35th Engineering Technology Forum Highlights a Statewide Community of Practice

The Engineering Technology (ET) Forum is a two-day, bi-annual, professional development
experience bringing together Florida’s diverse and geographically dispersed college community. The ET Forum provides a venue where college faculty and program administrators gather to share program accomplishments, issues and concerns. Since 1996, the ET Forum has developed into a collaborative community of practice. Colleges across the state share hosting of the Forum; the meeting has been held at 21 different Florida colleges. Working together at the ET Forum, Florida colleges develop a “synergy, not silos” approach which reduces duplication and builds community. The Forum is well attended, particularly beneficial to new ET faculty, and the networking results in partnerships and projects among the different colleges.

The Forum opened up with a warm welcome from Valencia College, host for the Fall 2015 ET

Forum. ET Forum members from other colleges shared updates on individual ET programs and related high- tech programs at their colleges. Tours are typically offered and a college’s high-tech lab is always a favorite part of Forum attendees; this time was no exception as Forum members toured Valencia’s state-of-the-art, high-tech lab facility that accommodates students working on lab projects as well as supporting instructors.

Another highlight of the ET Forum was a discussion with a student panel. Students presented their projects and answered questions about why they are in the ET program. Answers were

revealing to attending faculty, in that they provided a marketplace of ideas for future recruitment and retention practices. Following the students panel, Valencia’s Career Program Advisor Panel shared insight about their work with internships, credit for prior learning, and career resources for students. This interactive segment provided a great introduction to a roundtable discussion of ET program advances, research partnerships and funding opportunities, industry certifications and articulations, and the importance of research looking at ET Alumni such as the ongoing research currently being carried out by FLATE and USF Pathtech.

Professional Development workshops on Engineering Technology (ET) related, variable topics are a regular part of the ET Forum collaborative. This Forum’s PD workshop gave ET faculty and administrators a chance to assist with the state review process of the ET degree, and provided valuable input for the state-mandated tri-annual review. A second round of the state review process is planned for the spring 2016 Forum.

The Forum also served as a platform to share manufacturing-related news, and ET program

updates. David Dunkle from North Florida Community College (NFCC) provided an overview of NFCC’s Automation & Production Technology-PSAV program and the upcoming ET program that will be offered at the college. Palm Beach State College, Lake Sumter State College and Pasco-Hernando State College highlighted current student enrollment and discussed current space/equipment limitations. Lara Sharp, new program director at St. Petersburg College (SPC) talked about new program initiatives (Biomed equipment, mechatronics) that have been or will be soon added at SPC.

Vendor support is important to Forum success. Support for the Fall 2015 Forum was supplied

by Learning labs, Jaeger, Technical Training Aids, Southern Educational Systems, FESTO, Bluegrass Educational Technologies, LLC, TESTEQUITY, and KUKA. Not only did the vendors provide hands-on displays of new products in the vendor showcase, they also participated in a roundtable discussion of their observations from the field and answered participants’ questions. 

ET program updates included graduation rate improvement from Hillsborough Community College, and strategies for increasing female enrollment outside of biotech. FLATE updates included the new “Made in Florida” video, new industry connected curriculum, MSSC strategies, and 2015 Manufacturing Day. The Spring ET Forum will be held March 31-April 1, 2016 at Lake Sumter State College. For information on Florida’s statewide Engineering Technology Forum and its impact visit http://fl-ate.org/programs/e-t-forum, follow the ET Forum Facebook page, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org.