Savannah Congressman Tours Georgia Tech’s Advanced Manufacturing Pilot Facility

Visit includes overview of Georgia AIM project

When U.S. Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter from Georgia’s 1st District visited Atlanta recently, one of his top priorities was meeting with the experts at Georgia Tech’s 20,000-square-foot Advanced Manufacturing Pilot Facility (AMPF).

Carter was recently named the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s chair of the Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials Subcommittee, a group that concerns itself primarily with contamination of soil, air, noise, and water, as well as emergency environmental response, whether physical or cybersecurity.

Because AMPF’s focus dovetails with subcommittee interests, the facility was a fitting stop for Carter, who was welcomed for an afternoon tour and series of live demonstrations. Programs within Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute — specifically the Georgia Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing (Georgia AIM) and Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) — were well represented.

“Innovation is extremely important,” Carter said during his April 1 visit. “In order to handle some of our problems, we’ve got to have adaptation, mitigation, and innovation. I’ve always said that the greatest innovators, the greatest scientists in the world, are right here in the United States. I’m so proud of Georgia Tech and what they do for our state and for our nation.”

Three people in a room
Michael Barker (right), GaMEP project manager for cybersecurity, strategy, and leadership development, speaks as U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter (left) and Andrew Krejci (center), another GaMEP project manager, listen. (PHOTO: Chris Ruggiero)

Carter’s AMPF visit began with an introduction by Tom Kurfess, executive director of the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute; Steven Ferguson, principal research scientist and managing director at Georgia AIM; research engineer Kyle Saleeby; and Donna Ennis, the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s director of community engagement and program development, and co-director of Georgia AIM.

Ennis provided an overview of Georgia AIM, while Ferguson spoke on the Manufacturing 4.0 Consortium and Kurfess detailed the AMPF origin story, before introducing four live demonstrations.

The first of these featured Chuck Easley, Professor of the Practice in the Scheller College of Business, who elaborated on supply chain issues. Afterward Alan Burl of EPICS: Enhanced Preparation for Intelligent Cybermanufacturing Systems and mechanical engineer Melissa Foley led a brief information session on hybrid turbine blade repair.

Finally, GaMEP project manager Michael Barker expounded on GaMEP’s cybersecurity services, and Deryk Stoops of Central Georgia Technical College detailed the Georgia AIM-sponsored AI robotics training program at the Georgia Veterans Education Career Transition Resource (VECTR) Center, which offers training and assistance to those making the transition from military to civilian life.

The topic of artificial intelligence, in all its subtlety and nuance, was of particular interest to Carter.

“AI is the buzz in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “Whether it be healthcare, energy [or] science, we on the Energy and Commerce Committee look at it from a sense [that there’s] a very delicate balance, and we understand the responsibility. But we want to try to benefit from this as much as we can.”

He continued: “I heard something today I haven’t heard before, and that is instead of calling it artificial intelligence, we refer to it as ‘augmented intelligence.’ I think that’s a great term, and certainly something I’m going to take back to Washington with me.”

Said Ennis, “It was a pleasure to host Rep. Carter for a firsthand look at AMPF, which is uniquely positioned to offer businesses the opportunity to collaborate with Georgia Tech researchers and students and to hear about Georgia AIM.”

She added, “At Georgia AIM, we’re committed to making the state a leader in artificial intelligence-assisted manufacturing, and we’re grateful for Congressman Carter’s interest and support of our efforts.”

GaMEP and Partners Show West Georgia Students Career Possibilities in Manufacturing

LAGRANGE, Ga. — Manufacturing is one of the most important sectors in Georgia’s economy.

The industry generated $64.9 billion in total output in 2021, up 36% from $47.5 billion in 2011, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. The industry employs 402,000 with average annual compensation $75,511.

Despite growth, students in middle and high school still see manufacturing as dull and dingy and reminiscent of old textile mills plants.

It’s why the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) and the Georgia Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing (Georgia AIM) at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, partnered with several organizations in LaGrange to show students what modern manufacturing is all about.

The event, which also included the Development Authority of LaGrange, the Georgia Association of Manufacturers, and the West Georgia Technical College as partners, was tied to October 6 — National Manufacturing Day.

