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FLATE's Executive Director Celebrates Manufacturing in Florida

Happy New Year! Before we move forward with new year’s resolutions, let’s take a quick trip through last year. Manufacturing in the US was a big story in the U.S. press in 2011. Manufacturing’s strategic role in our economy was highlighted, and brought to national attention. Americans are looking to manufacturing to move the economy forward. The Manufacturing Institute’s website (www.themanufacturinginstitute.org) captured and shares some important facts that put numbers to the issue, and are reprinted in the accompanying box. These 5 concise bullets are a shorthand reminder of why manufacturing is important and why FLATE is focused on building the high skilled, educated workforce that Florida manufacturers need. Additionally, manufacturing was identified as a driver of innovation, invention, and new technologies and processes that keep the U.S. competitive in the global community. From the White House, the President launched several initiatives to support and enhance U.S. manufacturing. These included establishing the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, a consortium of research institutions and universities that will focus cutting-edge and new technologies that support advanced modern manufacturing.

Closer to home, local and regional efforts in support of manufacturing are also underway right here in Florida. Besides our own ongoing comprehensive support of manufacturing education in Florida’s colleges and high schools, the Manufacturers Association of Florida (MAF) has formed the MAF Center for Manufacturing Excellence. This new arm of MAF will support manufacturing education efforts in Florida. Not for profit professional entities in other states leverage their resources with other regional NSF ATE centers and FLATE looks forward to a strong partnership and synergy with this new organization in 2012. On another front, Florida Regional Manufacturing Associations grew in numbers and membership adding a new organization, North Central Florida Manufacturing Association (NCFMA) that will serve the Alachua – north central Florida region. Our own local Bay Area Manufacturers Association (BAMA) has been reinvigorated and had a busy year with some record sized meetings, membership growth, and more tours, educational and policy focused events. Additionally, BAMA reinstalled its scholarship program and other educational activities. MAF, supported by a grant from Workforce Florida, will launch a Florida version of the NAM Dream It! Do It! campaign. This effort will complement and enhance FLATE’s “Made in Florida” recruitment and outreach activities and programs that have been ongoing and growing since 2005.

Now on to 2012, please join FLATE in celebrating manufacturing in Florida in 2012 with FLATE’s own “Year of Manufacturing Awareness” initiatives. We are starting with a workshop with the regional manufacturing associations at Harris Corporation in Melbourne on February 9 to establish ways for individual manufacturers and associations can incorporate activities into their regional events which project a positive perspective of modern manufacturing to their communities, as well as promote manufacturing careers and technical education pathways to students within their high school and career academies. For now, enjoy this abbreviated edition of the FLATE Focus that encourages everyone to explore the world of small scale devices this spring at a number of FLATE supported events; reviews how the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program has supported technical education in Florida since the mid 1990’s through various college-focused and regional projects; and don’t forget to start out the year right by solving the first 2012 sTEm-at-work puzzle. Oh yes, our best New Year’s resolution? We are going to provide puzzle answers every other month this year.

Spring STEM Events

There are lots of opportunities for students to get involved with extracurricular STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)-related competitions this spring. Science and engineering Fairs; robotic competitions; inventor competitions; technology education competitions; engineering expos offer students of all levels the opportunity to explore a STEM topic that interests them in a creative way; use logical thinking; practice their verbal presentation skills, and integrate what they learn in many of their courses in a “capstone” project. In today’s pedagogical lingo, these kinds of activities are categorized as problem-based or project-based learning (PBL), anchored instruction, or collaborative learning.

Sometimes this approach is used in classrooms as illustrated in many of Florida’s Career Academies, but it is certainly the approach of most of extra curricula competitions. Some schools and school districts take a very formal approach to some of these competitions by offering clubs and other after school opportunities to help students prepare for the whole experience. On the other extreme, some districts and schools require no participation or support. Some question if these should be part of academic curriculum – but wonder where it would fit into the curriculum; who would be credentialed to teach it; and if and how it would support state standardized testing.

At the post-secondary level—the theme continues, but the stakes are higher. High profile engineering challenges and invention competitions sponsored by industry and professional societies ratchet up the competition as well as complexity. Some provide significant prizes for winning teams. Designing, building and racing alternative fuel (including human) powered vehicles; designing and building energy independent homes; concrete canoes and toboggans; medical devices etc bring the same problem-based learning approach, extracurricular activities to most college campuses. Opportunities for students to develop critical and creative thinking, knowledge integration, and team-building skills make these projects very popular among students, faculty and industry partners. There has also been interest these activities into academic credit courses so students can get credit for the time they put in. There are obstacles and disadvantages at the college level, as well as advantages to making these activities part of the formal education system and it will be interesting to follow the trend.

