FLATE’s STEM-Based Outreach Targets Students, Educators and Industry

FLATE’s holiday season was marked by a plethora of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) based workshops and tours for incumbent workers, educators and high school students. On the student side of the continuum, 15 students from King and Gaither High Schools in Tampa toured FLATE’s engineering technology lab at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) in Brandon. The initiative was made possible through Helios Education Foundation’s “Transitional Success through STEM Academies” grant. The goal according to Jakub Prokop, curriculum and program development specialist at Learey Technical Center in Tampa, was to “build career pathways for students, and to encourage them to pursue post-secondary credentials on their way to high-tech, quality jobs.”

During the tour students got an overview of the engineering technology degree offered at HCC and 13 colleges in Florida, and learned about pneumatics, hydraulics, motors and controls, and also got to operate PLCs. “The purpose was to get a deeper understanding of engineering and engineering technologies, and also gain hands-on experience of modern high-tech manufacturing concepts and operations” said Dr. Alessadro Anzalone, professor of engineering technology at HCC in Brandon. Students also gained a better understanding about different career pathways, and the ET degree specializations. “It’s all about doing what you like to do” said Anzalone.

Given the role of educators in igniting students’ interest in STEM, FLATE also offered a one day LEGO MINDSTORMS robotics workshop for local high school teachers. During the workshop, 24 middle and high school teachers from the School District of Hillsborough County got an in-depth overview on LEGO® NXT microprocessor, building instructions for functional robots, and programming with the NXT-G software. The workshop focused on strategies for using LEGO MINDSTORMS to teach math content standards, and integrating these concepts into their everyday curriculum. It also shed light on LEGO MINDSTORMS data logging techniques to teach next generation science concepts.

To address professional and workforce development needs of local manufacturers, FLATE also hosted a basic programmable logic controller (PLC) workshop for incumbent workers. Given widespread usage of PLCs in everyday industrial settings, the two-day workshop was designed to give attendees a better understanding of PLCs with emphasis on programming, installations and troubleshooting. The workshop was heavily hands-on, and was taught using three different tools that included Allen-Bradley SLC 500 series, MicroLogix 1500 PLCs and RS Logix 500 programming software.

Participants got an opportunity to engage in logical program development, batch documentation and programming techniques, examine on/off instructions, witness PLC program scan cycle, and troubleshooting common problems. It also provided insight on latest emerging trends and capabilities. Dr. Anzalone, who was the instructor at the workshop, hopes students will gain the knowledge and confidence to program PLCs, how to build hardware for the program, and above all be able to solve real-life problems thinking like a PLC programmer.

For more information on FLATE’s STEM based curriculum and professional development initiatives visit www.fl-ate.org and www.madeinflorida.org, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org.

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