The goal was to showcase the wide range of opportunities in today’s advanced manufacturing, which still includes textiles and mills, but also pharmaceuticals and medicine, aerospace, food, and supplies, among other industries.

The more than 1,300 middle and high school-aged students who attended were able to meet with local industry partners such as Duracell and Mountville Mills, participate in hands-on demos of manufacturing technology, and learn about available training programs and educational opportunities.

They also participated in an interactive coding activity with Georgia Tech’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC), as part of the Georgia AIM initiative. That program seeks to revolutionize Georgia the industrial economy of Georgia through the development and deployment of talent and innovation in artificial intelligence (AI) for all manufacturing sectors.

GaMEP also featured Manufacturing x Digital‘s cyber box to show students how the right technology can prevent cyber attacks.

“Today’s technology is unbelievable,” said Scott Malone, president of the the Development Authority of LaGrange. “It’s really helping these kids, these young adults understand this is the future of what workforce is about. There’s lots of opportunity in manfacturing.”

Enterprise Innovation Institute’s Donna Ennis Presents at the Federal Laboratories Consortium National Conference

Federal labs, including facilities such as the Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee, MIT Lincoln Lab in Massachusetts, and the Agricultural Resource Service, have technology transfer as part of their missions. This means that, like the work of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, leaders in federal labs don’t want to do research for the sake of research. They are working to improve people’s lives, and they need businesses and organizations to help transfer their research technology into the real world to further that mission.

Donna Ennis speaks at the Federal Laboratories National Conference in Cleveland, Ohio

Enter Donna Ennis, the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s director of diversity engagement and program development, co-director of the Georgia Artificial Intelligence Manufacturing Corridor (Georgia AIM), and operator representative for the Georgia Minority Business Development Agency Business Center. It’s a lot of hats for one person to wear, and she wore them all as she spoke at the national Federal Laboratories Consortium (FLC) conference — a sort of national trade association meeting — in Cleveland, Ohio, in March.

She was asked to present on one of her areas of expertise — connecting people and businesses with the right resources.

“I discussed Georgia AIM and tech transfer,” she said. Georgia AIM, a new initiative — funded by a $65 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) — supports a statewide effort to combine artificial intelligence and manufacturing innovations with transformational workforce and outreach programs.

“Federal labs are looking for ways to collaborate with minority-owned businesses. I talked about helping us identify the labs that focus on AI technology and advanced manufacturing, so that we could work more closely with those labs for Georgia AIM, and perhaps identify businesses that could do tech transfer. Labs are really interested in technology transfer. They’re doing all this research, and they want to be able to transfer that technology out of the federal labs. We’re in conversations about it, including with some of the people I met at the session.”

Ennis sees attendance at conferences like FLC as vital to her work.

“Because I’m in a new role, I’m focused on getting national exposure for Georgia AIM and making the strategic relationships that are necessary,” she said. “Federal labs could be a huge component with regard to identifying technology that could then be transferred into Georgia companies.”

Enterprise Innovation Institute’s Donna Ennis to Co-lead GA-AIM Project

Long-time Georgia MBDA Business Center director to focus on building community engagement to support artificial intelligence in manufacturing effort

When the Georgia Institute of Technology received a $65 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration in September 2022, it was clear that changes would have to be made to support the huge grant.

Donna Ennis, co-lead of GA-AIM

One top-level change involves Donna M. Ennis, C.P.F., who led the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s Georgia Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business Center for 18 years. Now, Ennis will co-direct the Georgia Artificial Intelligence Manufacturing Technology Corridor (GA-AIM), as it implements nine projects around the state that are funded by the record-shattering grant. Aaron Stebner, associate professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Materials Science and Engineering will co-direct GA-AIM with Ennis, and Thomas R. Kurfess, executive director of the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute will serve as advisor to the project.

GA-AIM will support a statewide initiative to combine artificial intelligence and manufacturing innovations with transformational workforce and outreach. The grant will increase job and wage opportunities in distressed and rural communities and among historically underrepresented and underserved people. The focus on artificial intelligence in manufacturing is interesting to Ennis, who, as the leader of the Georgia MBDA Business Center, launched a national summit for minority-owned manufacturing enterprises in 2016.

