national science foundation advanced technological education

The National Center for Autonomous Technologies (NCAT) was formulated through the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (NSF ATE) program. The NSF ATE program has been funding innovation at two-year colleges for over 25 years focusing on the education of technicians for the high-technology fields that drive our nation’s economy. The ATE program supports curriculum development; professional development of college faculty and secondary school teachers; career pathways to two-year colleges from secondary schools and from two-year colleges to four-year institutions; and other activities. 

Fields of technology supported by the ATE program include, but are not limited to, advanced manufacturing technologies, agricultural bio-technologies, energy and environmental technologies, engineering technologies, information technologies, micro- and nano-technologies, security technologies, and learning, evaluation, and research. 

As the first national ATE center in autonomous technologies, NCAT is crafting, adapting, and implementing educational resources to support K-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. 

What is the ATE Program?
Introduction to ATE
With an emphasis on two-year institutions of Higher Education (IHEs), the Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program focuses on education of technicians for the high-technology fields that drive our nation's economy. The program involves partnerships between academic institutions (grades 7-12, IHEs) and industry to promote improvement in the education of science and engineering technicians at the undergraduate and secondary institutions levels. The ATE program supports curriculum development; professional development of college faculty and secondary school teachers; career pathways; and other activities. The program invites research proposals that advance the knowledge base related to technician education. It is expected that projects will be faculty driven and that courses and programs credit bearing, although materials developed may also be used for incumbent worker education.

The ATE program encourages proposals from Minority Serving Institutions and other institutions that support the recruitment, retention, and completion (certificate, degree, program) of students underrepresented in STEM in technician education programs that award associate degrees. NSF is particularly interested in proposals from all types of Minority Serving Institutions (including Hispanic Serving Institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions) where the proportion of underrepresented students interested in advanced technology careers is growing.

Fields of technology supported by the ATE program include, but are not limited to:
  • Advanced Manufacturing Technologies
  • Agricultural and Bio-Technologies
  • Energy and Environmental Technologies
  • Engineering Technologies
  • Information Technologies
  • Micro- and Nano-Technologies
  • Security Technologies
  • Geospatial Technologies
  • Applied Research on Technician Education that informs all supported areas

    The ATE program is interested in projects addressing issues in rural technician education and projects that broaden the diversity of the entry-level technical workforce including strategies to recruit veterans into technician education programs.

    Activities may have either a national or a regional focus, but not a purely local one as results and outcomes should be applicable to a broad community. Projects must, however have an institutional impact and make a case that graduates with these skills will have a measurable impact on the local workforce. All projects must be guided by a coherent vision of technologies education--a vision that recognizes technicians as life-long learners together with the needs of the modern workplace, including employability skills, and the articulation of educational programs at different levels.

    For additional details on the ATE program, visit the NSF Introduction to ATE page.
  • What ATE Program Track Should I Take?
    ATE Program Tracks
    The ATE program supports proposals in four major tracks:
  • Projects
  • Small Projects New to ATE
  • Centers; and
  • Targeted Research on Technician Education.

    Visit to learn more about the four major ATE program tracks.

    Proposals in all tracks should demonstrate a thorough awareness of previous relevant ATE grants, research on effective technician education, and contemporary developments in the relevant field(s) of technology. Whenever feasible, projects should utilize and innovatively build upon successful educational materials, courses, curricula, strategies, and methods that have been developed through other ATE grants, as well as other exemplary resources (including those not supported by NSF) that can be adapted to technological education. Proposers should contact the Principal Investigators (PIs) of previously funded projects and centers to explore the possibilities for adapting materials, evaluating materials, receiving guidance, or collaborating in other ways, such as conducting research projects that focus on the effectiveness of technician education.
  • What Funding is Available?
    Award Information
    Anticipated number, size, and duration of new awards:

    Approximately 25-30 new awards, ranging from $75,000 to $200,000 per year and having a duration of up to three years (maximum budget not to exceed $600,000, including ATE-CN).

    Adaptation and Implementation - approximately 10-15 awards each totaling $300,000 to $400,000 typically spread over two to three years.

    Instrumentation Acquisition - approximately four awards each totaling $400,000 to $500,000 typically spread over two to three years.

    Small Projects for Institutions New to the ATE Program
    Approximately 12-20 awards for up to $300,000 (each) typically spread over three years. It is expected that the budget request will match the scope of the project.

    Funding will be $7.5 million spread over five years, with the possibility of a competitive renewal for $7.5 million over an additional five years. It is expected that 1-3 awards may be made each year.

    Resource Centers Funding will be $1.65 million spread over three years with the possibility of a competitive renewal for an additional three years. It is expected that one to two awards may be made each year. Planning Grants for Centers: one to two new awards for up to $70,000 (each) to develop well-formulated plans for a future center (see Section V.A ["Proposal Preparation"] for additional information).

    Targeted Research on Technician Education:
    Up to 5 new awards, ranging from $150,000 total for up to two years to $800,000 total for up to three years.
    Am I Eligible?
    Who May Submit Proposals
    NSF welcomes proposals on behalf of all qualified scientists, engineers and educators. The Foundation strongly encourages women, minorities and persons with disabilities to participate fully in its programs. In accordance with Federal statues, regulations and NSF policies, no person on grounds of race, color, age, sex, national origin or disability shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under, any program or activity receiving financial assistance from NSF, although some programs may have special requirements that limit eligibility.

    Scientists, engineers and educators usually initiate proposals that are officially submitted by their employing organization. Before formal submission, the proposal may be discussed with appropriate NSF program staff.

    Who May Serve as PI: There are no restrictions or limits.
    Limit on Number of Proposals per Organization: There are no restrictions or limits.
    Limit on Number of Proposals per PI or Co-PI: There are no restrictions or limits.

    For more information, visit Section I.E of the NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide.
    How do I Submit my Proposal?
    Proposal Preparation Instructions
    Proposers may opt to submit proposals via FastLane,, or

    For more information and general guidelines to follow, download the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG).

    Project Data Form: The information on this form is used to direct the proposal to appropriate reviewers and to determine the characteristics of NSF-supported projects.

    Project Summary:The Project Summary should clearly indicate the disciplinary focus of the proposed project, the kinds of activities to be undertaken, and the primary audience to be affected by those activities.

    Project Description: The length of the Project Description is limited to 15 pages and must explain the project's motivating rationale, goals, objectives, deliverables, and activities; the timetable; the management plan; the roles and responsibilities of the PI, co-PI(s), and other senior personnel; the plan for sustainability after the period of NSF funding; the evaluation plan; and the dissemination plan.

    References Cited: A References Cited section must be included in the proposal. Literature cited should specifically relate to the proposed project, and the Project Description should make clear how each reference has played a role in the motivation for or design of the project.

    Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources: Proposers should include an aggregated description of the internal and external resources (both physical and personnel) that the organization and its collaborators will provide to the project, should it be funded.

    Special Information and Supplementary Documentation:Refer to the PAPPG for guidance. In additional to following the PAPPG, the ATE program requires:
  • A listing of all the known people (aside from senior personnel, participants, and students) who will receive compensation from the project and their affiliation.
  • Letters of Collaboration that document what is being committed that is of significance to the project.
  • A Biographical Sketch of the external evaluator (if that person is named in the project description.
  • Center submissions only; a letter from the president or chief academic officer of the host institution documenting the institution's commitment to the center.

    Evaluation: All ATE-funded work must be evaluated, with the exception of planning grants for centers. Project descriptions must include a subsection titled "Evaluation Plan" that includes the following information:
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