Competitions and expos have grown into fun and educational community events. There are a lot of ways to participate in the K-12 level competitions and expos. Teams and individual students need mentors, all of these events only exist with large numbers of volunteers and volunteer hours, and the competitions need judges and sponsors. Volunteering is a great way to help students get excited about STEM and have some fun. Here are a list of state level competitions and websites to check for more details. Some of these sites have links to local/regional competitions that occur before the state events and national events that generally occur in early summer. There are many other student competitions that extend beyond what is listed here, but are generally supported and hosted by
professional societies that can be contacted directly. There are even some online/virtual “design and invent” competitions that also require mentors and judges that can be done virtually if you prefer, or are limited to that communication vehicle. We encourage you to get involved and support the event(s) of your choice for a rewarding STEM spring in 2012.

For more information contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org, or visit http://www.fl-ate.org/.

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National Science Foundation - A Long Time Supporter of Technician Education in Florida

As is often the case, the best of friends just want you to succeed and work quietly in the background to make that happen. The National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education program (NSF ATE) is exactly that type of friend to Florida technician education. Since NSF ATE began working with two year technician education programs in 1991, the beginning of 2012 is an appropriate time to look back over the last 20 years to see why NSF-ATE is such a good friend to Florida technician education.

NSF-ATE grant activities began slowly at first with their 25th award going to Robert Aitken at Brevard Community College in 1994. This award supported a planning grant for an ATE National Center of Excellence with the mission to link two year colleges through their involvement with, and long-term specialized instructional support for nine NASA field centers. The grant funds were aimed at establishing a national clearinghouse for curricular and faculty development programs, as well as educational media supporting these programs to infuse science and mathematics into technological education programs.

Alexander Dickison at Seminole State College, formerly Seminole Community College, was one of the 61 nationwide NSF-ATE grant awardees 1995. This $470,000 NSF-supported project developed new curriculum, and incorporated what is now known through studies in cognitive science, teaching strategies that will improve student learning. These modules are designed to motivate and help technical students see the connections between physics and their chosen technical fields.

In 1996, NSF-ATE provided $250,000 to Broward Community College for a project proposed by Louis Friedman that allowed BCC to lead a consortium composed of the University of Miami, Broward County Schools, N. Broward Hospital District, Hewlett Packard, Advantage Medical Electronics, Motorola, ABC Computers, Asea Brown Boveri Corp., and the Biomedical Engineering Technology (BMET) Advisory Board in developing a program in BMET. The goal of the project was to produce qualified Biomedical Engineering technicians who provide a critical link between the clinical application and the electronic technology of modern medical equipment. Laboratories and laboratory practices were developed to give the students state-of-the-art experiences with a wide range of biomedical equipment.

In 1997 Bob Williams at Daytona State College, formerly Daytona Beach Community College, received a $550,000 grant from NSF ATE to create a new instructional environment for introductory classes in electronics, computer aided design, civil engineering and computer programming. This new environment addressed the various learning modalities, diverse schedules and lifestyles of the non-traditional students found in ever increasing numbers at institutions nationwide. The virtual classroom permitted students to access computer technology and electronics courses at any time and from any place through the resources and capabilities of the internet and the World Wide Web.

At this point in this review, the trend should be clear. Faculty members in Florida’s technician preparation programs have great ideas and NSF-ATE is prepared to back those ideas with the funds to turn good ideas into best education practices for Florida and the nation. However, this is only the beginning. From 1997 through 2001 NSF-ATE accelerates its support of A.S. technical education in Florida. In 1998 William Falls at Hillsborough Community College was awarded a $300,000 grant to create a practical, hands-on applied learning experience for students enrolled in courses of aquaculture, environmental science technology (EST), economics/business and humanities programs of the College, and in 1999 Valencia College, formerly Valencia Community College, was awarded a 1.1 million dollar grant by NSF-ATE to coordinate the development with a major semiconductor manufacturer and five other community colleges in Florida an education-business alliance known as the Tech-4 High-Technology Industrial Education Consortium. Tech-4 designed and delivered a collaborative, replicable electronics workforce development system that maximized learning for secondary and lower-division students through coordinated sharing of industry and educational resources.

