If Manufacturing Education Isn't Focused on Manufacturing, It's Wasting Time

Developing and supporting a world-class education system for manufacturing, manufacturing technology and production industries in Florida is our primary focus at FLATE. The “preparing work-ready high school and A.S. degree graduates” that can be productive workers in a short time after being hired is a big part of our overarching goal. Then too, developing curricula to accomplish this goal can get tricky because as technology evolves, it is frequently necessary to define new and/or redefine existing manufacturing practices and their encompassing related and enabling manufacturing technologies.

What exactly is manufacturing and what are manufacturing technologies? Starting with a dictionary definition, simply put, manufacturing is the process, or series of processes that takes raw materials and turns them into products. Additionally, manufacturing generally refers to making more than one of a product. However, this definition does include the single crafts person, producing a number of chairs, blankets, jewelry, candles or gadgets to sell, or barter at local famer markets, festivals, or craft/art shows. Sticking to the more traditional concept of a multiple person organization producing multiple copies of a single entity, or a large variety of related products, the need for a set of educated and skilled workers comes into play. To provide that education it is necessary to address two questions. What are these manufacturing processes, and what are some of the technologies that support and/or are part of manufacturing?
Manufacturing processes are combinations of technologies that accomplish the specific tasks involved in creating a sellable product. Over time and with lots of innovative multiple processes have been joined together in automated systems. In manufacturing, where making a product is the sole objective, the following eight production stages are accomplished:
  • Conceive and design a product
  • Cransform (clean/purify) raw material from a natural state to a product starting state
  • Shape the production by either additive or subtractive technologies
  • Join various “parts” together
  • Clean and finish separate components and the final product
  • Test for “functionality” and performance
  • Package for safety, marketing, and ease of transportation
  • Distribute to markets around the globe
How exactly these various “steps” are accomplished is where various technologies come into play. In each stage many technologies are used repeatedly. For example, let's look at step four, the joining step. How many ways (how many technologies) can you think of to join parts together? Welding, adhesion, soldering, mixing, and molecular bonding are a few technologies that immediately come to mind. Each of these "joining" technologies are likely to be found in manufacturing companies, and each is a STEM discipline in and of itself. Manufacturing integrates various joining technologies into the overall raw material handling and processing that adds form to these ingredients as the final product is developed. Sometimes these value added joining processes are considered “enabling” technologies since they also facilitate the overall manufacturing of the final product. However, the bottom line for a manufacturer is what has to be done to minimize cost and production time, and still create a quality, save, and sellable product.

With all of this background information in mind, how do educators "manufacture" at minimal cost and production time, the skilled workforce manufacturers require? For this specific example, we can always begin by writing down all the specific joining steps necessary to make something. In general, this can be done at various levels, but to really understand manufacturing, and all the many steps, multiple technology procedures must be identified and the sequence understood. In addition, although we, as educators, sometimes get annoyed with lengthy “assembly/operation instructions,” these documents are necessary, represent a small window into how manufacturing processes takes place, and define the technical content and skill levels we should include in the manufacturing curriculum we develop. Collectively these activities help us understand a manufacturer's process and needs, and that is precisely the knowledge base required to create meaningful curricula.

We should continue this conversation with the other seven manufacturing production stages listed above, but, alas, I have already exceeded my allotted FLATE Focus space for this month. In summary, there are many enabling and embedded technologies that are important, but seemingly transparent to the manufacturing process. To develop world class manufacturers requires a world class technical workforce, and that demands a comprehensive and intensive two year A.S. degree support system that addresses the enabling, embedded, and fundamental technologies that encompass manufacturing.

