Center News /
October 7, 2022

ISA-TOPE Updates

Stay up to date by reading our monthly updates on our Innovative, Semi-Autonomous Trucks and Off-highway Powered Equipment (ISA-TOPE) National Science Foundation grant.



Additional requests for ISA-TOPE equipment continue to be received. In addition to our first request received last month, we have received two additional official requests, and multiple verbal/e-mail inquiries. One of the official requests is for the Heavy Construction Equipment Maintenance at Dakota County Technical College, and the other is for a career fair at Central Lakes College that is expected to attract approximately 3500 high school students. This month also saw our first official delivery through the “Can I Borrow That?” program.  The Heavy-Duty Truck Technician course at Dakota County Technical College, and its 28 students, borrowed the equipment for training on Autonomous Technology.  In additional news, co-PI Hadfield received his Commercial Driver’s License and can now deliver ISA-TOPE equipment if needed, and a no-cost extension request has been sent to the ISA-TOPE grant’s AOR and is awaiting validation of available budget and final AOR approval before being forwarded to NSF.


January 2023 had a couple of important events. The first was attendance by ISA-TOPE PI Borleis, co-PI Hadfield, and Forrest Brownlee to the Association of Equipment Dealerships (AED) Annual Conference held in Chicago, and the second was our first official request for the ISA-TOPE equipment through our “Can I Borrow That?” resource. The AED conference provided important professional development for attending teachers/instructors, but most importantly for the ISA-TOPE project, it allowed for some important discussion on the need for autonomous vehicle standards and task lists to be included in the updated accreditation standards due to come out in 2024. Our initial request for ISA-TOPE equipment (both the truck and track loader) will be going to the Heavy Duty Truck Technician training located at Dakota County Technical College and will be there for approximately two weeks. Also of note, in addition to these two items, is the continued training of co-PI Hadfield to obtain his Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). He has a testing date scheduled for February. 



Truck fenders were installed on the ISA-TOPE truck in order to reduce the amount of road spray and potential rock chips and paint chips caused by the lack of fenders and the open design of the ISA-TOPE trailer. The six ISA-TOPE outreach videos have been completed and are available for viewing on our webpage. Training continues for ISA-TOPE co-PIs to obtain their CDL.  This will allow for more options and opportunities to share and deliver ISA-TOPE technology to interested parties.


The ISA-TOPE equipment was at several outreach events this month, starting with the CTE Works Summit in Alexandria, MN. CTE Works is a gathering of CTE professionals mainly from Minnesota, but administrators from Wisconsin were also there. The tractor was also on display at the Transportation Careers Showcase at Dakota County Technical College with approximately 275 students attending the event which showcases careers in truck maintenance. The equipment was well received at both events with several verbal requests to borrow the equipment.  Although there have not been any official requests for the equipment through our website, we have had verbal requests for the equipment from ND, SD, MN, WI, and IL.  The travel budget for ISA-TOPE was designed to serve the needs within Minnesota.  We may have to look for funding options if we are able to accommodate the out of state requests from a capacity standpoint.


Our website,, received a major facelift this month.  A new look and additional resources have been added to the page.  Work continues on the curriculum development, but is slow due to added workload on various Co-PIs on the project.  The license plates arrived for the ISA-TOPE tractor.  A DOT inspection is needed on ISA-TOPE trailer.  An appointment was created with a local shop to complete the work, but the appointment had to be pushed into November due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the shop.


Materials submitted for the ATE Connects portion of the PI conference in October; this represents a 2-hour session where interested persons come by to ask questions and gain additional information about our NSF project. Curriculum for the operation and pre-trip of the ISA-TOPE truck was completed and accepted by review of the Advisory Council.  ISA-TOPE truck was used at multiple outreach events in conjunction with Steve Hoemberg, TCOE’s Director of Outreach. Truck Maintenance and Repair curriculum has been delayed due to a reduction of staff at the Automotive program at MState; Co-PI Mohn is working 12-hour shifts training automotive students. A lease agreement has been finalized with legal for use in our “Can I Borrow That?” program related to ISA-TOPE equipment; this includes an extensive check-in/check-out form and process.


MTTIA had lower than anticipated attendance for Monday’s track loader training, but Tuesday’s truck training had more than anticipated, but the trainer canceled the morning of the training.  Training was still conducted on what the capacities are of the vehicle, along with demonstrations of the technology in action.  Video recording/production began on the outreach videos at MTTIA and was mostly completed within two weeks following MTTIA; still waiting on industry trainers from Freightliner to conduct their portion of the video recording. Received a recall notice for the steering linkage of the ISA-TOPE tractor and had needed repairs completed on the defective item. We submitted our request for a presentation at the PI Conference in Washington DC in October.


Received pricing for the6 outreach video production; work to begin at MTTIA. Business office at DCTC seems confused on process for titling/registering ISA-TOPE truck; sent them procedures used by other colleges. Spent a day getting ready for the Mall of America’s Experience STEAM showcase in August. Work continues on the graphic design for the truck wrap; project completion is due to be complete in time for MTTIA. Still waiting for truck license plate; operating under a temporary permit.  Have reached out to DVS to check on status and review process for completion; several forms were not submitted properly, causing the additional delay. Trainers, along with their bios have been confirmed for the MTTIA training in August.


Laser and grade rod for the track loader/attachment, along with the tripod have been picked up from the CAT dealer. Had an in-person work day in Hibbing on the track loader and autonomous equipment; spent the day working on acquiring more skills related to the new technology. Received message from CAT trainers that the MTTIA training will have to be modified as there is not enough training materials to fill the time needed for scheduled classroom training; training will now include more hands-on activities.


ISA-TOPE trailer is picked up from dealer. Went to pick up ISA-TOPE Tractor, but there was a problem with the braking/wiring system and our new trailer.  Freightliner is working on a solution.


Annual report was returned from the Program Manager for editing/review; edits were made and the report was accepted. Freightliner is being delayed another 2 weeks for delivery; production delays were listed as reason. Contacted the Partnership for Transportation Innovation and Opportunity (; they focus on adoption and furthering of autonomous vehicle technology.  Flyer has been created to showcase our training for the MTTIA conference. Received training from CAT related to professional development and technical data. Dealer has taken delivery of ISA-TOPE trailer; we are scheduling pickup soon. Skid steer was delivered to Hibbing where Forrest will begin curriculum development.