Great American Teach-In Spurs Interest of Future (ninja) Innovators in STEM & High Tech Manufacturing

Every year, in November, FLATE staff, take a break from their in-house responsibilities and step out
to share their professional knowledge and experience with local students. The effort is part of the Great American Teach-In, a national initiative targeted to offer students, educators and industry professionals across the nation a platform to exchange ideas and best practices on a vast range of topics. Take for example, the story of the elementary school student, who when asked on NPR (National Public Radio) what he wanted to be when he grows up replied “a ninja turtle.” Great American Teach-In is, indeed, targeted to shape the minds of such future (ninja) innovators. The program, according to Great American Teach-In, has helped learners visualize and discuss ideal learning environments leading to the cultivation of innovative thinkers in society.

This year, as in the last few years, FLATE partnered with several schools and industry partners in the
greater Tampa Bay area to give local students an overview of STEM-related careers and its connection to high-tech manufacturing. On November 20, approximately 300 students and teachers from Pinellas and Hillsborough counties visited several regional high-tech hotspots in the greater Tampa Bay area and got an up-close look at careers and educational pathways in high-tech manufacturing. Nina Stokes, project manager for FESC, gave two presentations to approximately 60 students and educators from Philip Shore Elementary School in Ybor City. “The two, all girls classrooms at Philip Shore Elementary School, were very interested and animated” said Stokes. Desh Bagley, outreach manager for FLATE also spoke to 185 second and third grade students  at Sheehy Elementary School and 50 fourth grade students at Cimino Elementary School in Tampa. Students asked meaningful questions said Bagley, and and got to meet with Brandon--the NAO robot.

In another “show and tell” type presentation, Kenneth Jones, from Hillsborough County spoke to 25,
fourth-grade students from Melrose Elementary School in St. Petersburg, FL, about careers and career pathways after high school. Students were given printed copies of the “Manufacturing Heroes Activity” book, and discussed educational requirements and opportunities offered by STEM-based careers. Jones encouraged the students to continue the conversation/discussion with parents, and urged teachers to organize a field trip for students to visit local manufacturing facilities.

Besides taking an active role in student presentations and organizing the tours itself, industry partners sponsored lunch for students and paid for the buses that transported students back and forth from school. Teachers who accompanied the students on tours and presentations also played a vital role. In that they were effective in connecting what students saw and learned back to their classroom, which greatly enhanced students’ learning experience.

“Great American Teach-In was a great collaborative success” said Dr. Marilyn Barger. Barger, principal investigator and executive director of FLATE, said the hope is “to educate and motivate students to explore unique career options in manufacturing,” and bring the world of high-tech manufacturing into the classroom of local schools. To participate in Great American Teach-In next year contact your local school district. For information on FLATE-led local and statewide STEM based projects contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at, or visit and

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