There is a lot to learn and for Florida that learning recipe, the Florida Plan, is clear. Educators need to interact with the manufacturers they service. Manufacturers have to help these educators identify the workforce expectations in each of their eight production stages. The Florida Department of Education has to have the resources to continue their practice of revising state frameworks to include the fundamental skills and knowledge for foundational technologies that are ubiquitous in manufacturing environments. FLATE has to continue to craft and promote its A.S. degree model that defines technical education as an integrated set of foundational skills and knowledge, built on a sound “general education” platform, and topped with specific technology skills and training that are all fused with strategies that promote the student's critical thinking ability. This recipe for education and training automatically provides a strong background that supports the learning and understanding of emerging technologies that will find their way into manufacturing processes in the future.

Now please take a few moments to catch up on news from FLATE. STEM Puzzle #33 might make your head spin, but as always it will prove worth the effort. I also invite you to help us welcome our new regional BEST robotics hub to Hillsborough Community College in Brandon, encourage you to take a closer look at Gov. Rick Scott’s execution of “manufacturing matters” campaign and top-level engagement with FLATE’s network of partner colleges, experience vicariously all that the engineering expo at USF had to offer, and thank our National Visiting Committee members for their role in advancing manufacturing and technician education and training in the sunshine state. These and much more in this edition of the FLATE Focus!

Florida’s Governor’s Message: Manufacturing Matters

Governor Rick Scott is delivering his message, Manufacturing Matters, in a variety of ways. For FLATE this is an important message and strikes a chord with FLATE’s essence. However from our perspective, there is another important element in the Governor’s action. His choice of venues for announcing important policy that affect manufacturing is a point of pride for FLATE.

Two quick examples:First, in the fall of 2013, the Governor presented a challenge to the state college system to create a $10,000 college degree pathway to provide a practical education that gives graduates the knowledge and skills to meet industry needs. He introduced that call to action at a press conference at St. Petersburg College with that announcement also including a press accompanied detailed visit to the College’s manufacturing innovation center. Naturally, this new education action is important to FLATE, but we are, to borrow a phrase from the Herbert Humphrey (the late Senator from Minnesota and vice president of the United States), “proud as punch” that he chose St. Pete College to launch this new initiative.

Second, last month, the Governor made a major announcement about the changes in Florida tax code that have a positive, directly and immediate impact on Florida manufacturers. His chosen venue for this announcement was the Advanced Manufacturing Center at Tallahassee Community College. Again, the press conference included an up front and personal, with press in tow, and tour of that great facility.

So, what’s the FLATE Focus interest? Besides the fact that Florida is beginning to focus on supporting manufacturing and manufacturing supportive education, there is the really warm feeling that the Governor picked two very strong FLATE partners to launch the public awareness phase of his efforts. Both colleges are strong supporters of the A.S. Engineering Technology degree as well as FLATE and its mission. Hat’s off to Bruce Batton and Rick Frazier at TCC and Brad Jenkins at St. Pete College for making their ET programs the drawing points for the Governor’s announcement location options. To add to our bragging right, FLATE is not too shy to take a bit of the kudos for its role in supporting manufacturing education that is now prominent in these and 14 other state and community colleges in Florida that offer the ET degree.

In closing, check out the banner on the right side of the Governor photo. You got it! That is indeed a plug for FLATE’s “Made in Florida” campaign. Thus, in the words of the A-Team, “Don’t you love it when a plan comes together!” We sure do!

sTEm–at-Work Puzzle #33: Analysis for Possible SCR Failure

An instrumentation technician is examining the operation of the SCR (Silicon-Controlled Rectifier) circuit board portion of a motor control circuit to determine if the device is still allowing a large current between its terminals. The technician knew from his course work that the SCR will only allow high current between its “A” and “K” terminals, the SCR is on, when a specific voltage is applied across these two terminals. This specific voltage value is the maximum voltage value for the SCR and is known as the “Forward Breakover” voltage.

When the “Forward Breakover” voltage value is applied across the SCR, the SCR is “turned on”, the voltage drops immediately, and a large current through the SCR with a corresponding small change in voltage is possible. The tech also knows that measuring the SCR voltage and current values followed by the plot of this current (the “y” axis) vs. the voltage (along the “x” axis) data will determine if the SCR is behaving as it should behave. The technician provided the plot below.

