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NextFlex News – August 2022

Dear NextFlex supporters,

On August 2, 287 NextFlex members and government partners gathered, in-person and virtually, for Innovation Days 2022: two days of presentations, demonstrations, and a celebration of results of the past year. This year’s event featured a keynote presentation by Ms. Barbara McQuiston, Deputy Chief Technology Officer, Science and Technology (DCTO(S&T)) for the Department of Defense.

Dr. Malcolm Thompson opens Innovation Days and recognizes San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo for his support of NextFlex.

Ms. McQuiston spoke about the importance of the MII network that supports DoD Critical Technology Areas, the role of the institutes in developing next generation technology, growing the national defense industrial base and manufacturing in the U.S. An amazing exhibit hall of FHE-enabled demonstrators provided by 46 members and government partners provided the opportunity to share technology learning and the chance to meet potential collaboration partners. Supported by an outstanding member-driven Advisory Committee, this year’s Innovation Days elevated the conversation about results collectively achieved in manufacturing and workforce development as well as highlighted the strategic importance of FHE and the member community to the Department of Defense, both for commercial applications and national security.

NextFlex leaders (L to R) Dr. Janos Veres, Director of Engineering, Dr. Art Wall, Director of Fab Operations, Dr. Scott Miller, Director of Technology, and Emily McGrath, Director of Workforce Development, participate in a Q&A session moderated by Dr. Giorgio Bazzan, AFRL and NextFlex Government CTO.

As NextFlex Executive Director, I had the distinct pleasure of welcoming attendees to Innovation Days and providing technical highlights of the past year, including extensive progress on yield and reliability work, completion of five FHE microcontroller projects, achievement of multiple prototype projects completed with >90% yield, creation of a new post-processing lab facility, completion of 18 Project Call projects, and selection of nine new PC 7.0 projects. I also was able to announce a new NextFlex Node in Missouri which joins New York and Massachusetts as hubs of FHE manufacturing capability. To complete the opening session, I had the honor of presenting San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo with the 2022 NextFlex Change Maker Award in recognition of the city’s support of NextFlex since its founding in 2015. Later in the program, our NextFlex Directors presented detailed updates on technology projects and roadmapping results, engineering and fab outcomes and the impact that NextFlex workforce development and education programs are having around the country.

Barbara McQuiston of DoD receives a tour of the Innovation Days exhibits from Dr. Scott Miler, NextFlex Director of Technology. Shown is the PC 4.9 demonstrator, an FHE-enabled drone.

The NextFlex Engineering team hosted its own exhibit and were happy to share the results of recent prototype projects as well as the imaginative demonstrators created by the Engineers and summer interns who were given an FHE microcontroller, some components, and the challenge to craft demonstrators for display. We were amazed by their ideas and results. One standout demonstrator was created by NextFlex Engineering Manager Robert McManus who developed a wireless display module controlled by a NextFlex FHE microcontroller.

FHE demonstrator showed a display integrated with a NextFlex FHE microcontroller.

The 2.13” two-color module was connected via Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI) to the nRF52840 based FHE circuit, shown at left. A Twitter feed was streamed to the device via Bluetooth, showing live messages posted by visitors with the #InnovationDays2022 hashtag. This demo is another illustration of the versatility of the A21 microcontroller platform. The goal was to show use of such flexible display modules as part of a wearable nametag with wireless, ultrawideband authentication. The visual display can add to security using dynamic, time-controlled content.

In another highlight of the event, Tom Pyke, Chief of Staff for Congressman Ro Khanna, recognized two FlexFactor® teachers for leadership in STEM education: Dan Coonce of Westmont High School in Campbell, CA, and Jim Burnham of MetroEd in Milpitas, CA.

(L to R) FlexFactor Program Managers Katy Escobar and Eliana Schoenberg; Jim Burnham, MetroEd; Tom Pyke, Chief of Staff for Congressman Ro Khanna; Dr. Malcolm Thompson, NextFlex; Dan Coonce, Westmont HS, and Courtney Power, Deputy Director of WorkForce Development for NextFlex.

The teachers received certificates signed by Congressman Khanna. Other FlexFactor teachers who were recognized but were not in attendance were Barbara Schremp, Branham High School and Gina Bui-Le, Leigh High School. In addition, two FlexFactor student teams that were recognized for outstanding creativity, detailed research, and teamwork were “4Sight” from MetroEd High School and “SafetyClasp” from Santa Teresa High School.

The two-day event continued with a dynamic “Fireside Chat” on the importance of STEM education and workforce development, updates on PC 6.0 projects, and breakout sessions for NextFlex Technical Working Group members to plan updates to NextFlex FHE Manufacturing Roadmaps. The in-person attendees were delighted to be at NextFlex and, just as importantly, with each other. COVID has challenged us all in many ways, so the simple act of enjoying lunch with colleagues outside in the warm California sunshine felt to many like a gift. All in all, we learned that the NextFlex member community continues to thrive and move forward in significant and productive ways, particularly as FHE-enabled products start to make their way to volume production and commercial availability.

We look forward to more in-person meetings in the future!

Malcolm J. Thompson, Ph.D.
NextFlex Executive Director