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WVU Tech engineering and psychology departments win state grants

Dr. Jemma Cook and Dr. Winnie Fu headshots are pictured side by side
Dr. Jemma Cook, assistant professor of psychology and Dr. Winnie Fu, assistant professor of mechanical engineering

West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU Tech) has won two grants through the Science, Technology and Research (STaR) division of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC). The mechanical engineering and the psychology departments won Innovation and Instrumentation grants, respectfully, with only six such grants awarded across the state.

Dr. Winnie Fu, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, was awarded one of only two Innovation Grants awarded in West Virginia for $39,600. The funds will be used to purchase an industrial collaborative robot or COBOT, that will better prepare students to enter the workforce, especially related to manufacturing positions. The COBOT is designed to sense human interaction and can accommodate accordingly. The COBOT is designed to interact with people in tight spaces and help with health, safety and efficiency issues in the workplace.

“Robotics and automation in large-scale industrial manufacturing is one of the highly in-demand disciplines in electrical and mechanical engineering,” says Dr. Charan Litchfield, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and co-investigator of this grant.

“This Innovation Grant will allow students to experience real-world equipment important to automation and industrial manufacturing,” says Litchfield.

“It will help bridge a gap in our curriculum,” explains Fu.

“The skills students obtain from our curriculum will find a natural practical application in this project. The project will also enable multi-disciplinary teams to collaborate and innovate their course curricula,” continues Litchfield.

Dr. Jemma Cook, assistant professor of psychology, was awarded $16,008 for her Instrumentation Grant proposal for establishing an animal model of drug self-administration to enhance research projects related to substance abuse and use in the rodent laboratory on campus. The tools will help extend hands-on student laboratory experiences. Only four Instrumentation Grants were awarded across college campuses in the state.

“We expect to heavily involve students in research projects using these instruments, including projects culminating in conference presentations and academic publications,” says Dr. Crosby Hipes, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and co-investigator in the grant.

“Budgets are tight, especially at small campuses such as WVU Tech, and funding through grants such as this is sometimes the only way to acquire these innovative research tools,” explained Hipes.

For more information on WVU Tech and any of the programs, including the psychology and mechanical engineering departments, visit