Executive Director's Desk Shares Innovative Ideas & Advanced Technologies Showcased at HI-TEC Conference

For the past 6 years, the NSF ATE Centers have worked together to put on the High Impact Technology
Exchange (HI-TEC) conference. Seed funding from NSF in 2009 and a grand vision to provide a premiere professional development event focused all aspects of technician education for advanced and emerging technologies, inspired us to pursue this effort. Six years later, and nearly 600 enthusiastic attendees last month at HI-TEC 2014, says we have arrived. We have “a history,” have overcome obstacles and best of all, we feel like we have met our goal – providing an awesomely strong program at a great venue. FLATE is proud to be a part of the HI-TEC leadership.

One highlight of HI-TEC 2014 was the participation of several of the Department of Labor TAACCCT 
consortia and projects. Sharing NSF ATE's 21 years of rich experience and proven practices in building capacity, collaborations, and commitments in community college advanced technological education programs with the DOL grant projects will provide opportunities for synergistic activities and leveraged efforts.  HI-TEC 2014 provided a neutral and unthreatening platform for learning about each other, defining areas of overlap, meeting potential partners and better defining our common ground—community college workforce education, supporting our industry partners, and preparing student for the workforce. Phil Centonze, FLATE’s external evaluator, is also the evaluator of the DOL FL TRADE Consortia focused his presentation on differences and similarities of the two funding agencies reporting requirements and overall evaluation approaches, providing an opportunity for all of us to learn from each other.

Another highlights included two exceptional keynote speakers, Chad Jenkins and Hilary Mason.
Amazingly, they brought several identical messages from different points of view to our conference attendees. In short, they both emphasized the importance of “coding”, learning to code, and understanding mathematics needed to support such programming. Both speakers strongly stressed the importance of “thinking outside the box,” mixing new, old and unlikely technologies, and reminding us that the future workforce will be different beyond our wildest dreams. And, that that future is not far away. “Become computationally literate” and learn for the “next job” because they are not far off in time, stated Chad Jenkins.

Both suggested that jobs of tomorrow would be very different. Hilary Mason suggested that there is now
so much data of so many kinds available to everyone and that it has so many stories to tell and use for better understanding of our world, that future “research” will involve analyzing existing and old data. Insatiable quests for understanding could keep the new “data scientists” busy for decades. Lastly, they both talked about the paradigm shift of how humans and machines interacted with each other from autonomous robots, artificial intelligence, to machines that everyone now has easy access to do so many unfathomable tasks.

There was much, much more that ranged from deep-dive workshops, eye-opening tours, social events, team meetings, regular sessions, an awesome technology showcase, prizes, great food and the incredible Chicago venue. Videos of some of the HI-TEC sessions are posted (www.highimpact-tec.org). Session presentations will be available in September.

We have covered a lot this month in the FLATE Focus. As you prepare for a new academic year I hope you will enjoy these stories. Write to us, give us your thoughts, comments as we love hearing from you. Enjoy the last few days of summer break before its back to school!   

Robotics Camps Expose Students to the Amazing World of Robots & STEM

FLATE’s Robotics camp season may be officially over, but the excitement over a successful camp season keeps the momentum going and the discussion alive. An article in Wired magazine recently discussed how robots had revolutionized the workplace and examined if the future workforce was prepared to “Outsmart Robots”. In June, the White House Maker Faire, featured a number of high-tech innovations, one of which was robotics and automation. The question may not only be about outsmarting robots, but more so being able to program them to conduct tasks that humans may not want to, or be able to do.

Given the narrative underlying robots and robotics technology, FLATE has taken a leading role in offering state-of-the art robotics camps for middle and high school students. The “hook” for most was the robot itself followed by programming the robot to solve challenges that require them to integrate science, mathematics and engineering concepts using technology as a common platform.

The challenges were really complicated but fun” said Brittany Lam, who attended FLATE’s high school robotics camp. Brittany was one of 150 campers who attended the robotics camp, many of who attended the camp starting at the intro level. FLATE’s robotics camps served as perfect Segway for Brittany and fellow campers to broaden their horizon and understanding of STEM and robotics.

