PULLMAN & VANCOUVER, Wash. — The contact began to explore mutual research interests of an engineering professor with his former students now working in a leading West Coast semiconductor equipment manufacturing company.
The result this month was delivery of $467,000 of industrial electronic engineering equipment to Washington State University’s Pullman and Vancouver campuses by Watkins-Johnson Company in Scotts Valley, Calif. Robots, fluid flowmeters, ultrasound generators, transformers and numerous other electronic development tools used in the manufacture of semiconductor systems now are in use by students preparing to become high-tech problem solvers of tomorrow.
Pat Pedrow, associate professor of electrical engineering at WSU in Pullman, had contacted his former students Abutaher Nasiruddin and Kumud Goyal, both of whom had earned engineering graduate degrees from WSU in the `90s. He was searching for industrial research partners in “plasma-assisted” materials processing, in which a reactor containing gas with charged particles actually grows the semiconducting film used for chips or other integrated circuits. Such high-density plasma chemical-vapor deposition systems achieve superior-performing semiconductors used in today’s rapidly expanding microelectronic markets, such as computers, cellular phones, and other electronic devices.
Each year, Watkins-Johnson chooses a university to whom it gives its surplus equipment. Due, in part, to Pedrow’s recent visitation and technical seminar to company employees, WSU became the recipient. Subsequent contacts by WSU Vancouver engineering program coordinator Jack Swearengen also helped further the university-industry link.
“For WSU Vancouver, the gift of $179,000-worth of equipment is of significant help in starting our degree program in manufacturing engineering,” said Swearengen. The WSU Pullman portion valued at $288,000, includes manifolds, valves, controllers and safety apparatus. Among other uses, it will help students learn how to use hot ionized gases to fabricate microelectronic circuits in the new plasma lab.
“The boon to our students is that they will be able to learn on state-of-the-art equipment that makes them more marketable to industry after graduation,” says Pedrow.
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Pat Pedrow may be reached at 509-335-1749, pedrow@eecs.wsu.edu; Jack Swearengen is at 360-546-9636, swearjc@vancouver.wsu.edu.