The Minnesota State Transportation Center of Excellence was awarded a National Science Foundation Project grant on April 15, 2021 called ISA-TOPE, which stands for Innovative, Semi-Autonomous Trucks and Off-highway Powered Equipment.

Autonomous technology saves lives, but this innovative technology requires operators and technicians that are properly trained in the use, maintenance, diagnosis, and repair of these technologies. The Minnesota State Transportation Center of Excellence (TCOE) has been awarded an NSF grant to help address this need for qualified technicians. This will be accomplished through three areas:


Working with 33 college campuses in Minnesota, along with numerous industry allies, we will provide outreach specific to ADAS technology to the high schools in Minnesota. These activities, involving local industry employees, will inspire students by showcasing career opportunities and the autonomous technologies used in transportation;

Professional Development and Curriculum

This grant seeks to increase teacher knowledge and skills related to ADAS, Autonomous Technology, and advanced vehicle technology in the heavy truck/diesel/ equipment sector, along with providing usable curriculum for their classrooms;

Provide Advanced Technology

Acquire high-tech, hands- on, real-world resources for student learning and outreach activities. Each High School or College will utilize these resources in their classrooms, labs, and for outreach for an estimated 1-2 weeks. The equipment will then rotate to the next college campus, through TCOE coordination.

As we initiate this process, we will continue to have multiple dialogues with diesel instructors and OEM distributors to determine the best type of technology to acquire that will bring the most value to the schools utilizing the technology. We will utilize the annual MTTIA conference as our primary location for professional development training. The TCOE will also use the acquired ISA-TOPE technology to develop multiple outreach videos that can be utilized in various outreach activities throughout the state or beyond. The videos are reusable and can provide a consistent message to students about the level of technology in the diesel, truck, or equipment technician and truck driver programs offered at Minnesota State Colleges. Curriculum will also be developed for diesel technician and truck driver training related to autonomous technology. This curriculum will be utilized at schools, in conjunction with the acquired technology, to provide students with usable technology in real-world applications. The TCOE will also collaborate with various industry leading associations (i.e. ASE or AED) and aid in the development of national, industry-recognized, industry-influenced, standards that can lead to certifications for both technicians and students.

To contact the TCOE or the Principle Investigators (PI) on this project, please call or e-mail:

Carl Borleis
Principle Investigator
[email protected]

Chris Hadfield, Ed.M.
Co-Principle Investigator
[email protected]

Shannon Mohn
Co-Principle Investigator
[email protected]

This material is based in part upon work supported by the National Science Foundation (DUE 2054997). 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 National Science Foundation.