Unraveling Influencers & Decision Makers in the Degree Selection Process

Why do students select particular degree programs to enroll at a community college? What recruiting
strategies work? Who are the people who influence a new student’s decision? Last fall, the National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education (ATE), National Center for Optics and Photonics Education (OP-TEC), set out to find out why students were enrolled in optics and photonics programs at partner institutions. Some of the findings outlined in the study were obvious, while others might surprise you, or keep you thinking.

Here is a brief summary of what they found. The survey was administered to 70 students from six partner colleges who had started the optics and/or photonics program that semester. Following the survey, the report revealed demographics of the group were 89% male with an average age of 27. The report also showed 80% were white and 9% were African American.

With respect to the participants completing high school mathematics and science courses, it was found over
70% had taken Algebra I, 60% had taken Algebra II, and 59% had taken Geometry. However, the participants over 30 years old were significantly less likely to have completed these same math courses. About half of all participants had completed chemistry with a lower percentage having completed physics, with the older students much less likely to have completed either. Moreover, 34% of the participants went to work after high school, 34% entered the optics/photonics/laser program in one of the participating colleges, and the remaining were in another educational program at a two, or four-year institution.

Survey questions were targeted to discover what the participants’ first exposure to the optics/photonics/laser
program was; who/what helped them make their final decision to enroll; and what did they plan to do when they completed the two-year degree. Survey participants were also asked what information was important in their final decision to enroll. The respondents were put into two equally sized groups, separated by the median age of 22. The report provides both aggregated data and response of the two age groups.

Parents were the most likely to help the younger group make their final decision to enroll. For the older group, 30% selected “other,” followed by 26% selecting their spouse as the person who helped make the final decision. Only 11% of this group reported parents as those influencing their final decision. Information from college recruiters influenced 68% of the younger age group, but only 32% of the older ones. The latter was also most likely to be influenced by information found in print and/or online sources. When asked why they entered the program, the survey participants overwhelmingly chose the optics/photonics/laser program for the solid employment opportunities, and/or their strong technical skills, and/or an interest in the discipline. Salaries, program length, instructor quality and financial aid/scholarships were all important to over half of the respondents.

More interesting details can be found in the breakdown between age groups, but you can explore those on your own along with closing recommendations at www.op-tec.org. There is a lot of information that our educational partners can use for most of our technical programs including the A.S. engineering technology degree and its certificates. Perhaps the most important information to be gleaned from the survey is that it is important to know who your students are, who helps them make decisions, what interventions work, what they want out of an educational program. Please contact Dan Hull (hull@op-tec.org) for additional information.

Shifting gears from the optics and photonics track, I invite you all to enjoy the Spring edition of the FLATE Focus which is bursting with exciting news about our line-up of upcoming robotics camps and workshops. I’d also like to call your attention to the amazing initiative led by Volusia Manufacturers Association, FLATE’s strategic regional partner, to highlight the robust manufacturing sector in Central Florida. As always try your hand at this month's sTEm puzzle by comparing your answers to last month’s challenge, and make note of how local homeschoolers are sharpening their STEM skills through experiential learning. Before signing off, take in the colors of spring by traveling vicariously to south Florida where the largest manufacturer for Chrysanthemums in North America is located, and make a quick stop at the Florida Energy Systems Consortium website to get some fast fingered facts on Florida’s energy industry.

These and much more in this edition of the FLATE Focus. Enjoy!

Robots Spring Into Action

Florida Advanced Technological Education (FLATE) Center, the National Science Foundation Center of excellence for high-tech manufacturing is hosting a series of events this Spring focused on robotics. The
events kick into top gear with national robotics week celebrations in April. The initiative reflects FLATE’s efforts in celebrating national robotics week and its role in recognizing robotics technology as a pillar of 21st century American innovation. In keeping with the theme, the overall idea is to “highlight the growing importance of robotics in a wide variety of areas, and emphasizes its ability to inspire technology education.” Desh Bagley, outreach manager for FLATE who also serves as a director for local tournaments and coach for FIRST robotics teams hopes to inform attendees about the types of robots that exist in the marketplace, and different functions they perform.” Through it all she also hopes to highlight FLATE’s mission in helping individuals understand high-tech manufacturing and how robots are a key player in making this happen.

