Five American Women Speak about Workforce Education at the International Congress on Vocational Training in Spain

On May 28-30, 2014, the basque government hosted the International Congress on Vocational Training in
Donasita-San Sebastian, in the Basque region of Spain. A panel of five women from the United States representing the Steering Committee of the Obama administration's new strategy on Advanced Manufacturing presented the ongoing and accelerated work in our country's community and technical colleges to better support U.S. manufacturing. This presentation reviewed national and local initiatives to better align education and training programs to meet workforce needs of manufacturers in the same way FLATE, the Florida Department of Education and college partners have been institutionalizing in Florida for the past several years. 

Given FLATE's longstanding partnership with several institutions in the Basque region, I was among the invited delegates to attend the conference. This International Conference is set up as a “Meeting for Collaboration between Vocational Training Centers" from 45 countries, to consolidate relations and cooperation and improvement of vocational training around the world. Speakers from over 10 countries discussed and focused on issues/innovations from their countries. The 400 invited delegates also toured Usurbilgo Landbide Eskola and Tknika Center for Innovation in Vocational Education, the Basque government’s amazing place and space for fostering applied research in science and technology with technical education.

Several common themes emerged over the three-day congress. There now appears to be a growing need, not only in the United States, but also around the world for more vocational education and training (VET). All speakers discussed strategies for increasing vocational training access and desirability as well as positioning VET as part of the solution to the high levels of youth unemployment which is also a common theme as well as a big concern. Many innovations in delivery and access were offered including several ideas to “guarantee” placements in appropriate fields within a designated time frame upon completion of training as one measure to attract young people. 

The “skills gap” message was loud and clear from all formal speakers, and many informal networking
conversations zeroing in on the need for highly skilled workers in “middle-skill jobs”.  The dizzying pace of technology changes in all industry sectors and the importance of keeping the technical programs aligned and updated were also addressed in all venues. Strong support from the political leaders and government officials was also clear and supported the growing importance of VET for long and short-term economic prosperity.

Of course, it was lovely to be in San Sebastian again and reconnect with colleagues and friends at Tknika,
Usurbil, SMC Training and the Global Training Initiative. I was able to observe first-hand the extensive growth of Tknika’s innovation projects and an amazing increase of participation in all projects from research institutions in just two years. Making applied research the common platform for technical education and training, industrial innovations, entrepreneurialism/idea incubation and the connection to basic university research is a great objective. However, providing the space, resources and opportunities in a shared and unthreatening environment to accomplish that objective is a great challenge. Hat’s off to Jorge ArĂ©valo, deputy minister for vocational education and training for doing that and putting Tknika on the global map in the world of VET.

You can learn more about these at the following links:
Closer to home we are focused on similar issues and this edition of the FLATE Focus centers on recruiting and retaining women and girls in STEM. Take a moment to read the articles and post your questions, thoughts and concerns here on the blog, or across any of our social networking platforms that include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter using the handle #GirlsLoveSTEM. Have a great summer! 

STEP Awardees from Florida Lead the Way for Women in Manufacturing

Manufacturing has emerged from its grimy past and has metamorphosed into a high-tech, high-skilled role.
This shift in its trajectory has created an immense and immediate need for a skilled workforce, one that increasingly requires encompassing women as an integral part of the manufacturing workforce. “It is important have the voices of women represented in the manufacturing workforce” said Amanda Riebel, continuous improvement engineer at Hoerbiger Corporation of America in Pompano Beach Florida which is a strategic partner of FLATE and a current National Visiting Committee member organization.

Riebel along with coworkers Celeste Dowdy and Teresa Martinez were among a distinguished group of women from Florida who received the Women in Manufacturing STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) award. The award is part of an initiative led by the National Manufacturing Institute, and is targeted to honor and promote role of women in manufacturing through recognition, research and leadership. (Source: Manufacturing Institute). 

Out of a total of 160 honorees nationwide, 19 women from 12 Florida based companies received the STEP Ahead awards this year. Each honoree had a story that highlighted their accomplishments and leadership roles. Outlined below are two recipients from Hoerbiger Corporation who are still reveling in their accomplishments. We will highlight STEP awardees from other companies in subsequent issues of the Focus, but for now let’s continue the celebratory tone.

Amanda Riebel’s journey into manufacturing started when she graduated with a degree in mechanical
engineering and started working for a manufacturing facility in St. Joseph, MS, before moving to Florida. As a continuous improvement engineer at Hoerbiger Corporation, Amanda oversees the implementation of the 5S’s, working on improving tool life, improving efficiencies of different machines, products and processes while leading a couple of continuous improvement teams within the company.

