American Ingenuity and Innovation is Alive and Well!

This past month provided opportunity to attend three very interesting events that reminded me that American ingenuity and innovation is alive and well! Each focused on innovations and advanced technologies. The first took place in Orlando where Advanced Manufacturing Technologies (www.amtonline.org) was on stage. The world of advanced manufacturing technology addresses the engineering, design, production, and delivery of a variety of machines and processes which manufacturers use to make the products we are familiar with (food products, cell phones, boats, books, bikes, etc.). These manufacturers look for better, more cost effective, more “green,” and faster ways for their customers to make their goods. (You can read about the conference and its impact on students enrolled in the engineering technology program at Hillsborough Community College, in this month of the FLATE Focus).

On March 27, I moderated sessions at the USF “Technology and Innovation Forum: Nanotechnology.” This international event had a series of panels on various aspects of nanotechnology including engineering, medicine, education, and again, innovation. The take-away of the day is that scientists and engineers are working very hard to understand and then capitalize on atom and molecule “self assembly” for a variety of “manufacturing” applications from drugs to electronics. Analogous to the "additive" strategies we use in "3D printing," nano-scale self assembly builds from the ground up by putting the right atoms and molecules in proximity to one another. Their physical and chemical properties express themselves and "assembly happens." This emerging technology will eventually bring a very new look to "production environments" and of course, self-assembly will only be one of the new innovative tools in nano-production.

I closed the month with a visit to National Lab in Oak Ridge, TN, where supercomputing is creating a new definition of fast. Right now one of their supercomputers “Titan” is cranking out 20,000 trillion (20 petaflops) calculations per second. I can maybe do one simple calculation per second, and tried to calculate how long it would take me to do 20 petaflops. Scientists and engineers from all over use Titan to do innovative simulated experiments and design problems before actually carrying them out in a lab. There is an amazing amount of innovative “STEM” (science, technology, engineering and math) in the concept and construction of a supercomputer. This includes, of course, the many STEM professionals who maintain, run, and use them. Even the facilities that house supercomputers are STEM special and spotlights of innovation themselves.

Innovation was also the theme of President Obama's early March announcement to establish 15 regional institutes that will comprise the National Network for Innovative Manufacturing. East institute will have a well defined technology focus, including light weight materials, standards for additive manufacturing, and smart manufacturing. In the months ahead, FLATE looks forward to working with this national network on workforce issues and strategies.

Closer to home, FLATE has lots of innovative projects/activities lined up this past month and in the upcoming months. Our summer robotics camps are now scheduled and you can find information about those on our websites (www.fl-ate.org/projects/camps.html and www.madeinflorida.org). We are offering PLC and “measurement” workshops this month and other professional development opportunities this summer. For those of you interested in learning more about credentials in education, register for the free MATEC webinar on April 13. Now sit back, relax and enjoy the stories in this month’s FLATE Focus, including the answer (YES, the answer) to last month’s STEM puzzle #27.