As part of this effort, FLATE is partnering with local engineering and robotics clubs in Tampa bay to showcase applications of robotics technology in industrial and everyday settings. Educators, students from all the five HCC campuses, or anyone interested in robotics and manufacturing, are invited to participate in this interactive event which will be held April 8 at HCC in Brandon from 3:00pm – 7:00pm.

Proposed list of activities include:
  • NAO Robot display and showcase by USF College of Engineering
  • Demo of various robots/robotics software by regional robotics clubs which include FLL, FTC and FRC teams from local schools
  • VEX Robot and LEGO Mindstorms NXT Mini-Challenges
  • Demo of industrial robotic arm and tour of HCC manufacturing lab
  • Information given about BEST Robotics, FIRST Robotics, and VEX Robotics
  • Drawing for a free week of FLATE Robotics and Engineering Camp
On a broader spectrum, FLATE also sponsored two local robotics teams, Programming Thunderbots and 
Techno Whizards, to compete at the regional FIRST Lego League (FLL) competition which was held March 2013 at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. The competition this year centered on connecting young people with senior citizens. The first part of the competition involved building the robot. The second component involved conducting in-depth research. As part of the competition, team members were asked to talk to seniors over 65 years old, find out the kinds of challenges they face in everyday life, and then come up with a solution using robots to address these challenges. Solutions could involve manufacturing solutions, medical solutions, or it could be as simple as developing social communications solutions.

Programming Thunderbots invented a robotic pet, named Dr. Pup, for senior citizens that could monitor
health stats and offer companionship. Techno Whizards on the other hand invented a “smart stove” for senior citizens who may forget to turn off the stovetop burners. The “Techno Stove” had pressure sensitive burners that were programmed to signal the relays/contactors in the stove if the burners were on for too long. The stoves were also programmed to call a monitoring service to alert a loved one, or paramedics if the senior citizen does not respond to the beeps and alarms from the stove.

Each team was given 2.5 minutes to complete challenges on a standard robot field. The challenges involved using engineering, programming and STEM-related skills, as well as team work to get to the next step of the competition. The team(s) that demonstrated the best ideas and solutions qualified to compete in the global FLL competition. Only one team from Florida qualified for the global competition this year which will be held in April 2013 in St. Louis, MO.

Through it all, teams gained in-depth knowledge of STEM in a hands-on, problem-based learning
environment. They developed a deeper understanding of these concepts and their relevance in everyday activities. Working together within a team environment and choosing the best ideas and solutions to advance to the next level of the competition also sharpened their teamwork skills. The challenge also introduced team members to societal problems that they would never know, or understand, “much less take a step further and find a life-long, permanent solution.”

For more information on National Robotics Week, or FLATE’s robotics program for middle and high school students visit www.fl-ate.org and www.madeinflorida.org, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org. To enroll in one of FLATE’s summer robotics camps starting in June 2013, or be part of FLL, FRC and FTC teams contact Desh Bagley at bagley@fl-ate.org.

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

sTEm Puzzle 33 (Published in the March edition of the FLATE Focus)

The technician’s examination of the voltage, current data from the SCR is straight forward. Following the
voltage values as they increase from left to right show the expected low current values when the SCR is OFF. The forward breakover voltage value is the voltage value as the current values take a quick upturn. At this voltage value, the SRC turns ON and voltage cascades back to a low value that corresponds to the holding current. Since the plotted data corresponds to the exact expectations for a properly operating SCR , the tech does not have to replace this circuit. The conversation with students can be expanded to explain the rest of the details on the operation of the SCR.

Under normal operation, the voltage applied across the anode and the cathode will be less than the forward breakover point. If a positive voltage is applied at the gate it causes the gate current to increase. The more the gate current, the lower the point at which forward breakover will occur. Once ON, the SCR stays ON and permits high current through the device. The SCR will turn off when the current between “A” and “K” is lowered below the “holding” current.