Celeste Dowdy’s interest in manufacturing was ignited over 15 years ago when she started working with molding and injection at Hoerbiger. Currently she works as a material handler and has been doing so for the past five years. She says manufacturing offered the ideal position where she could combine her passion to work in a fast-paced environment while being able to interact with people from all rungs of the corporate ladder. Dowdy who holds a track record of nearly 100% on-time delivery also enjoys job stability that manufacturing industry offers.

The awardees' performance was acknowledged with presidential finesse. "They laid down a pink carpet for us!” said Dowdy.  Awardees flew first class to Washington, D.C., rode in a limo from the airport to the awards ceremony, were treated to fancy dinners and met with distinguished speakers, powerful leaders/senators, and engaged in networking/skill building activities. “Manufacturing is definitely a predominantly male dominated profession, and it is a great honor to be recognized as a woman in this field” said Dowdy and Riebel.

The STEP award has been rewarding on many counts. Since the reception, Hoerbiger has partnered with
area schools to promote STEM and manufacturing particularly to women. Both Amanda and Celeste have visited Board Anderson High School and Atlantic Technical Institute to speak to 12th grader seniors about their experiences and careers in manufacturing. It has earned them respect especially among male peers, and enabled them to getting promoted, and inspired other women within the company to be nominated for the award in future. “You can do anything you put your mind to. Don’t let anybody tell you what you can’t do” said Dowdy.

You can view the full list of 2014 STEP awardees from Florida in the enclosed box below. The first recognition of 122 women included 10 from Florida. FLATE worked with industry partners across the state to get many women from Florida to get nominated for the award, said Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE. "FLATE adds its voice to congratulate the 160 women receiving the award this year" Barger said. Additionally as a way to promote the STEP Ahead program in Florida, FLATE wil be bringing additional stories in the upcoming editions of the FLATE Focus highlighting the experiences and accomplishments of STEP awardees from our partner companies like Mitsubishi Systems in Orlando, Conmed Linvatec in Largo and Southern Manufacturing Technologies in Tampa.

For more information on the STEP Ahead initiative and to submit a nomination for next year's awards visit, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at, or at 813.259.6578.

FLATE Girls Only Robotics Camp Scholarships sponsored by Suncoast Credit Union Foundation

Florida Advanced Technological Education (FLATE) Center, the National Science Foundation Center of Excellence for high-tech manufacturing, is pleased to announce Suncoast Credit Union Foundation is sponsoring 11 scholarships for the 2014 FLATE “Girls Only” robotics camp. The Girls Only camp is scheduled for June 16-20, 2014 at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) in Brandon, and is open to all girls entering 6th – 9th grade as of September 2014.

The Suncoast Credit Union Foundation scholarships are limited, and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. The Foundation is providing these scholarships for low income families in an effort to give girls from low income backgrounds an opportunity to explore careers in science and technology. Scholarships applications can be downloaded from the FLATE website and can be mailed at the following location. 
            Lourdes Fleurima
            FLATE—HCC, Brandon
            10414 East Columbus Drive
            Tampa, FL 33619

FLATE Girls Only robotics camp is designed to introduce middle school girls to the world of robotics and automation. Camp facilitators are from the School District of Hillsborough County, Hillsborough Community College and local industry, all selected based on their experience and training. The camp will be conducted at the Hillsborough Community College, Brandon Campus, Student Services Building, BSSB 218, 10414 East Columbus Drive. All camp days are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Campers should not arrive prior to 7:45a.m. Campers should be picked up promptly at 4 p.m. each day. Students are to bring their own lunch and snacks.

For additional information on the scholarships and FLATE’s additional robotics camps for middle and high school students contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at and Desh Bagley, FLATE’s outreach manager at 813.253.7838/, or visit

sTEm–at-Work Puzzle #40 Answer

This puzzle can lead to a lesson(s) that connect the rate of gas removal the vacuum pump has to the rate of gas appearing in the chamber because of a leak (gas entering the chamber from the outside) or from a fixed amount of gas trapped in the materials within the vacuum environment (outgassing).  This connection uses the mass transport and energy balance STEM concepts.  The energy (power if normalized with time) available from the single stage pump to remove the gas from the chamber walls established a steady state vacuum (value defined by the flat part of the blue triangle plot) in the chamber.  The two-stage pump has a greater pumping speed (more energy per second) thus; this pump can pull more material faster from the walls.  (Students can use the two plots to calculate and then compare the two pumping speeds.)  Thus, if outgas type material exists, the pressure in the sputter deposition chamber will start to drop sooner when the two-stage pump is used.  The natural technology extension to these science and mathematics concepts is a review of the mechanical construction of a single and double stage pump to see why the two stage pump has a higher pumping speed.  Ask if the pumping speed for the 2-stage pump after outgassing will be the same as before outgassing began.  This is a good way to push student STEM knowledge as it relates to pump mechanics and gas behavior. 