Curriculum for all the camps comprised of a mixture of LEGO® educational materials that integrated STEM
concepts using a modern manufacturing setting, and featured, for the first time, the all NEW Lego® Mindstorms® EV3 Robot system. Challenges like “rainbow dash” and “trapped” were conducted in a competitive setting and got campers to develop critical thinking skills. “I liked how you could use your imagination to program the robots” said Eryk Chazares who attended the intro camp. During the introductory and intermediate camp, campers learned how to build and program EV3 robots and program them to follow specific commands. Christopher Browy and Amiya Gupta, also repeat campers from last year, stated they liked the interface of the EV3 robots and programming better than NXTs.

The high school camp offered higher level of challenges. Campers solved LEGO® Mindstorms® EV3
challenges through original robot design, construction and programming. They also learned about additive manufacturing and 3D printing. “I’ve done this camp from the time I was in eighth grade and every year I’ve attended the camp, I’ve loved it” said Brandon. Besides the challenges, high school campers engaged in a number of engineering projects that included programming a humanoid NAO robot and building an Arduino electronic circuit.

To get a first-hand look at how all the technologies/robots they learned about during the camp come into play in real-life settings, campers toured various local high-tech manufacturing facilities. Brennan Gill and Luca Valenti, intro campers were euphoric about their field trip to
Publix Dairy manufacturing plant in Lakeland, FL. “This field trip is unlike those you take at school to the zoo” said Brennan who also attended the camp in 2013. “I got to learn all about manufacturing, robots/automation and how it is used on a massive scale to manufacture products at an immense rate.” Amiya Gupta said “the field trip to SMT was really cool. The tools reminded me of my grandfather’s wood workshop, only it had way more high-tech tools.” The high school campers were just as impressed by their field trip to Valpak in St. Petersburg, FL. “I thought it was very interesting to see the various pre-programmed robots being able to work in sync with one another” said Dylan. His friend Brandon noted Valpak’s automated packaging system as an extremely efficient—one that would rule out the possibility for human errors.

The robotics camp also got a vote of approval from campers’ parents. “This is where the world is heading and what the new world will be all about” said Kashif Khan whose daughter Aliyah attended the All Girls camp in June. Another parent, Kathy Robinson, hoped her daughter learned that “girls can do anything that boys do when it comes to engineering and mathematics if they put in the effort.”

Indeed FLATE’s robotics camps have been an effective mechanism in expanding students’ understanding
about STEM, robotics and their applications in high-tech manufacturing settings. Not only have the number of camp offerings grown locally, it has also expanded geographically. The Institute for Human and Machine Cognition has sponsored robotics camps for 5th-8th graders for the last three years, and hosted two camps in July modeled after FLATE’s robotics camp in Ocala, FL.

Each camp had approximately 20 students each. “Camp curriculum engaged students in many aspects of engineering from design, to building to programming and testing. Many of the kids became very excited about the prospect of engaging in a STEM career” said Dr. Gregory Cruz, national board certified teacher and Chair of science department at Vanguard High School and instructor for the camp at IHMC. Campers also got the opportunity to meet distinguished panel of speakers from IHMC who talked about exciting opportunities in computer programming and robotics. Given the success of the program Cruz hopes to continue offering camps next summer.

FLATE’s strategic partners at Palm Beach State College also hosted four robotics camps—two intro, two intermediate—as part of their summer youth camp. More information on this camp and student reports will be published in the September issue of the FLATE Focus. Additional robotics camps were also held in Levy, Citrus, Columbia and Sarasota counties.

Fall heralds the start of robotics competition season at many high schools across the state culminating with regional, national and international competitions in the Spring. National Robotics Week also happens in Spring when FLATE opens its door with a robotics open house to introduce the community to various robots, talk to parents about camps and just have fun with robots. Stay tuned for updates about these event, or log on to our websites  www.fl-ate.org/projects/camps.html, and www.madeinflorida.org. You can also contact Desh Bagley, FLATE’s outreach manager and camp director at camps@fl-ate.org.

Promoting Manufacturing Renaissance through Youth Engagement in STEM

FLATE’s outreach efforts have a multi-faceted role in reaching out to diverse populations across the state. Over the years, FLATE has partnered with a wide cross section of institutions and individuals from all socio-economic backgrounds to facilitate and promote technician education and training throughout Florida. Most recently, FLATE assumed a principal role in implementing this “Dream It, Do It” (DIDI) campaign strategy in Florida.   