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

Engineering and Robotics Summer Camps at HCC- Brandon Campus

For the 5th year, Florida Advanced Technological Education (FLATE) Center of Excellence, the National
Science Foundation Center for high-tech manufacturing is partnering with Hillsborough Community College (HCC), the School District of Hillsborough County and local manufacturers to offer several robotics camps this summer. The camps are in the student services building at HCC’s Brandon campus, and are designed to enhance campers’ skills needed to succeed in manufacturing, robotics and other STEM related careers. Cost for each, week-long camp is $150.

Schedule and list of camp offerings include:
  • June 17- 21: Introductory Camp for Middle School GIRLS ONLY!
  • June 24-28: Introductory Camp for ALL Middle School students
  • July 9-12: Introductory Camp for ALL Middle School students
  • July 15-19: Intermediate Robotics & Engineering Camp (A) for middle school students
  • July 22-26: Intermediate Robotics & Engineering Camp (B) for middle school students
  • July 29-Aug.2: Engineering Camp for ALL High School students
Each camp offers different level of challenges. During the introductory camp, students will learn how to
reconfigure Lego®Mindstorms® robots and program them to follow specific commands. The intermediate camps offer students an opportunity to design, build and program a robot. Campers will learn how to operate a 3D printer and learn about design techniques utilizing CAD. The high school engineering camp provides students an opportunity to write programs to operate the NAO humanoid robot. Students will use Arduino Uno Microprocessors to build digital design systems, and solve advanced robotic challenges.
Curriculum for all the camps comprises of a mixture of Lego® educational materials that are integrated with Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) subjects and modern manufacturing, and are conducted in a competitive problem-solving environment. Campers will tour various local high-tech manufacturing facilities, and develop increased problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills, and teamwork and communications strategies. To register for the camps visit www.fl-ate.org/projects/camps.html, and www.madeinflorida.org. You can also contact Desh Bagley at camps@fl-ate.org.

Pictures from 2012 Camps


Mums the Word

Florida's manufacturing environment is incredibly diverse. Located on a few hundred acres of land in Alva
(located between Fort Myers and Belle Glade, FL) is a manufacturing facility that annually produces 186 million copies (that's 1.86 x106 for those of you into scientific notation) of the essential component that supports an entire North American industry sector. If that number isn't impressive enough, this firm can increase productivity to as many as 225 million parts if called on to do so and this production schedule is handled with less than 600 employees.

Who's the manufacturer and what's the product? Presumably you have already guessed that product is
mums; but perhaps you didn’t know that the manufacturer is Syngenta Flowers, Inc. and their Florida operation is responsible for 100% of the potted Chrysanthemums in North America and 80% of the garden variety. Syngenta acquired this operation from the Yoder brothers, long time mums and aster growers from Fort Myers with name recognition powerful enough that Syngenta, an international corporation, retained the Yoder brand for its mums.

Despite all of the tools and technologies available in today's high-tech world of agriculture, how can one farm at one location be the source for all of the potted chrysanthemums (remember that's well over a million pots) in all of North America? OK, we have been a bit deceptive. The facility does not produce all of the potted chrysanthemums you can buy, it produces all of the "sticks," or plugs that the commercial growers use to produce pots of these colorful plants.

Why is a flower, gorgeous as they may be, getting this attention in the FLATE Focus? That’s an easy
question to answer! Starting with a “Made in Florida” industry tour, FLATE is helping the middle and high schools in Belle Glade, FL, develop a partnership with the Syngenta's Alva facility. The goal is to make these students aware of the STEM connections within this manufacturing facility. One of the most effective methods for accomplishing this is to bring students to Syngenta to see first-hand what goes on "down on the 21st century farm."

The first of these visits occurred two weeks ago, as Syngenta was gearing up for the summer/fall mums season. FLATE provided the logistics and transportation support for 25 students from Labelle Middle School and six students from Edison Collegiate High School in Fort Myers to have an extensive tour of the Syngenta operations. The visit could be characterized as a riding tour on the back of open air trucks. Tour guides made stops along the way that were chalk full of high-tech operations. In fact, the tour was framed by visits to controlled environments.

