUE #1700615) of $599,997 to NCTC in partnership with St. Cloud State University (SCSU) for the advancement of geospatial information technology (GIT) and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) education and training.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports research and education across the US in all fields of engineering and science. According to NSF website (, “Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.”

Jonathan Beck, UAS Instructor and Program Manager at NCTC, said “Amazing opportunities are created when industry and education become partners to advance a skilled workforce. The NSF ATE community fosters these partnerships, leading to engaging technical education.” He added, “NCTC and St. Cloud State University, with the support of the NSF ATE community, are proud to be leading partners in the development of models incorporating these technologies into programs across Minnesota State.”

NCTC’s awarded project is titled “Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Geospatial Information Technology Integration into Technician Education” and aligns with several of the priorities and developments in the UAS and Geospatial technology program at NCTC.

The three-year project will focus on developing new capabilities in Geographic Information Science at both institutions while creating educational pathways through dual credit enrollment and 2+2 articulation agreements for Northland students.

NCTC has the only accredited UAS maintenance program in the nation and the first two-year Associate of Arts degree program in Geospatial Intelligence Analysis.

“Receiving a grant from the NSF is significant as I’m certain that most people aren’t aware of how difficult it is to qualify for such an award,” said Dr. Dennis Bona, President, NCTC. “This prestigious honor is a tremendous statement regarding the rigor of our curriculum, our capacity to research as well as the excellent preparation and qualifications of our faculty. We will be using the funds to complete specific work requested by government agencies in the aviation sector, which will also serve to further the knowledge of the industry as a whole.”

The NSF ATE grant will be used to continue forward on ground breaking UAS innovations and create new educational opportunities for students, leading to a highly skilled GIT and UAS workforce.

NCTC along with SCSU’s School of Public Affairs, Department of Geography and Planning are hosting an Agreement Signing Ceremony to celebrate the awarded project. The ceremony will be held on September 27, 2017 at 2:00 PM in Thief River Falls at the Northland Community and Technical College Aerospace site, 13892 Airport Road, Thief River Falls, MN. Dr. Dennis Bona, president of NCTC, and Dr. Ashish Vaidya, President of SCSU, will be on hand to offer their perspectives on this unique higher education collaboration supporting an emerging and innovative technology.