The Tech now knows that the vacuum system is "outgassing". YES                            


First Female Industrial Machinery Graduate from Withlacoochee Technical Institute Goes to Work!

A star is born!, or so it seems at least in the case of Desiree Harmon. Harmon is the first female industrial
mechanic hired by Cemex a global company in Brooksville, FL with its parent company in Mexico. Working on machines may sound tough, but Desiree enjoys it all. “I do not see what I do as a man’s or a woman’s work; it’s more about doing what you enjoy” Harmon said. Her success is rooted in her passion and reinforced through formal education and training at Withlacoochee Techcnical Institute in Inverness, FL.

Harmon recently graduated from the Industrial Machinery Maintenance & Repair (IMMR) program at WTI, and is the first female student who successfully completed the program. The IMMR program according to Larry Hensley, instructor for IMMR program at WTI is "based on local workforce needs and caters to local power, chemical and industrial plants in the region." He says the overarching goal is to prepare studens for successful careers in industrial machinery maintenance "where students can reap the benefits of having a trade-based skill."

IMMR program hours at WTI range between 900-1350 hours. This 10 month, rigorous program (which our readers got a brief overview of in Executive Director’s note in the January edition of the Focus) requires 6.5 hours a day/5 days a week. Instruction includes the repair, installation, maintenance and troubleshooting of industrial equipment, pumps and valves. Students learn to use technical manuals, blueprint reading, machining using drill presses, milling machines, lathes, welding and safety. Related instruction includes mathematics computations, employabilityt skills and entrepreneurship. Upon graduation students can also earn the NCCER Industrial Machinery Maintenance Mechanic Certification which is a national certification. "I was never the inside girl. I love working outside and getting my hands down and dirty" said Harmon. She says the knowledge and skills she gained through the program is transferable across many industries and has definitely given her a competitive edge.

The IMMR program is in its 5th year with almost 50 who have graduated from the program so far.
Graduates are hired by local power plants through the Millwrights Local 1000 of Tampa. “We have been able to get everyone hired by local power plants with all of our students achieving journeyman status” said Hensley. The average student, according to Hensley, from those who have just graduated to those who have been employed in the field earn an average of $85,000 plus benefits. "I love the work that I do, and I don't know how I would raise a family if I didn't have a skilled trade" said Harmon.

Despite great benefits the ratio of women graduating from the program is still very low. With the exception of Harmon, female students, according to Hensley struggle to remain in the program. The biggest impediment for female students, he says, is not only the nature of the job, family related responsibilities, or the number of hours required to graduate, but also a lack of awareness and targeted initiatives to recruit women to these programs/careers. To that end, Harmon is a model student who despite working full time and being a mother of three children has successfully completed the program. “I would  recommend any single mothers to take an interest in welding and machining as it is a great way to provide a good life for your family" said Harmon. "You have to remain focused on the job. From there on the possibilities are endless.” 

For more information on the WTI MMR program contact Larry Hensley at or 352.726.2430. For information on FLATE and resources focused on educating/attracting women to STEM visit or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at

Female Engineering Student to Serve as Role Model & Mentor at the ALL Girls Robotics Camp

FLATE the National Science Foundation Center of Excellence in Florida has served as a leading resource in 
formulating strategic STEM strategies for engaging and retaining girls in STEM.  “Women engineers serve as great role models for younger students aspiring to pursue STEM related education and careers” said Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE. Barger’s thoughts are also relayed in an article published in the Journal of Higher Education which carries similar overtones of female role models and mentors as powerful tools in increasing female interest in STEM. Given the need for women mentors and role models, FLATE is partnering with the Ibero-American Science and Technology Education Consortium (ISTEC) to offer a volunteer robotics technologist position for an international student from Santo Tomas University in Bogota, Colombia.