At the start, students were introduced to a clean room, a half-acre long, that could only be entered after
gowning procedures typical of a semiconductor facility with the addition of operating room style hand washing protocols to protect the premium seed stocks stored and germinated within the faculty. The tour ended within a cold room facility (35 degrees F) where the fully grown (less than 2 inches) product is packaged and warehoused pending distribution throughout North America.

So, the next time you buy a potted chrysanthemum from a grower near you, remember that the plant actually started its trip to your home near the everglades where the sun and soil help another "Made in Florida" product bring beauty and wonder into your life.

For more information on the FLATE-led Made in Florida outreach campaign, or to schedule a tour for students in your region contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org, or visit www.madeinflorida.org.

Volusia Manufacturers Association Spreads Awareness One Poster at a Time

Manufacturing is a vibrant industry and serves a pivotal role in supporting not only the local economy, but an
entire nation. The industry is rich and verdant with opportunities, and offers high-tech, high wage jobs that are not only exciting, but requires expertise in devising innovative ideas and solutions. Despite a few set-backs, manufacturing has made a comeback. The resurgence of manufacturing has stirred the interest of many, and prompted manufacturers in Central Florida to take an innovative step in raising awareness about manufacturing, and underlining “skilled worker shortage” in the region.

To set the idea in motion, Volusia Manufacturers Association (VMA), a regional non-profit trade
association representing over 400 manufacturers in the Volusia and Flagler counties in Florida recently started the “poster” project campaign—an effort targeted to raise awareness among students, educators, parents and the community at large about the robust manufacturing sector in the region. The posters are a permanent display at the Advanced Technology Center at Daytona State College in Daytona Beach, FL., and are strategically placed at a centrally located facility that houses over 2000 students each semester, and conducts tours for students and community groups. According to Jane Fifer, executive director and CEO of VMA “showing them the depth of our manufacturers will certainly help support VMA’s mission of building manufacturing awareness.”

The posters (10' x 8', 8' x 8' or 4' x 8') depict products that are manufactured by local manufacturers, and
showcase the jobs/careers that are available locally. Unveiling of the first 29 company posters was held on August 23, 2012. Over 100 individuals from business, education and the community attended the event, with everyone impressed with the caliber of the information and design of the display boards. The project has just begun. Placement of display is based on a first come, first served basis whereby manufacturers can choose a preferred location, with price for design and production ranging anywhere between $148 to nearly $400.

The poster project also ties in with a larger VMA led regional, “Dream it! Do it!” outreach/educational
initiative.“We are replicating these posters to be hung in the manufacturing related career academies in Volusia County high schools” Fifer said. VMA is proud to have the posters located in as many places so students, teachers, and parents can expand their understanding and learn about local manufacturing, and VMA members can avail of a skilled workforce in the end. This effort, together with the many outreach activities of FLATE, “Made in Florida”, CAME and other regional manufacturing associations are sending a strong message locally and statewide about the great careers in Florida’s advanced manufacturing industry.

For more information on VMA’s manufacturing career posters, or to display a poster at the ATC contact Jayne Fifer at jayne.fifer@vmaonline.com, or visit www.vmaonline.com.

Trinity Home School Offers STEM Education through Experiential Learning and “Made in Florida” Industry Tours

When you think of school, you often think of teachers, principals, one-on-one interaction with classmates, or if you like even a physical building/location. Then too, with changing economic and social structures, the traditional concept of schools, or attending one, is rapidly changing. The academic horizon has metamorphosed and students and parents have many options, one of which is homeschooling.

In Florida, the network of homeschools has quickly expanded with more than 48,000 families accounting for
72,408 students that are currently being homeschooled, an increase of over 15,000 students since 2006. (Source: Florida Department of Education). Trinity Homeschool Academy (THA) in Tampa is one such school currently offering students in the greater Tampa Bay region the option to be homeschooled. THA was established three years ago, and offers kindergarten through high school classes to 150 families in Tampa bay. Tonya Walters, founder and director of THA says the idea was to provide a centralized location of learning for students, parents and teachers. THA’s mission is to “provide age-appropriate structured teaching disciplines in all fields of learning, assist parents in becoming more effective educators and to offer a Christian-worldview perspective to its students.”