As part of this effort, FLATE together with the Manufacturing Institute and South Florida Manufacturers
Association (SFMA) hosted the Young Manufacturers Academy (YMA) at Miami Lakes Education Center. The initiative was funded through the National Partnership grant through the Motorola Solutions Foundation Innovation Generation program. The program is aimed at engaging youth in STEM and represents an extension of Motorola’s “Supporting a Manufacturing Renaissance” efforts. The camp also aligns closely with FLATE’s own summer robotics camp initiative said Executive Director of FLATE, Dr. Marilyn Barger.

The academy was held July 28-Aug. 1 and was offered to 16 middle school girls from Honey Shine Mentoring program in Miami Lakes, FL. Honey Shine, is a local non-profit organization that provides services and mentoring to under-served girls in the community. “This provided an opportunity to reach out to students that might not normally find out about, or have an opportunity to participate in programs such as DIDI YMA” said Melissa Fernandez, camp teacher who also played a leading role in facilitating the program in the Miami Lakes region.

Activities centered on hands-on projects and simulation-based learning that focused on developing skills
needed to prepare students for today's high-tech workplace. During the camp students learned about latest manufacturing concepts, CNC manufacturing, and got an overview of high-tech, high-paying jobs in Florida. Participants also engaged in a mock career fair capstone event, and went on industry tours featuring on-site interaction with manufacturers and get a first-hand view of high-tech manufacturing operations. Phil Centonze, SFMA member and FLATE’s external evaluator also attended the tour and talked to campers about manufacturing in the Miami area.

In addition to hands-on activities, campers also got to meet Patrick Claeys, senior mechanical engineer at 
Motorola who volunteered to serve as a guest speaker. “His visit early in the week introduced the girls to jobs, products, and ideas they didn't know existed” said Fernandez. Following his speech, campers were able to make connections between what they were doing to the real-world. A noteworthy aspect of the camp, according to Melissa, was to observe how students adapted to the “vocabulary” and were able to discuss CNC operators/programmers, engage in manufacturing processes and then operate a make-believe manufacturing factory.

Then too, one of the most significant camp successes came at the end when six of the campers separately approached the camp instructor to ask for more information regarding high school programs that emphasized STEM and/or offered CTE programs in engineering. Other successes included introducing the students to 3D CAD by way of using SolidWorks to create small custom key chains. “In this way students were introduced to 3D CAD, rapid prototyping, casting, and additive manufacturing” Melissa said. 

The Young Manufacturers Academy introduces students entering grades 7 – 9 to all facets of the
manufacturing industry. The Academy is part of the "Dream It! Do It!" initiative, a national career awareness and outreach campaign designed to promote a positive image of manufacturing that is sponsored by the Manufacturing Institute in Washington, D.C. The primary goal of the program is to grow and develop the manufacturing workforce pipeline in the middle grades, a critical juncture in need of particular attention, with an emphasis on addressing girls and minorities from underserved districts with underachieving students. “Florida has a diverse manufacturing industry, and FLATE is excited to offer a student summer manufacturing experience in south Florida” said Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE.

For more information on FLATE’s STEM camps, or to be involved in upcoming manufacturing day tours contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org, or visit www.fl-ate.org and www.madeinflorida.org.

Answer to sTEm–at-Work Puzzle #41: Olde But Goody Series Water Filter Performance Test

The Problem: Olde But Goody Series Water Filter Performance Test

This is an opportunity to show students that if they can interpret the information from a graph with two lines, the can also deduce the blue plot has higher flow values than the orange plot at every pressure value. Thus, with the clues provided in the puzzle statement:

If the filter is not clogged, the back flush test pattern has a similar shape as the forward flow plot, but the back flow data indicates higher flow rate values for each pressure.

She has determined that this specific filter (is not clogged) it follows that the statement: "the organe plot is the filter's back flush data plot" cannot be true.

The puzzle also acts as a lead in for a discussion about preferred directional flow. In this case, based on (II) above, the structure of the nono-tube based membrane makes it easier to push water through the membrane from the purified water side than the non-pure water from the other side.

The orange plot is the filter's back flush data plot. Yes or NO

Answer: NO