Educators get one–on-one with Robots & Manufacturers @FLATE Summer Institute

Robots are ubiquitous, and the notion of them as a character in science fiction movies has altogether, but faded to oblivion. Robots are here and now, and have morphed into mainstream everyday life paving the need for STEM educators to be conversant with robots, and also learning strategies to integrate robotics technology as part of their regular STEM curriculum. Given the widespread integration of robotics and the growing need for qualified educators in this field, FLATE recently hosted a Robotics Summer Institute for teachers. The workshop held last month was attended by educators across Florida, with generous travel support/reimbursement for educators sponsored by FACTE through an FDOE Perkins grant. 

“Robotics engages students who are already interested in STEM, but also helps build critical
thinking, problem-solving and team building skills which are beneficial across all industries” stated Bill Eustace, who teaches advanced automation technology program at North Florida Community College and was attending the workshop to get ideas on starting a robotics camp similar to the one hosted by FLATE. “I might be involved in my school’s robotics program so I wanted to learn more” said Greg Stewart an eighth grade engineering teacher at East Lake Middle School Academy in Tarpon Springs, FL. Janice Katz, an elementary school teacher who works at the Davenport School of Arts in Davenport, FL, attended the workshop in an attempt to get ideas on how to start a robotics program at her school as well.

Indeed the workshop met the needs of various educators in different capacities. It gave middle

and high school teachers an up-close, and hands-on training in robotics that featured sessions with a variety of robots including an industry tour of CAMLS, an advanced medical learning and simulation healthcare training center in Tampa. “The tour of CAMLS was very interesting and is the kind of activity that I’d like to engage my students in” said Greg Stewart. The tour also enumerated how robots are affecting changes in healthcare industry and the larger question addressing the need for skilled technicians. “I was fascinated to see robots in action in real life” said Laurie Hamil who teaches Arts & Communications at Rowlett Academy in Bradenton. Hamil, who has attended previous FLATE workshops, stated the tour of CAMLS provided real-life experience on how robots and robotics surgeries are changing the lives of injured servicemen.

Additionally, educators got to watch FLATE’s newest “Women in Manufacturing” video,

currently posted on FLATE's YouTube page. “It was great to see women feeling empowered” said Beth Boland, a 7th grade engineering teacher at East Lake Middle School Academy in Tarpon Springs. For many attendees, men and women alike, the video also keyed into the fact that women are more detail-oriented and better multi-taskers. A characteristic, Boland noted, observed even in the classroom where her female students are methodical, better at planning, and emerge more successful in completing tasks than boys. “I was particularly impressed by the knowledge shared by Elizabeth Simpson who has a great foundation and a good curriculum that I’d like to model” said Boland.

Besides giving a real-world perspective on the use of robotics technology, FLATE also hosted a

luncheon with robots and local manufacturers. During the “luncheon with robots and manufacturers,” attendees got to interact one-on-one with manufacturers and got first-hand accounts from industry professionals looking to find the incumbent workers with some of the same skills set they discussed were important in filling certain positions. “It is still good to know about the real-world connections even though the material is too advanced for my elementary students” said Janice Katz. During the luncheon, educators and industry professionals engaged in a Q&A sessions that highlighted the need for educators and industry to work cohesively to address the current skills gap. “I am so grateful to FLATE because it has given me the expertise and ideas to open up a STEM program at the elementary level that really did not exist in Manatee County” said Laurie Hamil who adds that the things she has learned at the FLATE summer camps have given her ideas and resources that she can take back and integrate as part of her classroom/curriculum. 

Post event survey show high rate of satisfaction from attendees. Approximately 94% stated the workshop was good and/or very good for overall professional development value. The same percentage also stated the workshop provided them information on using robots in the classroom. Over 80% of the attendees also rated "lunch with the manufacturers panel discussion" as good, and/or very good. 

For more information on FLATE Summer Robotics Institute visit www.fl-ate.org and www.madeinforida.org. You can also visit the FLATE Wiki where we have posted a number of free resources for educators and students, and/or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org/813.259.6578.