Executive Director's Desk Shares Innovative Ideas & Advanced Technologies Showcased at HI-TEC Conference

For the past 6 years, the NSF ATE Centers have worked together to put on the High Impact Technology
Exchange (HI-TEC) conference. Seed funding from NSF in 2009 and a grand vision to provide a premiere professional development event focused all aspects of technician education for advanced and emerging technologies, inspired us to pursue this effort. Six years later, and nearly 600 enthusiastic attendees last month at HI-TEC 2014, says we have arrived. We have “a history,” have overcome obstacles and best of all, we feel like we have met our goal – providing an awesomely strong program at a great venue. FLATE is proud to be a part of the HI-TEC leadership.

One highlight of HI-TEC 2014 was the participation of several of the Department of Labor TAACCCT 
consortia and projects. Sharing NSF ATE's 21 years of rich experience and proven practices in building capacity, collaborations, and commitments in community college advanced technological education programs with the DOL grant projects will provide opportunities for synergistic activities and leveraged efforts.  HI-TEC 2014 provided a neutral and unthreatening platform for learning about each other, defining areas of overlap, meeting potential partners and better defining our common ground—community college workforce education, supporting our industry partners, and preparing student for the workforce. Phil Centonze, FLATE’s external evaluator, is also the evaluator of the DOL FL TRADE Consortia focused his presentation on differences and similarities of the two funding agencies reporting requirements and overall evaluation approaches, providing an opportunity for all of us to learn from each other.

Another highlights included two exceptional keynote speakers, Chad Jenkins and Hilary Mason.
Amazingly, they brought several identical messages from different points of view to our conference attendees. In short, they both emphasized the importance of “coding”, learning to code, and understanding mathematics needed to support such programming. Both speakers strongly stressed the importance of “thinking outside the box,” mixing new, old and unlikely technologies, and reminding us that the future workforce will be different beyond our wildest dreams. And, that that future is not far away. “Become computationally literate” and learn for the “next job” because they are not far off in time, stated Chad Jenkins.

Both suggested that jobs of tomorrow would be very different. Hilary Mason suggested that there is now
so much data of so many kinds available to everyone and that it has so many stories to tell and use for better understanding of our world, that future “research” will involve analyzing existing and old data. Insatiable quests for understanding could keep the new “data scientists” busy for decades. Lastly, they both talked about the paradigm shift of how humans and machines interacted with each other from autonomous robots, artificial intelligence, to machines that everyone now has easy access to do so many unfathomable tasks.

There was much, much more that ranged from deep-dive workshops, eye-opening tours, social events, team meetings, regular sessions, an awesome technology showcase, prizes, great food and the incredible Chicago venue. Videos of some of the HI-TEC sessions are posted (www.highimpact-tec.org). Session presentations will be available in September.

We have covered a lot this month in the FLATE Focus. As you prepare for a new academic year I hope you will enjoy these stories. Write to us, give us your thoughts, comments as we love hearing from you. Enjoy the last few days of summer break before its back to school!