Chip shortage results in temporary cards for first-years

The global semiconductor shortage has revealed just how essential the tiny microchips are — they’re hidden in your car, your laptop, your electric toothbrush, and even in your wallet. In fact, behind that sometimes unfortunate photo from freshman year, each Notre Dame student ID contains a microchip.

This semester, first-years and incoming grad students were given temporary IDs, instead of the personalized “Irish 1 Card” because of supply chain issues related to the chip shortage.

According to Michael Hovestol, the program director for the Campus Card Office, personalized student IDs are usually printed on blank cards after incoming students submit their photos.

 This year, the shipment of blank cards did not arrive until after move-in, so the card office borrowed temporary IDs that Residence Life reserves for summer use.

Around six years ago, the Card Office switched from using student IDs with a magnetic stripe to the contactless “Irish 1 Card.” Each Irish 1 Card contains a microchip surrounded by a copper antennae. Before the Card Office prints the student photo and information, Hovestol explained, the blank cards have a picture of the dome and gold-foiled letters reading “University of Notre Dame.”

Residence Life has a temporary ID available for each bed in the residence halls, and those cards took on a new importance this school year.

“Since we had literally no cards that we could provide students, we asked ResLife to borrow those cards,” Hovestol said. 

The temporary cards work at all contactless stations, such as entry into dining halls or dorms. However, the magnetic stripe on the back of the card does not work, so temporary IDs cannot be used at Grubhub kiosks or vending machines.

Tim Sloan, a first-year in O’Neill Family Hall, said he had difficulty ordering food at the kiosks.

“I tried to get food at some place in the LaFortune center, and [the temporary card] just wouldn’t work,” Sloan said. “I was with three other freshmen, and none of theirs did either, so we just had to use a regular debit card.”

The semiconductor shortage began in the second quarter of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the beginning of the pandemic, the demand for chips increased drastically, as more people were investing in work-from-home technology and other devices. Automakers began to compete for the limited chip supply, causing a rise in car prices and manufacturing delays.

The shortage caused significant delays in shipments from the Card Office’s manufacturer, ColorID, Hovestol said.

“We ordered [the cards], I think a month or a month and a half before to prevent this, but the delays got worse,” he added.

Last year, the cards were similarly delayed, but they arrived a week before move in. As the shortage is expected to continue into 2023, the Card Office is planning to order the student IDs by January at the latest, Hovestol explained.

Hovestol said that students are no longer receiving any temporary IDs. The Card Office received a shipment of 2,000 cards Aug. 19 and an additional 4,000 cards Aug. 29. 

“In a normal August, we print about 4,500 cards. And so we’re obviously over that threshold where we can cover this whole month and then into the next couple of months as well,” Hovestol said.

Students can now go to Duncan Student Center to pick up their permanent IDs and get their picture retaken, if they wish.

Natalie Sekerak, a first-year in Welsh Family Hall, said it was “a process” to pick up her permanent ID.

“They only gave us specific hours we could come, and they were all during school hours,” Sekerak said. “It was a little difficult to schedule around my classes.”

Sekerak waited in a 30-minute line before receiving her permanent ID.

“When I finally got through the line, it was a pretty quick process,” she said. “I was surprised how fast they printed it.”

As of Tuesday, Aug. 30, less than 500 first-year students did not have a permanent ID, according to Hovestol. This means about 75% of first-years have received their permanent IDs. The Campus Card Office began to reach out to graduate students Wednesday. 

The Campus Card office will be stationed in Duncan Student Center W102B until Sept. 9 for students who still need to pick up their permanent ID.

Katie Muchnick

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Notre Dame partnership aims to address chip shortage

As the global semiconductor shortage continues to plague key industries, companies, governments and other organizations are searching for ways to alleviate it. 

In early August, President Joe Biden signed into law the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, with the hope of boosting domestic semiconductor production. In January, Intel announced plans for two new semiconductor factories in Ohio. And earlier this month, Notre Dame partnered with 11 midwestern universities to help bolster semiconductor research and production in the U.S.

Semiconductors, commonly referred to as chips, are most commonly silicon pieces and essential components of items ranging from smartphones and cars to computers and medical diagnostic equipment, according to electrical engineering professor Alan Seabaugh.

“It’s just everywhere you turn,” Seabaugh said.

After Intel announced its plans to build a chip plant in Ohio, Ohio State University organized a meeting with the 12 universities that now form the partnership, Seabaugh said. 

Universities included in the partnership include the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Purdue University and the University of Cincinnati. 

Seabaugh said the partnership will allow for collaboration on research and provide research and employment opportunities to students in the region, as the universities hope to address the national issue.

“When we run research groups for various topics, we might collaborate with people from all over the country, but why not collaborate more in the region?” Seabaugh said.

The U.S. accounts for just 12% of the chips produced in the world; China and Taiwan make up a large majority of the remainder.

“It’s really kind of tragic that we’ve let [U.S. chip production] get that low, because you can see from a point-of-view of keeping supply chains open, something can happen somewhere in the world and then, all of the sudden, people can’t sell their cars or complete some product that they have,” Seabaugh said.

While Seabaugh expressed alarm at the low percentage of chips produced in the U.S., business analytics professor and supply chain expert Kaitlin Wowak said there are some benefits to outsourcing a large swath of chips.

Wowak said it is unrealistic to expect the U.S. to catch up to Taiwan and China in chip production because of their massive manufacturing capacity. Additionally, she said a diverse supply base helps diversify risk in the event of occurrences, such as natural disasters, that can hinder production.

At the beginning of the pandemic, companies stopped ordering chips because of the uncertainty of their demand, Wowak said. In turn, suppliers cut their chip production. However, the pandemic increased demand for products such as laptops because of the increased use of apps like Zoom for meetings, which brought the demand for chips back up.

For this reason, manufacturers experienced a backlog of their products because they had to place orders for the chips. This backlog has continued and does not appear to have an end in sight, Wowak said.

“People would like to think that the chip shortage is hopefully going to be over soon,” Wowak said. “I’ve seen projections that it could go into 2023-2024, depending on the demand for certain items.”

Wowak said the chip shortage is obviously reflected in the car industry, which is experiencing soaring prices.

With the partnership among the universities, Seabaugh said he hopes the U.S, and especially the Midwest, can mobilize around increasing domestic production of semiconductors and begin to remedy the shortage. He expects the new Intel plant in Ohio to eventually result in the creation of around 40,000 jobs as semiconductor companies look to expand to the Midwest.

“We can really talk about having this become sort of the Silicon Valley in the ‘Silicon Heartland,’” Seabaugh said. “This is the new, new space for students to really consider having a career and raising a family.”

Seabaugh said the semiconductor industry is not only important and exciting, but also presents opportunities for students and employees in all sorts of fields.

“It’s not just electrical engineers, and not just computer scientists, but mechanical engineers, chemical engineers, physicists, chemists,” he said. “All these people qualify, but they don’t probably know about this kind of career and what it would be like to work in this space.”

Seabaugh teaches a course called “Integrated Circuit Fabrication,” in which students build a small silicon chip which plays the University fight song. The course was recently opened up to students outside of the electrical engineering program, with the goal of exposing as many students as possible to careers in the industry.

“We want to cooperate to support this onshoring of semiconductor manufacturing, which is a problem needing a solution,” he said.

Ryan Peters

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