Visit to ET Lab Helps Students Make Real-Life Connections to STEM & Manufacturing

FLATE has a number of outreach initiatives that are designed to spark students’ interest in STEM
and manufacturing. As part of its ongoing effort to reach out to local students, FLATE recently hosted two onsite visits, one for students from Greco Middle School in Tampa; the other for students from the PACE Center for Girls, to tour its engineering technology lab. The initiative is part of FLATE’s engineering technology experience and is one of many ongoing efforts targeted to capture students’ interest in STEM and robotics, showcase their application in high-tech manufacturing settings, and motivate students to pursue high-tech, high-skilled, high-paying careers.

A focal part of FLATE’s engineering technology experience is the emphasis on hands-on, minds-on problem-based learning that is an essential part of today’s workplace. This strategy is not only designed to capture students’ immediate attention, but give them a realistic view of the skills needed in high-tech manufacturing operations. Elizabeth Simpson, who is the teacher of the engineering academy at Greco Middle School, could not agree more. Simpson who accompanied the Greco Middle School team on the tour stated it is important for her students to “connect what they learn in the classroom to the larger world of manufacturing.”

During the tour PACE Center students learned how to use ultrasonic sensors on LEGO Mindstorm NXT kits. They also engaged in discussions that expanded their knowledge about the ways sensors are used in manufacturing to
automate processes. The pre-engineering students from Greco Middle School had a similar enriching experience using a different set of programming software. They learned how to program the humanoid NAO humanoid robot and worked through NAO based challenges. Carlos Fernandez, an 8th grader from Greco Middle School said the most interesting thing about the tour was the “Made in Florida” video that students watched at the start of the lessons. De-Jah Brown, another student from Greco who aspires to be a biomedical technician, stated the most interesting aspect of the tour for her was  learning how to use the sensors.

Students from both schools also learned about the A.S degree in engineering technology offered at HCC and at 15 other state/community colleges across Florida. Students also learned about cuting-edge technologies and STEM based concepts like 3D modeling, additive manufacturing, motors and controls, programmable logic controllers, robotic arm and hydraulics and pneumatics that are integrated in everyday, high-tech manufacturing operations. Through it all, Simpson hopes students will see the various applications of science and technology in manufacturing a product and that this experience will help them learn about diversity of STEM-related careers options that are available to them.

Indeed, the engineering technology experience has been a successful strategy in garnering student interest in STEM and
robotics. Post event survey shows an overall favorable response from students from both schools. Approximately 92% of students agreed FLATE’s ET Experience will help them with STEM-related coursework in school. More than 50% of the students said they would use the resources posted on the Made in Florida website, and 100% percent of the students said they would recommend the ET experience to other students.  

For more information on FLATE’s STEM based projects and outreach initiatives contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org, or visit www.madeinflorida.org and www.fl-ate.org. For information on upcoming summer robotics camps, or to enroll in one this summer contact Desh Bagley, outreach manager and camp director at bagley@fl-ate.org