The Ibero-American Science & Technology Education Consortium fosters R&D collaboration between industry and academia, and serves as a catalyst for socio-economic growth throughout the Ibero-American region. ISTEC’s projects design and improve curricula, professional development, accreditation, on-site training, web-based distance learning, and double degree programs using the most current learning technologies. More at

Ivonne Pinzon who worked in the
All Girls Camp in 2012
As part of the engineering exchange experience, Sandra Milena Madero Zuluaga will serve as a mentor for campers who will be attending FLATE All Girls Camp (Intro EV3 Camp) in June. Sandra will help trouble shoot problems with robots, the software, and help expand campers’ basic understanding of programming. In addition to the above responsibilities, Sandra will also get a chance to visit the College of Engineering at the University of South Florida. “It is with great honor to have Sandra Milena Madero Zuluaga who is also an ISTEC Member, to contribute to this event, by serving as a role model and spokesperson in the campaign to attract more young women into STEM professions” said Wilfrido Moreno, Ph.D..  Moreno who is the professor and ISTEC R&D directors says “Zuluaga will also bring a rich cross-cultural perspective to this important dialogue.” All expenses for her trip will be covered by the ISTEC chapter at USF.

This is the third year in a row FLATE has partnered with ISTEC to extend this opportunity to an international student. Previous ISTEC students who have volunteered and worked with campers include Diana Vargas Martinez and Ivonne Pinzon, both electrical engineering students at Santo Tomas University. Pinzon and Vargas not only helped expand campers' knowledge about STEM and programming, but said the experience broadened their own understanding of robotics and improved their proficiency in English.

For more informaiton on the ISTEC program contact Dr. Wilfrido Moreno at, or visit To enroll in FLATE's ALL NEW robotics camps which be offering campers an opportunity to learn/operate the latest and greatest EV3 software, contact Desh Bagley at camps@fl-ate.or, or Dr. Marilyn Barger at You can also download the camp forms at and 

Follow-Up from 2014 Manufacturing Day Webinar & Next Steps

FLATE's first webinar planning for 2014 national manufacturing day in Florida was held on Friday May 9, 2014. We excited about the robust interest in participating and planning for another successful Manufacturing Day  in Florida later this year. As a follow-up to our first webinar, FLATE has posted a number of resources that will help our partners plan for the big day. Please feel free to access these resources on FLATE’s wiki where you can view and download the following items:

In addition to these resources, FLATE is also planning to host at least two more webinars to prepare for
Manufacturing Day in Florida which is Oct. 3, 2014. During these upcoming webinar(s) Manufacturing Day partners will get a chance to review curriculum aligned to the new Florida Standards developed by FLATE to enhance tour experience for all participants. WE encourage all industry and educators across Florida to attend the webinar which is tentatively set for August 2014. More details will be posted as we draw closer to the date.

Thank you all for your partnership and friendship supporting manufacturing education in Florida. We look forward to another successful Manufacturing Day in Florida and serving as a national model for other states to emulate.

For more information on 2014 National Manufacturing Day in Florida contact FLATE’s Executive Director, Dr. Marilyn Barger at, and Desh Bagley, outreach manager for FLATE at For a recap of last year’s manufacturing day activities orchestrated by FLATE across the state visit

BizBots: It’s about Business, It’s about Robotics

written by Ken Fiallos, P.E. & FLATE Technical Project Coordinator

The BizBots project is a new team-based business and robotics competition designed in conjunction with Hillsborough County Public Schools. BizBots emphasizes both business acumen and engineering principles by having students design a robotic Pick & Place system for fulfilling commercial processing tasks.

The BizBots program is divided into three components. The first is an entrepreneurial/business portion where students will develop a business plan outlining the design, set-up and implementation of their robotically operated business. Special attention will be paid to each team’s ability to accurately forecast the output potential of their business. The second component is an introduction to the engineering process. Students will become familiar with modern manufacturing CNC equipment and software design tools, as well as proper project management and documentation techniques in the context of developing their Pick & Place robot. The third and final component is where the students’ hard work and planning culminates in a one day robotics competition. Students will put their business plan and robotic designs to the test by competing in a 16-team event with the goal of producing and delivering commercial product orders.

 For more information contact Ken Fiallos, P.E. &FLATE technical project coordinator at and visit

FLATE Presents at the Florida Energy Systems Consortium Workshop

This year’s FESC Workshop was held on May 12-13, at The Hilton University of Florida Conference
Center in Gainesville. The annual workshop provides an opportunity for experts from academia and industry and students, to share energy research, ideas and information. FLATE staff gave an oral and poster presentation highlighting the new Industrial Energy Efficiency college credit certificate and specialization for the Engineering Technology degree.

