From the Executive Director’s Desk: Manufacturing the Future. Picture It!

From the White House communications on the website, the goal of the 40 plus manufacturing institutes to be created over the next ten years is to enable U.S. industry and academia to solve the "scale-up" challenges that are relevant to industry.  This National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) is and will be working to create competitive, effective, and sustainable ‘manufacturing research-to-manufacturing infrastructure’ quickly moving research to plant floors as innovative products and production processes.

To date, six Manufacturing Innovation Institutes have been awarded with several more in the pipeline to be announced and funded in the near future. The specific technology foci of the current institutes are defined in the table below. The most recently funded institute will be housed in Rochester, NY, and led by the Research Foundation for the State University of New York and is focused on photonics.

At the recent HI-TEC conference ( in Portland Oregon, FLATE assembled a panel with representatives and information from some of the NNMI institutes to share their overall missions and goals. One of the key intent of this HI-TEC session was to bring the NNMI mission to the attention of ATE centers so members of the NSF ATE community could start thinking about how to participate in their workforce development strategies. Dennis Thompson from the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII), University of Illinois Lab in Chicago, IL, and Major General Nick Justice from the Power America Innovation Institute (located at North Caroline State University in Raleigh, NC) gave overviews of their specific missions and goals including their workforce foci. There were many questions and lively discussions with the HI-TEC audience who were particularly interested in the institutes’ plans for workforce development and the visions that these two had for the future innovations of their focus technologies. The current and planned manufacturing innovation institutes are required to have workforce plans in their portfolios and NSF ATE centers and projects were recommended as potential partners for this aspect of the institutes.

Workforce preparation means a lot of different things depending on the level of workforce an organization is interested in. Certainly
workforce development is at the heart of two-year associate level technical programs in Florida and across the country.   Collectively, FLATE and several other ATE centers focused on manufacturing have been working for over 20 years on developing state-of-the art technical programs to support our industry partners and building amazingly robust academic and industry partnerships. We have engaged many industry partners, reviewed innumerable skills lists, defined how best to assess them, and incorporated validated and valued industry credentials. Through this joint effort we have developed many innovative, accelerated pathways into technical education credentials, designed secure pathways to advanced degrees, educated thousands of secondary and post-secondary educators in new and emerging technologies tightly aligned to our associate programs, and encouraged hundreds of thousands of students via workshops, summer camps, school visits etc. to consider careers in advanced technologies.

It is crystal clear that the ATE community has the expertise and experience to build new best practices, strategies, and innovations for technician education that the NNMI will need, and we hope to be partnering with the institutes in the very near future to help all of us
reach our goals of developing the next American workforce. FLATE and its manufacturing ATE Center partners are beginning to explore the avenues to move forward with new NNMII partnerships and we will keep the ATE community apprised of our activates with the expectation that our Community of Practice will drive us to better interactions with the nation's NNMIIs as they develop the future technologies that strengthen American manufacturing global position.

I now invite you to read the rest of the stories in this edition of the FLATE Focus. Camp season ended on a high note, and in this edition we bring you stories that capture some of the highlights of camp season including the staff who worked behind the scenes to make this another successful endeavor. The next big, exciting news dawning in the horizon is Manufacturing Day 2015. We have outlined some of our strategies and provided leads on how industry, educators, community organizations, regional manufacturers across Florida, or the community at large can be engaged in this national movement to celebrate Manufacturing and American Innovation. We have sTEm puzzle 50 to keep you thinking and keep the fun alive. These and many more stories in this edition of the FLATE Focus.

As always we look forward to your comments. Drop us a line below the blog posts, or email us at, or connect with us socially on Facebook, LinkedIn, or tweet us @Made_InFlorida on Twitter. Welcome back & have a great back to school month!