Fullerton College Receives First National Science Foundation Grant for LiDAR Technician Training

Fullerton College was awarded a $345,000 Advanced Technological Education (ATE) grant from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. government’s independent science agency.

The three-year grant (which is the first of its type for the college) will fund the college’s Light Detection and Ranging Technology Instruction for Future Technician Education and Development (LIFTED), which will test Fullerton College faculty members’ ideas to improve technician education.  

The LIFTED program will allow technicians to learn to acquire and process LiDAR data from drone and other autonomous systems for use in a variety of disciplines like architecture, criminal justice, construction, etc., according to Principal Investigator Jay Seidel, drone technology professor at Fullerton College. As principal investigator, Seidel will lead the new initiative with Architecture Professor Tommy Reyes and in partnership with the GeoTech Center, the National Center for Autonomous Technology, Southern California Edison, and the Orange County Workforce Development Board. 

“This project compliments NCAT’s work in crafting, adapting, and implementing educational resources to 7-12 educators, and two-year college faculty in numerous disciplines to meet workforce demands while increasing the quality and diversity of the highly skilled technical workforce,” said Jonathan Beck, executive director of the National Center for Autonomous Technology.

Seidel and Reyes began preparing the grant proposal in 2022 with mentoring and technical support from Mentor-Connect, which provides mentoring and technical resources to help two-year college faculty write competitive grant proposals. Mentor-Connect is an ATE project led by the South Carolina Advanced Technological Education Center at Florence-Darlington Technical College in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges.

“It has been a lot of work to develop this program and to be awarded this grant,” Seidel said. “We are grateful for the help from Mentor-Connect for its assistance in helping us prepare for the proposal and we are looking forward to developing this training program that will allow students to remain on the forefront of this emerging technology.”

The ATE program focuses on the education of technicians who work in high-tech fields that drive the nation’s economy. Because two-year community and technical colleges are the leading sources of technician education in the United States, faculty from these higher education institutions have had leadership roles in most ATE projects since the program began in 1993.