The SCR circuit the technician tested is not functioning properly and it needs to be replaced. Yes or No.

Post your response in the space provided below, or submit your answer at www.fl-ate.org.

HCC-Brandon To Serve as a hub for BEST Robotics

Robots are everywhere. From tracking migration of sharks, to conducting high-precision, minimally invasive surgeries, serving as companions for the elderly and autistic children, to performing daily tasks like vacuuming and folding laundry, robots are increasingly becoming a part of our daily lives. As robotic footprints on industrial and every day operations become increasingly defined, emphasis on a changing workforce and subsequent required skills set is assuming greater prominence in the workplace. “Robots in the workplace are going to be so ubiquitous” says Ken Fiallos, president of the Florida Robotics Alliance (FRA) and Chair of the Tampa Bay Chapter for IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Robotics and Automation.

Given the impending reality of a fundamental alteration in the workplace, Fiallos strongly believes “the skills set of the average person for the future is going to need a robotics familiarity component.” As a retired engineer and a proponent for integrating robotics, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) into everyday curriculum, Fiallos heads several projects designed to expand robotics education in the greater Tampa Bay region. Latest among these is the Florida West Coast BEST (FWC BEST) at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) in Brandon.

Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology (BEST) initiative is the project of the Florida Robotics Alliance (FRA) targeted to fulfill the mission of increasing robotic educational opportunities for students in the Tampa Bay region. BEST is a six weeks robotics program designed to engage, excite and inspire middle and high school students to pursue STEM-based careers. “Children love competition” says Fiallos. To that effect, BEST taps into children’s innate affinity and ability to compete. Using a fun and competitive platform, the program seeks to trigger a passion for STEM.

Initial kindling of this effort is already underway. FWC BEST in partnership with FLATE—the National Science Foundation Center of Excellence in Manufacturing at HCC-Brandon is poised to serve as a regional hub, or a focal point for hosting several robotics competitions and workshops for students as well as educators in the Tampa Bay region. As host organizations, FLATE and HCC will open their facility which includes a manufacturing laboratory for FWC BEST to showcase high-tech equipment used in modern manufacturing facilities, and provide students as well as educators an opportunity to gain hands-on experience using 3D printers, CNC machines, and laser cutters.

The overarching focus is to help students and educators develop a “Silicon Valley entrepreneurial” mind-set, and introduce them to more modern/high-tech methods of manufacturing. “We are about reaching and educating the masses, and equipping them with some entrepreneurial incentives and business skills/knowledge that will help students realize STEM can create a business way of life” Fiallos said. Together with FLATE, the engineering technology program at HCC, the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, the School District of Hillsborough County, Robofest of St.Petersburg, FL, and Learning is for Everyone, FWC BEST is well on its way to hosting two workshops for educators; one in March, the other in April 2013.

“Introduction to BEST Robotics” Workshop will be held on March 20, and will be offered free of cost to all Hillsborough County public school teachers, administrators and alliance partners. The workshop will also serve as a vehicle in training educators/administrators for the BEST robotics competition for students in October 2013. It will introduce educators to the BEST robotics program, familiarize them with robotics hardware and fabrication, as well as give them an opportunity to work with the VEX micro controller programming software.

During the workshop, participants will be programming robots. They will be exposed to Robot C and Easy C. Robot C is essentially a statement based programming language where, for example, you have several statements to address/define where a motor is located/connected. Easy C, rather than dealing directly with statements, has a graphical interface that allows the statements to be generated behind the scenes. So this is for the control of the robot. In terms of building the robot, workshop participants will be designing parts using either AutoCAD inventor, or open S-CAD to generate the necessary design files.

