From the Executive Director's Desk: Farewell to FLATE’s STEM Educator Extraordinaire

……..So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good-bye! 

We at FLATE are bidding a bitter-sweet farewell, as Dr. Marie Boyette, FLATE Associate
Director since 2009 retired this month! Marie’s efforts to continuously improve not only our products but also our processes, lay in her efforts to increase and better define our impact. Her tenure with FLATE has been defined by her strong dedication to FLATE and we will surely miss her.

Marie was a STEM educator extraordinaire. She consistently reminded us to keep our eyes on girls and women as an important target of our recruiting and outreach efforts. To that end, she developed several hands-on learning experiences for both traditional age and adult students, college credit for certifications, transferability to B.S degrees and high skill, high wage jobs. 

Those were just a few of her favorite things (to do)…..

Marie’s foray with FLATE began in 2008 and early in 2009 when she reached out to me seeking to change gears in her career and work more with adult learners and community colleges. When an opportunity opened up in Fall 2009, we talked again, and she accepted the position to serve as FLATE’s Associate Director with the expectation that she would lead and transform our data collection strategies and develop good workplace processes. I can’t remember too many times when she said “we can’t do that!” She came in eager to learn the work of FLATE and the NSF ATE Centers to improve advanced technological education.

Dr. Boyette envisioned and led many innovative projects one of which was our highly sought after “summer teacher camp” which she hosted for seven years. She developed strong relationships with the Florida Department of Education which culminated in our frequently-requested, annual Engineering Technology Statewide Enrollment Report. Marie’s expertise in data collection strategies streamlined many of FLATE’s curriculum, professional development and outreach efforts. These were critical components in leveraging FLATE’s vision and mission and reflecting the Center’s impact on technician education throughout Florida and ultimately in showcasing the validity of these efforts to one of our key stakeholders, the National Science Foundation. She oversaw the collection and analysis of our Manufacturing Day in Florida student/industry tour surveys, authored/co-authored and published a number of articles in professional journals. Most importantly, she kept myself and the rest of the FLATE staff strongly focused in supporting our goal, all the while injecting her own version of humor to our team.

Marie is personable, professional, perceptive, persistent, polite, prompt, and progressive! (And,

we prevail on you all to provide more “P’s”!!). She will be deeply missed by all of us here at FLATE and at HCC, as well as by many colleagues and friends across the Florida Engineering Technology and the NSF ATE community. We wish her many years ahead filled with fun, good health, peacefulness and relaxation, as she delves into her bucket list of adventures that include, but not limited to lots of swimming with a 6-year old grandson, aspiring to wear the brown of a forest ranger at Pisgah National Forest (working in the woods she said, not in the gift shop), auditioning for Survivor, and perhaps at some point in the not-too-distant future throwing her hat in the ring of external evaluators for NSF projects. Above all, she hopes to cross paths in the future with many of those she’s come to know through her position with FLATE, and would like to keep in touch through LinkedIn.

Continuing on…..I invite you to read the rest of the stories in this special “Girls in STEM” themed edition of the FLATE Focus. As always send in your thoughts and comments to Connect with us socially on Facebook, LinkedIn, or tweet us @Made_InFlorida using the hastag of the month #GirlsLoveSTEM

FLATE’s NEW Women in Manufacturing Video Explores Gender Equality and Diversity in Manufacturing

FLATE, the Florida-based National Science Foundation Regional Center of Excellence, recently produced
and released a NEW "Women in Manufacturing” video. The video is an extension of FLATE’s role in leading initiatives across Florida that enable and empower women/girls to be excited and engaged in STEM and manufacturing. The “Women in Manufacturing” Video explores a hotly debated, but relevant topic on gender equality, or the lack thereof, and diversity in the manufacturing workforce. The Video is currently posted on FLATE’s YouTube Channel, and is produced through a collaboration with the Scientific League, a Florida-based multi-media production company.