As the first decade of NSF-ATE came to a close, the turn of the century saw another grant for Valencia State College with NSF ATE providing $580,000 in support of Colin Archibald’s idea to create a comprehensive information technology workforce development system aimed at increasing the number of skilled computer programming technicians with maximized advanced education and career options. Daytona State College received another NSF ATE grant that provided $550,000 to support Bob Williams’ idea to create the Southeast Center for Networking and Information Technology Education. The Center develops curricula, processes, and infrastructure to improve programs, and creates a statewide delivery system to educate and train technicians to meet workforce shortages in computer networking and information technology. Finally, in 2001 Brevard Community College received two additional grants totaling $610,000 to develop a curriculum on Distributed Energy Systems and create a collaboration to increase the number and diversity of prospective K-12 teachers at BCC by providing opportunities to improve technological literacy, strengthen science and mathematics preparation, transfer seamlessly to a four-year program, and connect with business and industry.

The last grant to a Florida community college in NSF-ATE’s first 10 years of operation went to the same college and faculty member that received Florida’s second NSF-ATE grant. That $300,000 award went to Alexander Dickison at Seminole State College. The funds were used to expand on his very popular and widely used physics curriculum.

So that’s a brief summary of the first 10 years of NSF ATE’s support of Florida technical education. A quick glance through the grants and grant amounts clearly backs the original premise. You can find out more about the Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program of the National Science Foundation at www.nsf.gov/ate, where you can download their call for proposals. Full proposals are annually due in October. You can contact any of the listed program officers. or contact Marilyn Barger at FLATE (barger@fl-ate.org) if you have an idea for a proposal you want to discuss. NSF ATE is a quiet, continuous supporter and has invested millions of dollars to help Florida’s technical education system reach its potential. That was only the first 10 years, next month we will, to borrow a phrase from Paul Harvey, bring you “the rest of the story.”

Small Scale Devices and the NANO Spring

Nano-Spring is occupying Florida! Yep, you are reading it right here in the FLATE Focus before it is even being considered by the mainstream media. This spring FLATE is promoting several small scale device and Nano related technology events. The first, as is the case with all exciting breaking news, has just been completed. FLATE partnered with the SCME, the NSF Southwest Center for Microsystems Education, and the University of South Florida’s Nanotechnology Research and Education Center (NREC) to present a workshop on microsystems (MEMS) technology devices as an example of small scale device fabrication. However, the next two events on the schedule are an Etch Workshop (Friday, Jan. 20) conducted by Plasma-Therm Inc. at the NREC clean room and a focus group on nanotechnologies and medical devices tentatively scheduled for Feb. 16 at the EPI Center at St. Petersburg College.

The beginning of March brings motor cyclists to Daytona Beach, FL, as well as the NANOSMAT Conference to the University of South Florida at the end of March end. NANOSMAT has rapidly established itself as a premier conference in the field of materials science, engineering, technology, nanoscience and nanotechnology. Since 2005, it has been very successfully organized in several European countries, including Portugal, Spain, Italy and France. The conference fosters the gathering of talented and truly international people to exchange ideas, share new knowledge and technical know-how in the relevant fields.

On March 27, the day before NANOSMAT, the University of South Florida’s nanomedicine and nanobiotechnology Laboratory is hosting a Technology & Innovation Forum. The purpose of the Forum is to provide a broader coverage of the selected topic than is generally possible in a technical scientific conference. The Forum will be of particular interest to educators and Florida teachers and students who can’t attend in person, but can do so via web cast.

On April 13, Indian River State College, NanoLink, Inc. and FLATE will support a workshop on the Nanoprofessor hands-on nanotechnology education system. The NanoProfessor is a comprehensive nanoscience education program combining cutting-edge desktop nanofabrication instruments with a stimulating curriculum. The workshop will demonstrate how students can be immersed into the rapidly growing field of nanotechnology through real hands-on experience in building custom-engineered nanoscale structures.

Well that’s our Nano-Spring! We hope you can join us and get involved in small scale device technology by attending some, or all of these events. Need details? Visit www.nnrc.usf.edu for information on the Etch Workshop conducted by Plasma-Therm Inc., and http://nano.cas.usf.edu for information on Technoology & Innovation Forum,. You can also send an e-mail to Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org. See you there!!