“I thought that was an underserved and overlooked area in the minority business community,” she said about the start of the National MBE Manufacturers Summit. “It’s the only summit of its kind. Minority manufacturers and corporations come for matchmaking meetings, education, and to experience new technology.”

Her experience with minority communities, which was recently honored by the Greater South Fulton Chamber of Commerce with its Partnership Award, also dovetails well with her new position, which will focus on community engagement.

“I was focused on minority businesses for years,” Ennis said. “But we have other communities that also need to be served. I’m excited about being able to work with all of our programs within the Enterprise Innovation Institute and some that are not in our group, to figure out how we engage communities from K to gray.”

With so many different audiences and communities to engage, Ennis is charged with creating opportunities that lead to meaningful connections that will truly get folks involved and wanting to participate.

“Donna’s experience building community for the Georgia MBDA Business Center and her knowledge of manufacturing in Georgia made her the obvious choice to co-lead GA-AIM,” said David Bridges, vice president of the Enterprise Innovation Institute. “This project is an important step in the equitable development and deployment of innovation and talent in the state. I’m excited to see her moving the project forward for Georgians.”

Ennis’s first mission is to develop a community engagement model that will be used around the state from Atlanta to Augusta to Macon to Southwest Georgia to bring businesses, communities, and people on board. She anticipates a model that can then be replicated for other projects in the future. And that’s just the beginning.

“We’re very entrepreneurial at the Enterprise Innovation Institute,” Ennis said about her enthusiasm for this new project. “We like making something from nothing, and GA-AIM is the perfect opportunity for us to showcase our innovative thinking.”

Georgia-AIM Hosts Kick-Off Meeting

Georgia Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing (Georgia-AIM) recently held its initial kick-off meeting in October 2022.

Over a two-day period, more than 100 participants from across the state came to Atlanta to brainstorm, collaborate, and share best practices as the group launched its effort in earnest following its winning of a $65 million award from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) in September.

Led by the Georgia Institute of Technology and a coalition of private and public partners across the state, Georgia-AIM seeks to reimagine job opportunities and wage growth in economically distressed and underserved rural parts of Georgia by melding artificial intelligence (AI) with manufacturing, an all-too-important segment of the state’s economy. Manufacturing’s economic impact to the state exceeds $60 billion a year and it employs more than 400,000, Georgia Department of Economic Development figures show.

The goal is to develop new opportunities through outreach programs designed to create a transformational Georgia workforce that will embrace artificial intelligence not be mystified or afraid of it, said Donna Ennis, director of Diversity Engagement and Program Development in Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute and also director of its Georgia MBDA Business Center. Ennis is leading the effort along with Aaron Stebner, associate professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Materials Science and Engineering, and Thomas R. Kurfess, executive director of the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute.

A large part of the the Georgia-AIM effort, which is also focused on serving historically underrepresented and underserved groups, is getting people to understand artificial intelligence goes beyond robots and that it’s not about taking jobs away, but leveraging this ever-evolving technology to create the jobs of the future, Ennis said.

AI is already an integral part of daily life from smart homes and cars to cities and mobile devices, she said.

“We want to demystify what it is,” she said. “We want to be able to show you that there is a place for you in the artificial intelligence world, particularly as it relates to the manufacturing.”

Kick-off event attendees were able to network and get more in-depth presentations regarding the various projects under the Georgia-AIM umbrella. The projects include building automation solutions tailored for rural manufacturers, industry pilot trials, workforce training for AI manufacturing technologies, prototyping labs and studios, curriculum development for K-12 students, and an virtual reality training innovation lab.

In addition to Georgia Tech, the coalition of 12 public-private partners includes:

·       Georgia Department of Community Affairs

·       Georgia Cyber Center

·       Houston County Development Authority

·       KITTLabs

·       Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs

·       Robins Air Force Base 21st Century Partnership

·       Spelman College

·       Southwest Georgia Regional Commission

·       Technologists of Color

·       Technology Association of Georgia Education Collaborative

·       Technical College System of Georgia

·       University of Georgia