The all NEW, Women in Manufacturing video chronicles the journey of women, starting with the onset of World War I in 1917, when women entered, or were forced to enter the manufacturing workforce, and transports viewers to the present where women increasingly comprise a steady part of the manufacturing workforce occupying leadership roles in the global manufacturing marketplace. The Video is a journey in time as it provides a historical perspective on the challenges women have faced, continue to address and/or are beginning to dissipate as more women join the manufacturing workforce changing the status quo and face of the manufacturing industry itself.  It even provides a peep into an imaginary timeline, where in 2050 women could potentially represent 50% of the manufacturing workforce.

The Women in Manufacturing video is a captivating projection of the changing face of the manufacturing workforce. It outlines the diverse perspectives of women from a dozen companies across Florida who are currently employed in the manufacturing sector. The video features personal accounts of women, from the factory floor right up to the C suite level, who share their views about their journey/pathway into manufacturing. These women provide first-hand perspectives about their experience not only as engineers, but as technicians and administrators and the richness in the diversity of their individual experiences/successes.

Despite the set-backs, in the United States, more than three million women have proven that it is possible succeed in the manufacturing industry. The video showcases how women have sovercome some of these obstacles through sheer hard-work, competence and perseverance. The Video also highlights the benefits and rewarding aspects of being involved in manufacturing. It sheds light on some of the factors that have motivated women for the last 100 years to be a part of the manufacturing workforce, and how women have found fulfilment in the diversity of skills, knowledge and talent they bring to the workplace. 

While women have come a long way, the video drives home a key point that there is still a lot of work to be done in the quest for equality in the workforce. Together we can empower the next generation of young women who represent the “I Am a Woman with a Career in Manufacturing” mantra that could end the gender inequality of women in manufacturing in America.

To view the Women in Manufacturing video head on over to FLATE’s YouTube Channel at Later this summer, stay tuned for the DVD version of Women in Manufacturing which will include additional interviews and other goodies. You can also access additional resources on FLATE’s websites and, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at  

Q & A with STEP Ahead Awardees from Jabil Circuit in St. Petersburg, FL

FLATE has been a big proponent for promoting #WomenInSTEM. Over the years the Center
has not only formulated curriculum and projects that are geared to encourage women to pursue STEM based educational pathways and careers, but has led several initiatives that have highlighted the pertinent role women have played as leaders in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. One of the efforts FLATE has continued to champion and support is the STEP Ahead Awards, a national effort spearheaded by the Manufacturing Institute, to recognize the prominent role women here in Florida and across the nation have played and continue to exert in American Manufacturing.

This month we highlight two of the nine women in Florida, who were among the 130 women nationally, honored as a STEP Ahead awardee by the Manufacturing Institute. Kristen Widunas, is the Site Operations Manager at Jabil Circuit, Inc. in St. Petersburg, FL. Toni Jones currently serves as the Senior Manager of Employee Engagement at Jabil Circuit, Inc. Through a quick Q & A session conducted by FLATE, we look at their journeys into manufacturing, get their personal insights on what the award means to them, and how they plan to continue to affect positive changes in Manufacturing, and continue to serve as role models for other women in STEM to emulate.

Can you tell me a little about yourself and your interest in manufacturing?
Toni Jones: I have been working in manufacturing since 1978, first building and

inspecting substrates under magnification; then moving to a military defense corporation as an electrical technician with both component and PCBA level assemblies. My career took off after joining Jabil in 1984 when electronics and processes were changing at the speed of light - all new and exciting - never had a dull moment in my 32 years here!

Kristen Widunas: I went to school for engineering and since I was young was always curious about how things went together and were made. I knew I wanted to do something with science and math in highschool so I pursued engineering. To top it off, I went down the path of Chemical Engineering which was predominantly male students. My grandfather worked in manufacturing after the war and so I also feel a special connection to manufacturing knowing it was something my grandfather did and loving seeing things come together to make a product. It is a career that offers so many avenues to pursue for advancement or trying different fields that you can stay engaged with the work.

What does the STEP Ahead Award mean to you?
Toni Jones: The STEP award to me has been a wonderful and very meaningful acknowledgment of all the things I have helped create and been part of, especially around the recognition of mentoring and sharing knowledge with the other women in our organization.

Kristen Widunas: It’s a great honor but also a great responsibility knowing that people have believed I have made a great impact in manufacturing for other women, but knowing it doesn’t stop there and that I need to continue to work towards helping other women achieve their career goals and aspirations and to keep more women coming into the industry.