Following the workshop in March, FWC BEST is also planning to offer a second half-day workshop on April 6 for high school and college students. Learning Your ABCs (Arduino Breadboarding Circuits)—the title of the workshop—represents an endeavor to introduce students to the basic electrical concepts of voltage, current, resistance, and use of multimeters. Students will also learn the fundamentals of using an Arduino Micro Controller for making measurements, breadboard-pro-typing techniques used to construct circuits and microcontroller programming techniques.

“We want to get away from the hand-tool approach” says Fiallos. Educators, he says, need to understand that the nature of the workplace is changing. To that effect, the workshop seeks to help educators prepare students to capture opportunities that are being presented as a result of technological advancements. All things considered, “we want participants to leave the workshop with better understanding of robotics,” and “confidence that this experience will yield results with measurable metrics” Fiallos said.

For more information on FWC BEST, or upcoming robotics workshops contact Ken Fiallos at ken@tampabay.rr.com, or visit www.floridaroboticsalliance.org. For information on FLATE’s robotics program and upcoming summer camps for middle and high school students contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org, or visit www.fl-ate.org and www.madeinflorida.org.

National Visiting Committee: A Guiding Force that Drives and Guides FLATE’s Mission

FLATE’s National Visiting Committee (NVC) is composed of industry leaders, educators, workforce, and economic development representatives from across the nation who are committed to providing FLATE the support and help needed to achieve its targeted objectives, goals, and mission. The Committee works to ensure that FLATE reflects its core values on a day-to-day basis. In compliance with the National Science Foundation’s guidelines, the NVC also serves as a guiding force in assessing FLATE’s strategic plans, and offers insight on current and ongoing projects. The NVC is also an integral body engaged in dynamic SWOT analysis, and vested with the responsibility of providing feedback that supports growth and sustainability of FLATE’s mission and goals. The committee convenes on an annual basis, and reports the status of completed and ongoing projects to the National Science Foundation as well as the Center’s leadership team. Early in February 2013, FLATE’s NVC convened at ConMed Linvatec’s world-class facility in Largo, Florida. Mark Snyder, vice president of global operations for ConMed, and member of FLATE’s NVC and Bill Mazurek of the Linvatec facility hosted the two-day meeting which included a comprehensive tour of both the manufacturing facilities and the surgical training facility.

Committee members are actively involved in FLATE’s initiatives. Bruce Driggitt, vice president of human resources at Hoerbiger Corporation of America, a longtime NVC corporate member, contributes expertise and insight on workforce issues while supporting FLATE-led initiatives. In Bruce’s opinion, these initiatives “lead to a more skilled and accredited workforce,” as well as “created a climate that attracts future manufacturers to Florida.” In addition, Driggitt, who has served as Hoerbiger’s representative on the committee for three years says his role in terms of the NVC is to “bring manufacturers perspectives” to the table, and assess strategies to help FLATE educate and train a skilled workforce that supports manufacturers’ needs.

In terms of FLATE’s strengths, Driggitt is impressed by FLATE’s leadership role in advancing state-of-the-art technician education and training throughout Florida. As a senior executive working for a well-established south Florida internationally based manufacturer, Driggitt believes this attribute lies in “leadership by an exceptionally well-grounded group of professionals” who have successfully matched “academics to the needs of industry.” Anthony Fedd, another long term FLATE NVC member who has been serving as an “industry advisor” since 2006, agrees FLATE’s hallmark lies in its “academic leadership and interface with industry, academia and workforce agencies.” Fedd is currently the site director for BASF, and has more than 30 years of experience working in engineering and manufacturing. Anthony is also a long time board member of the Manufacturing Association of Florida. To that effect, he has played an integral role not only in an advisory role, but in providing financial support to develop manufacturing workforce education programs pioneered by FLATE.

NVC members also play an important role in identifying and capitalizing on strategic opportunities. Fedd and Driggitt see vast potential for expanding FLATE’s role at the local/statewide level. Fedd recommends driving continued adoption of the engineering technology degree supporting MSSC CPT at Florida institutions. On the other hand, Driggitt believes expansion into south and southeast Florida through partnership with local state colleges could serve as an effective vehicle in “marketing and promoting exciting careers in manufacturing,” as well as help FLATE promote its programs and services to the community at large.

