Stories @ TCAT

Reprint of article written by John Thompson originally published in Johnson City Press on Nov. 7, 2019, reprinted with permission of Johnson City Press.

Two major new initiatives at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Elizabethton just received the funds needed to complete the projects, thanks to a $1 million grant.

The Advanced Manufacturing Program that the school has been working to create should be completed with a portion of the grant, according to Danny O’Quinn, vice president of TCAT-Elizabethton.

O”Quinn said the rest of the grant will go to complete the setup of the first two STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) labs at high schools in the area.

The $1 million grant to TCAT-Elizabethton was part of a $25 million GIVE Grant, which stands for Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education program. Gov. Bill Lee announced the awarding of the grants on Thursday morning. A news release issued with the announcement said the GIVE program prioritizes learning opportunities in rural counties and enhances career and technical education statewide. The program prioritized economically distressed and at-risk counties. Earlier this year, the General Assembly approved $25 million in the governor’s budget for the program.

The awards went to programs throughout the state, with the highest award to any program being $1 million. O’Quinn said the TCAT-Elizabethton grant going to the Advanced Manufacturing Program will be used to purchase the machinery and technology used in the most modern manufacturers. These include smart machinery and robotics.

“We started this a year ago and we are half complete. This grant will allow us to complete it,” O’Quinn said. The Advanced Manufacturing Program will allow students to be familiar with the latest equipment used in manufacturing.

The rest of the $1 million grant is going to STEM labs built by TCAT-Elizabethton inside area high schools. The first labs will be built at Elizabethton High School and Unicoi County High School.

O’Quinn said much of the equipment for the Elizabethton STEM lab is already stored at the school. He said much of the lab is designed according to the Factory 4.0 model designed by the German company FESTO.

O’Quinn said the labs will enable high school students to take TCAT-Elizabethton courses in their own school. Students taking courses in the lab would receive dual credit and would be able to complete as many as six of the 15 modules for completion of a TCAT course. Students coming from a school with such a lab would only have take nine more modules before they graduate and move on to a job.