Since the awards ceremony, what have you/your company done to recognize your STEP award?
Toni Jones: I have been featured in internal global communications, & local news articles. We are scheduling our annual women's meeting and will feature STEP as part of the agenda.

Kristen Widunas: There have been some interviews and some stories published on Jabil Joules site. I’ve shared the experience with my kids and friends promoting the things that STEP and the Manufacturing Institute have done.

Why do you think it is important for women to be engaged in STEM and manufacturing?
Toni Jones:
There are many, many different paths in manufacturing for women. Women bring great perspective and a style that "engages" employees. They can help move the needle in a big way when addressing one of the most significant challenges all companies are facing today - work life balance.

Kristen Widunas: Women bring a different perspective and have different ideas. They sometimes feel that they can’t do more because they have to juggle career, home, kids and so they don’t always pursue more. The more we promote work/life balance and help them see that they can take on challenging careers in manufacturing and be there for their families and be engaged with school activities and sports activities, the more they will try and take on more challenging roles and bring the strengths that women possess to advancing manufacturing. Whether it be through creativity, or helping foster better employee engagement, or different ideas – women have a different perspective that is valuable in manufacturing.

What are some strategies industry can employ to get more women engaged in Manufacturing and STEM?
Toni Jones:
I think it is critically important to engage girls in elementary grades on the possibilities - it isn't all turning wrenches and working with dirty machines! BUT... more importantly, I think a big miss is not educating our teachers on bias, conscious, unconscious - verbally and non-verbally!

Kristen Widunas: Continue to find ways to help women see what careers are available, help promote work/life balance, time sharing, and recognizing them for the diversity they bring to manufacturing. Getting more publicity out there for the youth is key as well. The engineering commercials for girls that came out a few years ago were great. STEM/STEAM programs in our schools is another great area that the industry can reach more females at an earlier age before they start deciding what they want to do when they grow up.

In terms of the awards ceremony itself, do you have any special recollection from the event?
Toni Jones: It was a wonderful event, very well done...most meaningful was the fact that our table consisted of the other women nominated from our company and the leaders who nominated them!

Kristen Widunas: I really enjoyed the whole event, meeting other women, hearing their stories, seeing how each of us contribute. It helps generate new ideas to take back to Jabil. I really enjoyed hearing the story from the women that created the tinker toys for girls, I could relate to a lot of what she had been through in school and her career.

Additional thoughts/comments
Toni Jones:
Looking back over my career, I am very happy that I have such a positive effect on so many people. If I'm honest...I never thought about it much, it's just my personality to brings folks along and I think my love for manufacturing comes through. I would encourage leaders to make mentoring and really "caring" about inclusiveness a formal program. I have been very fortunate to have honest, courageous leaders throughout my career that are a big part of my success.

Kristen Widunas: Talking about the Award with other women to get more awareness to the award and the purpose behind it has been a rewarding experience.

For more information and to learn about the 2016 STEP Ahead Honorees and Emerging Leaders visit the Manufacturing Institute’s Women in Manufacturing STEP Ahead program page. For FLATE’s STEM-based programs for women and girls contact Executive Director of FLATE, Dr. Marilyn Barger at Stay tuned for follow-up stories on additional awardees in the next edition(s) of the FLATE Focus. 

Industry Tours Spark Girls’ Interest and Awareness about Manufacturing

Since 2005, FLATE has facilitated close to 500 tours to 234 high-tech, manufacturing facilities throughout Florida for almost 15,000 students, and more than 1,600 educators and parents. These tours provide students, teachers and parents with the opportunity to have their eyes opened to the exciting and lucrative world of manufacturing and the many, varied careers the industry offers. One of FLATE’s goals has been to provide students with exposure to real Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) workplaces, primarily those in manufacturing. Students are surveyed after the tours so data can be gathered to discover what the students experienced from their own point of view and to help streamline and improve tours in the future.

