ARM Institute Receives Funding from Office of Naval Research for Workforce Education

ARM Institute Receives Funding from Office of Naval Research for Workforce Education

Led by NextFlex®, the funding will fuel eight different manufacturing and engineering focused learning programs for Industry 4.0 technologies.

May 20, 2020 – The Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute, through a partnership with its fellow Manufacturing USA® Institutes and led by Nextflex®, has been awarded funding from the Office of Naval Research for new manufacturing workforce education activities. The ARM Institute has partnered with Pittsburgh-based members, New Century Careers and BOTs IQ to catalyze activities related to robotics education. The impact of robotics on the workforce has been a source of controversy, but with the right training and preparation, robotics can offer new, safer, and more engaging careers for our nation’s workforce while making the national manufacturing sector more competitive.

NextFlex®, America’s Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE) Manufacturing Institute, announced the expansion of its manufacturing workforce education activities with $5 million in funding from the Office of Naval Research (ONR). Through the Manufacturing Engineering Education Program (MEEP), the $5 million will support the development of eight new education programs modeled on NextFlex’s award-winning, FHE-focused FlexFactor® program. Each new program will focus on a different technology area, such as advanced robotics, biopharmaceuticals, and tissue biofabrication. Most programs will target K-12 students, with one program focused on 4-year university students.

“This collaboration epitomizes the strength of the Manufacturing USA® Institutes,” notes Lisa Masciantonio, Chief Workforce Officer at the ARM Institute. “Each institute focuses on a different technical aspect of Industry 4.0. By leveraging the expertise of each institute, we are taking a proactive and comprehensive approach to preparing the workforce for the coming technology advancements occurring in the to the manufacturing industry.”

“Our country is in a time of uncertainty, where everyone is wondering what comes next, both from a workforce and education perspective,” explains NextFlex’s Executive Director, Dr. Malcolm Thompson. “This collaboration between organizations is focusing on building what comes next, allowing us to motivate young minds across the country to pursue STEM-based careers by familiarizing them with cutting-edge advanced manufacturing technologies and showing them education pathways to these industries.”

NextFlex will lead the development of these new programs, in partnership the ARM Institute and seven other non-profit organizations who will co-create and eventually run the programs autonomously. The programs will address the interest and awareness gaps plaguing the STEM sector pipeline in multiple regions of the country. The nine organizations slated to receive funding from the MEEP Grant, along with their technology focus and pilot locations, are:

  • ARM, Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing, Pittsburgh, PA
  • America Makes, Additive Manufacturing, Youngstown, OH
  • BioFabUSA, Tissue Biofabrication, Manchester, NH
  • IACMI, Advanced Composites, Knoxville, TN
  • MxD, Digital Manufacturing and Cybersecurity, Chicago, IL
  • NextFlex, FHE, San Jose, CA
  • NIIMBL, Biopharmaceuticals, Newark, DE
  • RAPID, Modular Chemical Process Intensification, New York, NY
  • Spark Photonics Foundation (the education and workforce development arm of AIM Photonics), Photonics, Waltham, MA

The program material creation, which will bring in education partners and industry participants, is slated to begin later in 2020, with all participants monitoring the ongoing impact of COVID-19 to determine the best time to launch the in-school element.

For more information about NextFlex and the FlexFactor program, please visit

The above-described efforts to be undertaken are sponsored by the Department of the Navy, Office of Naval Research under ONR award number N00014-20-1-2250. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Naval Research.


The Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute catalyzes robotics and workforce solutions to strengthen the US industrial base. Structured as a public-private partnership, ARM is funded by the Department of Defense and works with its 240+ member organizations that span government, industry, and academia to secure our nation’s future. The ARM Institute is part of the Manufacturing USA® network. Learn more at

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