The Florida Energy Systems Consortium was created by the Florida State government to promote collaboration among the energy experts at its 12 supported universities to share energy-related expertise. The Consortium assists the state in the development and implementation of an environmentally compatible, sustainable, and efficient energy strategic plan. Florida’s utilities have predicted that the State’s energy use will increase significantly in the near future.  Energy efficiency and renewable energy generation are critical to meeting this demand.  FESC’s statewide education program is working to produce a workforce trained and equipped to meet Florida’s energy needs. In 2008, FLATE was commissioned to partner with FESC to prepare and execute a technician workforce plan that will put that energy workforce into place on time.

For more information about FESC and the new Industrial Energy Efficiency college credit certificate and specialization, contact Nina Stokes at, or visit

A FLATE Best Practices Guide to Recruiting Girls to STEM

Following the success of FLATE’s first “Recruiting Girls to STEM Career Pathways” workshop at
Hillsborough Community College in Brandon last June, and the evident need for more information and resources on this topic, staff has been working on designing a new, Best Practices Guide  for Recruiting and Retaining Girls in STEM.

Research illustrates that girls can perform just as well in mathematics as boys. To achieve equality, they must be allowed to learn in an environment that fosters success in STEM subjects for all. The constant message should be that with work and effort, anyone can succeed in any field. In research among first-year university students, women are less prone to say that they intend to major in STEM, as compared to men. By the time students reach graduation, there are significantly more men than women in nearly every science and engineering field, and in some, such as physics, engineering and computer science, the difference is striking with women earning only 20 percent of bachelor's degrees.

The new best practices guide is designed to provide resources and practical information for educators and parents on how to encourage girls and make them aware of the many high wage high tech careers available to them. “If we’re going to out-innovate and out-educate the rest of the world, we’ve got to open doors for everyone. We need all hands on deck, and that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.”-- First Lady Michelle Obama, September 26, 2011.

FLATE will be offering a second professional development workshop focused on best practices for teachers, recruiters, counselors, educators and anyone interested in promoting STEM careers for girls at the Florida Association for Career and Technincal Education (FACTE Conference & Trade Show) in Wesley Chapel on July 28. For more information, and/or for K-14 STEM based curriculum and best practices developed by FLATE contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at, or visit and 

Titanium Bone Screws Focus of Rotary Broach Plant Tour

contributed by Polygon Solutions

Polygon Solutions Inc., one of FLATE’s industry partners in Fort Myers, FL, is a manufacturer of rotary broach tools for the precision machining industry focused on medical and aerospace parts. Polygon first entered the rotary broach market with an award winning tool holder, and continues to innovate with new tooling for manufacturing hexagon and six-lobe forms in titanium bone screws. These new tools were featured at the recent plant tour for the Southwest Regional Manufacturers Association (SRMA).

Polygon’s advancements with rotary broach technology have continued with a new Micro size rotary broach holder for machining small shapes using Swiss type CNC machines and lathes. The innovative design of the tool holders includes sealed bearings for easy maintenance and pressure relief holes for smoother machining operations. However, the main interest of this year’s tour was the broaches used for machining Titanium fasteners and bone screws.

Polygon has been making the cutters out of high speed steel, a very hard substrate that resists wear and chipping. The company currently offers M-2, M-42, PM M-4 and PM T-15 varieties for machining different materials. Peter Bagwell, a Product Engineer for the company, was asked about which materials are used for broaching bone screws, and explained how the choice of substrate material depends on the method of broaching. Bagwell also talked about a new rotary broach material the company is researching.

The demand for rotary broach tools is growing as more exotic materials are being used to make innovative aerospace and medical device fasteners. Polygon is working with bone screw manufacturers to help them choose the right method of broaching in addition to the selecting the right tools. Polygon specializes in standard hexalobular (or Torx-type) rotary broaches in addition to custom shapes and sizes. The six-lobe ISO standard hexalobular form is currently the most popular.

Polygon Solutions has hosted an open house with the SRMA for two years in a row, and was one of the
industry tour hosted for the manufacturing day in Florida tours organized by FLATE in 2013. “We value the partnership with our local customers and suppliers and are happy to bring them in and show them what we’re offering,” says Bagwell. We also maintain healthy relationships with other organizations like the Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA) and the National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA). The company believes participation in each of these networks is key to remaining the leader in rotary broach technology.

Polygon is a newer member to the SRMA, which boasts a wide variety of manufacturing business. “Many people move here and move their businesses her due to the great lifestyle Southwest Florida has to offer,” says Bagwell. “However, the exposure to the growing number of innovative medical and aerospace companies is really making it an attractive place for all manufacturers.”

For more information on Polygon visit, or contact Peter Bagwell, rotory broach product engineer at, or 239.628.4800. For information on FLATE, or to host/organize a tour for Manufacturing Day in Florida on Oct. 3, 2014 visit