Executive Director Takes Stock of FLATE’s Upcoming Professional Development Initiatives

One of FLATE’s 2012 New Year’s resolutions is to respond to our stakeholder survey request to provide additional opportunities for professional development. We are doing that by offering and supporting these activities every month and hopefully each with a pleasant twist. In January, FLATE hosted the 4-day Southwest Microsystems Education (SCME, www.scme-nm.org) Pressure Sensor Workshop. Rather than a sit on your hands slide show, participants had a hands-on experience in clean room fabrication that culminated with a working MEMS pressure sensor device. Faculty from 10 community colleges around the country actually built their own devices over the 4 day period with the help of Rob Tufts and the expert team at the USF Nanotechnology Research and Education Center (NREC). Although I am knowledgeable of microelectronics processing, I was still fascinated to learn how many of the same manufacturing processes and techniques are used to make micrometer scale flexible membrane pressure sensing devices. It was awesome!

The following week, FLATE conducted a Toothpick Factory workshop for 20 eager Educators in north Texas at the Convergence Technologies Center’s (www.convergencetechnologycenter.org) Winter Working Connections conference and in early February we are conducting a workshop with Florida’s regional manufacturing associations to define concrete doable manufacturing awareness activities that they can take back to their local regions. Looking forward a bit, we are also working with BAMA (Bay Area Manufacturers' Association) and the school districts in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties to put another industry-focused program in place for both the community and students. (Look for details on this innovative project in a future FLATE Focus newsletter).

In conjunction with FLATE’s statewide NSF-ATE mission, this year our professional development activities are reaching into the sometimes challenging faculty and grant development domains. FLATE is helping Florida’s Biotechnology Education Consortium (BECON) implement a faculty forum similar to the statewide engineering technology forum that FLATE supports. This forum mechanism is a great way to share resources, to strengthen programs, and to better align and connect to the program’s target industry. BECON’s 2nd forum was in January 27, and our semiannual Engineering Technology Forum is scheduled for March 29-30 at Indian River State College in Fort Pierce. If you wish to attend, just contact Brad Jenkins, (jenkins.bradley@spcollege.edu) for details, or find details about the meeting in our website at http://fl-ate.org/projects/et-forum.html.

On this same NSF front, we are continuing to help small community colleges around the country develop and format their NSF-ATE grant proposal ideas. Contact Richard Gilbert (gilbert@usf.edu) if you need help with your ideas. Closer to home, on March 9, FLATE will conduct a workshop for college educators on NSF grants and how they work. You can access online registration on the FLATE home page. The HCC Brandon Campus is co-sponsoring this event.

One of the really exciting activities this spring is the beginning of the next phase of our partnership with TKNIKA (www.tknika.net). In May, a group of second year Engineering Technology students from various colleges in Florida will study at one of the colleges, Usurbil, in the Basque region of Spain. This unique experience usually reserved for students enrolled in four-year undergraduate programs, is being offered to two-year technical students and supported by NSF-ATE. Through this partnership with TKNIKA in the Basque region, an analogous organization to FLATE in Florida, we are structuring this event as a professional development opportunity for faculty in both countries.

There are still more FLATE professional development events scheduled to round off the spring. A half day metrology workshop is planned for high school teachers at HCC Brandon on April 6, and we will bring a programmable logic control workshop into our faculty development portfolio. The workshop will be held April 13-14 at HCC-Brandon in partnership with Gulf Coast State College. In mid June we will sponsor our second engineering technology summer institute as well as our 3rd annual teacher summer camp, and host a STEM Cart workshop for STEM teachers with LabVolt in late spring and early summer. This will be an excellent opportunity to see how STEM fits into your classroom on a daily basis without interrupting the structure, or intent of your current lesson plans.

Summer brings a lot of education-focused activity, including the FACTE, Florida Association of Career and Technical Education (www.facte.org) annual conference and HI-TEC (www.highimpact-tec.org) which is in Denver this year. You can find more NSF-supported summer workshops around the country at www.teachingtechnicians.org. Take advantage of these low cost and high quality workshops that cross the spectrum of advanced technologies. Well, that’s a fly-bye of FLATE’s professional development plans, but for the FLATE team there is still a lot left on our activity plate.

This issue of FLATE Focus highlights some of our partner activities including a teacher professional development workshop at EMS-USA for STEM teachers in Hillsborough County; tours to the BAE shipyards in Jacksonville by 60 students in Peterson Academies of Technology; and a follow-up story about NSF’s continued commitment to streamline/invest in Florida’s technical programs. Unfortunately, this FLATE Focus issue is not able to cover all the activity and projects that are under way, but you can catch up on some and follow-up on others in our "announcements section" which is designed to post information on upcoming events. Do send us what is happening in your area so we can help disseminate. Finally, believe it or not, after two years of published puzzles, check out the first published answer to any of the sTEm-at-work puzzles – ever! So don’t miss it!!