FLATE has always been committed to serving underrepresented and minority groups, targeting girls and women in particular. Last
year (2015), the decision was made to analyze data collected from students participating in statewide, Manufacturing Day and Month tours (October) to find out exactly what girls specifically, were saying about their tour experiences. Of the 4,770 students who participated in a 2015 MFG Day and/or Made in Florida industry tours, FLATE received 2,076 student surveys. Based on the tabulated surveys, nearly 98% of the students stated the tours helped them learn about technologies used in advanced manufacturing industries and manufactured products. Approximately 96% of students agreed the tours gave them new information about careers in advanced manufacturing. Nearly 92% of the students surveyed also agreed that the tours helped them understand how STEM subjects are put to work in advanced manufacturing industries. 

In analyzing gender-based responses, there was a 116% increase in the number of girls considering a career in advanced manufacturing before and after the tour. Of the total number of students participating, only 30% were female, reiterating the need for more outreach to women and girls to engage them in STEM and manufacturing.
Particular attention was paid to responses to the question, “What did you like most about the tour?” Data is still being analyzed to identify main response themes and categories, but a few samples of girls’ comments are shown below:
  • I enjoyed learning about the process of making a product that helps our country! It helps me understand more about the world.
  • It was very educational, we saw samples of what the machines make as a visual
    representation and it was really cool to see what they make. We saw how the machine works.
  • The machines are cool, and they can build anything. The place, is really organized with the education of each machine.
  • I like how the machines look and how they work. I really like what they make it looks so cool.
  • Is all the machines and how they work and the history. This tour was fun and I liked how all these machines are different and make really cool things.
  • How our tour guide told us a lot of information about each place we went to. All of the technology.
  • To see the process on how everything moved and worked.
  • I enjoyed the educational advantages received during this tour. I hope that the lessons and explanations taught in this will help the betterment of my future.
  • I liked the fun environment and I enjoyed learning about devices in manufacturing.
  • I found it really interesting since I had never been in a manufacturing company.
These responses and the data collected during this study clearly illustrate the significant impact of industry tours and their role in sparking girls’ interest in and awareness of the high-tech world of manufacturing and the many, varied, high-wage and challenging careers it offers. It is crucial to have STEM colleges and career explorations early on in girls’ academic experience so that appropriate mathematics and science coursework can be addressed.

According to a 2012 report from the Girl Scout Research Institute, independent of interest level in STEM, there are still obstacles that need to be overcome to recruit and retain more girls in STEM:
  • More than half (57%) of all girls say that girls their age don’t typically consider a career in STEM.
  • Nearly half (47%) of all girls say that they would feel uncomfortable being the only girl in a group or class.
  • Further, 57% of all girls say that if they went into a STEM career, they’d have to work harder than a man just to be taken seriously.
We know that girls are interested in STEM subjects and careers but in spite of this, they continue to choose other, more traditional
career choices such as teaching or social work. Research shows that although more than 80% of girls are interested in a STEM career, only a small percentage of those (13%), cite a STEM career as their number one choice. So we have work to do – we need to educate and raise awareness of the many lucrative and exciting STEM careers available to women. We need to educate everyone involved in our girls’ education – parents, teachers, career counselors, and of course, the girls themselves.

Manufacturing Industry tours are a proven and effective way to achieve this goal! For more information on 2016 Manufacturing Day visit, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at To avail of FLATE’s STEM based resources for girls read our Best Practices guide on Recruiting & Retaining Girls in STEM, or head on over to the FLATE Wiki which is filled with great resources for STEM educators and practitioners.

Also from Stats from last two years shows Florida leading the nation in hosting industry tours and MFG Day events. Kudos to all who have made this a successful endeavor

sTEm–at-Work Puzzle #53: Process Pressure Disturbance

The puzzle last month required the technician to replace the vacuum pump that controlled the pressure in a manufacturing reactor.  To bring this pump back on line, the tech: turned the pump on and allowed the reaction chamber to reach its steady state low pressure value, introduced a pressure disturbance, and then adjusted the programmable controller driven pump control panel settings to values that automatically try to return the pressure back to its steady state pressure set point value.  The tech tested three different sets of control panel settings with their three corresponding pressure versus time graphs shown below.  From the answer for last month's puzzle, it is clear that option 3 was not the setting the Tech selected so let's move to the next option. The settings that provided response (2).  

The technician selected the setting that provided the graphic response shown as graph (2). YES or NO. Submit your answers below the blog post, or on