In keeping with most homeschools, parents and students have the flexibility to choose classes and academic
load each semester. Specialized teachers enjoy the option to teach a subject they are most interested in, or are passionate about. The school currently offers a range of classes that cover STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) related subjects to art, drama, music, Spanish, and robotics. Walters who is a strong proponent in integrating STEM into everyday curriculum says her goal is to give students a range of options that will help them develop confidence. Walters firmly believes that students should get as much experience and exposure to these fields so that when they enter the workforce they are ready to compete in a global playing field.

Most students at THA start their STEM experience with robotics. The school currently has a robotics club, and plans to offer robotics classes for K12 students in the next academic session. High school aged students are set to participate in VEX related challenges, while the lower and middle school students are scheduled to work with Lego®Mindstorms® . To enhance their experience, understanding and interest in robotics, THA recently collaborated with FLATE to organize a field trips for students.

During the trip to HCC Brandon, students (grades 2-8) toured FLATE’s high-tech manufacturing lab,
engaged in a mini LEGO based design activity and learned about current and upcoming technologies that they could be engaged in, in the future. They also got to meet Brandon—FLATE’s super famous robot who has a reputation of charming all onlookers. Owen Waugh, a fourth grader and Tyler Hibberd, a third grader, were highly thrilled to see the “robot in action.” Tyler and Owen, both aspiring engineers agreed that the most “fun” part of their trip was learning how to program a robot. Indeed the tour was highly engaging for most students, and served in expanding their understanding of engineering and the possibilities it offers. “I hope the tour will help develop a desire and passion for robotics and STEM, and an interest to pursue it in future” Walters said. The visit to the Engineering Technology labs at HCC was the 5th “Made in Florida” tour of the 2012-2013 school year. THA students and parents also visited Publix Dairy, Southern Manufacturing Technology, Alessi Bakery, and Valpak earlier in the school year.

Outside of robotics, THA offers a more experiential, or problem-based learning approach for aspiring
scientists and mathematicians. The “young scientist” class for example gives students hands-on experience writing and developing scientific methods. “Engineering Explorers” program is yet another tool for students to explore engineering concepts and their applications in everyday life. “Given the economy and the way everything is changing around us, it is important for students to develop core strengths in STEM” said Walters. To that effect, she applauds FLATE in “serving a greater purpose in educating and creating awareness about STEM-based opportunities for students.” As the partnership strengthens, Walters hopes to offer additional opportunities and field trips for THA students that could serve as a “hook” in creating interest in STEM and high-tech jobs.

For more information on THA contact Tonya Walters at info@trinityhomeschoolacademy.org, or visit www.trinityhomeschoolacademy.org. To organize a school trip to a local manufacturing facility, or take a tour of FLATE’s manufacturing lab contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org, or visit www.madeinflorida.org, and www.fl-ate.org.

One-Stop-Shop for Florida Energy Information Resources

Are you looking for facts about Florida’s energy industry? Do you want to know about energy efficiency and conservation, or learn more about different types of renewable energy? Are you looking for great, up-to-the-minute information to accompany your high school/college energy-related lesson plans? Look no further than the Florida Energy Systems Consortium (FESC) web site. There you will find numerous information-packed factsheets on Florida energy-related topics.

The 2008 Florida legislature defined goals and specific objectives with respect to energy production and consumption to meet its 2020 target criteria. The FESC-FLATE partnership defines FLATE as FESC’s core facility for community college technical workforce education development and deployment throughout the state. FESC is strategically focused on workforce preparation for the existing and emerging energy industry. Many energy-industry educational opportunities are available throughout the state, while other exciting opportunities are being developed. FESC is working to coordinate these efforts and ensure that existing distance education facilities at each university will be utilized to make these programs available via on-line courses.

Available on the FESC website are fact sheets (including links to other excellent related information), on the following topics:

Florida Energy statistics
  • Energy Efficiency and Conservation
  • Biomass Energy
  • Solar Energy
  • Nuclear Energy
  • Ocean Energy
  • Energy Storage and Delivery
  • Energy Policy
For more information on the FLATE-FESC partnership visit http://fl-ate.org/projects/fesc.html, or contact Nina Stokes, project manager at stokes@fl-ate.org/813.259.6587.