WHITTIER – Rio Hondo College will receive $200,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create and evaluate work-based training tools for alternative-fuels automotive technology students as a way of diversifying and strengthening the auto industry’s workforce.

“We are honored to be the first hydrogen-fuel technology grant awardee in the nation,” Rio Hondo College Superintendent/President Teresa Dreyfuss said. “Our work in this area can serve as a model for other schools.”

The three-year grant specifies training in high-performance electronics, computer management and advanced diagnostic skills within the College’s fledgling Associate of Science degree in Alternative Fuels/Second Degree Battery/Electric/Hybrid/Fuel Cell Technology.

Directed by Professor John Frala and Automotive Program Director Steve C. Tomory, the effort is expected to build on the expertise and partnerships Rio Hondo College has developed with area schools, companies, Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs), the state Employment Development Department, the Governor’s Green Team and the California Energy Commission.

It also instructs the College to partner with the NSF’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Center in Advanced Automotive Technology, other ATE centers that focus on transportation or energy, and regional and local employers.

The grant period runs from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2018.

Frala, who specializes in alternative fuels, is a member of the state’s Green Team, an advisory group dedicated to creating a series of hydrogen refueling stations known as the California Hydrogen Highway. He launched the College’s alternative fuels Associate of Science degree for Transfer (AS-T) in fall 2014.

Rio Hondo’s Automotive Technology Program also was selected this month to offer one of the state’s first four-year degrees offered by a community college. Tomory is expected to serve as faculty adviser to the Bachelor of Science program.