“Manufacturing is the strength/backbone of a growing nation” say Driggitt. To that effect, FLATE leadership in conjunction with the NVC is working to “create economic growth in the community” by establishing sustainable, industry-centric programs that support a high-tech, high-skilled manufacturing workforce in Florida. For more information on FLATE’s National Visiting Committee and to review current/past FLATE NVC reports visit http://fl-ate.org/committees/NVC.html. To find out ways your company can get involved with FLATE and other Florida manufacturers to promote a strong technical education program with the Florida state college system contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org.

Engineering Expo Heightens Interest in STEM

Engineering enthusiasts in Tampa had an educationally enriching and fun-filled day at the 41st Annual Engineering Expo at the University of South Florida (USF), learning about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). More than 19,000 students, parents, educators and industry experts flocked to the two-day open house event showcasing the USF College of Engineering, academic departments, research laboratories from various campuses, student organizations and local engineering firms. Expo demonstrations like the chemistry magic show, the laser light show and an electrathon race among other attractions piqued visitors’ interest and showcased applications of STEM in everyday life.

Robyn Lynn Medicielo, a seventh grader at Williams IB school in Tampa was among the thousands of students who attended the expo this year. Medicielo who likes “making and finding solutions to things” said she was at the expo hoping to expand her knowledge about engineering-related topics. Medicielo has set her aspirations high. In that she hopes to attend Harvard, and one day become a software engineer working possibly for software giant Google.

Indeed the expo offered numerous avenues for students and parents alike to engage in activities designed to foster a love for STEM. Teresa Boudrea said she brought her daughter Logan to the expo in hopes of inculcating an excitement and love for engineering. “It is the future and key to building so many great things” Boudreau said. Dr. Nykowanna Sloan, assistant principal of a high school in Orange County, FL plans to develop a STEM based lesson plans for her students. Her son, Sam Sloan, a 6th grader at Ocee Middle School, loves to build a robot, and someday hopes to build a remote controlled robot.

As a mark of support for STEM-based local programs FLATE, the National Science Foundation Center of Excellence in manufacturing, was one of the event sponsors and hosted an informational booth for visitors seeking more information about STEM and high-tech manufacturing related educational and career pathways. Danielly Orozco, curriculum coordinator for FLATE who attended the expo notes how the event has greatly expanded and grown in popularity over the years. Orozco, who holds an engineering degree from USF agrees “the expo is a great way to promote engineering and appreciate latest advancements in technological innovations.”

Visitors at the FLATE booth got a first-hand look at solar powered bugs, assembled real circuits, and tried their luck in winning a prize by answering trivia-type questions regarding manufacturers and manufacturing operations in Florida. Students and visitors alike also got to see and meet Brandon—FLATER’s cute cousin who wowed the crowd with his robotic charm. “I hope we helped enhance awareness of STEM fields to the next generation of engineers, technicians & manufacturers” Orozco said.

For more information on the engineering expo visit http://expo.eng.usf.edu. For information on local engineering technology programs at the high school and two/four year colleges visit www.madeinflorida.org/engineering-technology-degree, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org.

Kudos to the HCC Engineering Club!
On another note, a big shout out and congratulations to the engineering society at Hillsborough Community College for winning the electrathon race at the 2013 USF Engineering Expo. The Electric Llama Hawks representing the engineering team at HCC competed with five teams and placed first among all college and high school teams. The overall score was 130 laps, 68 seconds in the first and 62 in the second.  HCC engineering society students have been working on their invention at the FLATE’s manufacturing laboratory at HCC-Brandon since spring of 2011, and have competed in several races in the past few years. 

For more information on the engineering club and various innovative projects visit the HCC Engineering Society page on Facebook, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org. For information on Electrathon of Tampa bay www.ectrathonoftampabay.org.