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Executive Director’s Take on Mechatronics & the Changing Face of Engineering Education

In mid-November FLATE was invited to attend a workshop at New York University (NYU) 
Engineering College. The workshop was specifically focused on innovations in mechatronics education and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and sponsored by Quansar, makers of educational process control equipment that supports mechatronics and robotics systems laboratory courses. The attendees came not only from around the county, but also around the world with representatives reflecting strong interest in addressing the challenges as a result of a shift away from traditional discipline classifications in engineering education. With over 70 attendees primarily from baccalaureate and graduate engineering programs, there were lively discussions about various approaches to this blending discipline challenge. Suggested solutions were focused on meeting needs of industry at the bachelor and graduate level with peripheral, but useful discussion related to engineering and mechatronics technicians.  

The workshop shed light on how many four-year and graduate engineering and engineering
technology programs across the country are evolving to help graduates meet the fast changing engineering workforce needs of both private and public industry sectors in large and small scale mechatronic systems. Mechatronics is not typically addressed in two places one might first look—the classical electrical and/or mechanical engineering programs. From the teams of attendees, solutions included co-branded “interdisciplinary” courses that mingle the fundamental mechanical and electrical skills; interdisciplinary capstone project courses that may mix students and/or faculty from different departments; and totally new departments with new degree programs labeled “mechatronics; robotics, automation” etc. Unfortunately, these changes in four-year programs are highly dependent on the interests and expertise of the faculty driving the change. This results in baccalaureate and postgraduate engineers with expertise focused on specific objectives that may not necessarily encourage the production of engineers that can adaptively work in current and future manufacturing facilities.

Although not the primary focus, the need for our two-year technician level graduates was unanimously affirmed a number of times throughout the workshop and particularly emphasized by the participating industry representatives. An identified starting need for mechatronics education is a good definition of the specific fundamental skills needed at various professional (2-year technician graduates, 4-year engineering and engineering technologist graduates, and advanced degrees) levels. The summary report of the meeting will capture those results and be forthcoming early in 2017 from NYU.

In focus and more to the point for two-year programs was what do employers need from their
new graduate hires? The answer was loud and clear from the companies in attendance and echoed by educators who work closely with partner companies both in theoretical and applied research projects. Industry wants “system thinkers, creative thinkers” with “command and understanding of many technology fundamentals” so that graduates have the tools as well as practice in thinking “outside” our traditional disciplines to find solutions for current problems as well as developing new and innovative products. Besides the summary report, the leaders of the workshop and supporting industries are designing an online platform for sharing resources, program information, and curriculum. A follow-up meeting/s are also being considered to continue the conversation, and ultimately define the 21st century skills for mechatronics professionals at the engineer, engineering technologist and technician levels.

On a similar thread, FLATE and the PACE ME ATE grant out of Virginia Western Community College are sponsoring and hosting a monthly “Mechatronics Community Exchange” online meetings to foster collaboration, sharing and networking among two-year college faculty and program managers offering mechatronics programs, or those wanting to offer a new program, or transition an existing program. The MCE started with a core pilot group last spring, and became a great place to “learn from each other”.  “MCE” typically meets at 3 p.m.m one Friday every month during the academic year.  The next meeting is scheduled for Friday Jan 20, 2017 at 3 p.m. If you are interested in joining this conversation, or would like to be added to the emailing list please contact Jesse Kokotek, FLATE Curriculum Coordinator at 813.259.6419/kokotek@fl-ate.org and Dr. Marilyn Barger, Executive Director at barger@fl-ate.org.

Stepping aside from the regular topics, I invite you to read rest of the stories in this special holiday edition of the FLATE
Focus.Don't forget to take a stab at this month’s hilariously challenging sTEm puzzle, a special ‘North Pole Addition’. This and many more stories in this edition of the FLATE Focus. From all of us at FLATE have a holly, jolly, happy and safe holidays & a prosperous 2017!



Data Bytes from 2016 Manufacturing Month

Last month we brought you a story summarizing MFG Day/Month events and industry tours 
throughout October, and the role FLATE and its network of statewide partners continue to exert in formulating an effective MFG Month strategy in Florida. FLATE’s cohesive strategy for MFG Day/Month has successfully enabled students, parents, educators, manufacturers and the community at large throughout Florida to participate in statewide Manufacturing Month events and industry tours. These industry tours and events are critical in giving each participant an up-close look at this dynamic high-tech, high-skilled world of manufacturing that offers a diversity of high paying jobs and careers. This month we bring up some updated facts and figures that reflect the impact and scope of this national event that celebrates the power and strength of American manufacturing, and the sustained and important role it continues to play in establishing manufacturing as a key driver in a global marketplace.

This year FLATE and its network of statewide worked cohesively with school districts and

industry partners across to coordinate, organize and host 172 Manufacturing day/month industry tours and events across Florida. Approximately 3787 middle, high school and college students, 55 chaperones that included parents and educators from 32 counties in Florida toured 125 high-tech industry sites across Florida to get a 360 degree view of manufacturing, and how Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) concepts are applied and integrated in everyday high-tech manufacturing operations.


This year, MFG Month was bit of an anomaly, with the onset of hurricane Matthew that struck Florida at the kick off of MFG Day/Month. As a result several industry tours and events were either cancelled, and/or rescheduled with some counties like Polk County and Lee County in Southwest Florida hosting industry tours in January 2017. We will bring you updates on these tours in subsequent issues of the FLATE Focus. Since the kick-off of MFG Month in October, FLATE has been working on compiling statewide data that provides an in-depth snapshot of the tours and events.

Let’s take a closer look at the 2016 MFG Day/Month stats and figures to gauge the overall impact of this statewide effort.


Overall Statewide Data

Since the inception of MFG Day/Month in 2013, a cornerstone of FLATE’s statewide 
outreach for MFG Month has been its defining effort in surveying ALL MFG Month participants. This year there were a total of 171 industry tours and events for MFG Day/Month. Out of the 171 events, 161 were industry tours, and 10 were non industry tours and events like open houses, career fairs, movie screenings etc. Counties and cities across Florida issued proclamations marking Oct. 7 as MFG Day and October as MFG Month. 

A defining component of MFG Day/Month, one that is almost exclusive to Florida, is the initiative spearheaded by FLATE to survey ALL MFG Month participants across the state. FLATE has taken a lead on surveying statewide industry hosts, educators, tour guides and students participating in the Made in Florida industry tours. This effort, while time consuming and tedious, has not only helped FLATE define and streamline its outreach efforts to educate students, teachers and community at large about the role of manufacturing in the local/state economy, but has given deeper insight to manufacturers, educators and regional manufacturers’ associations across Florida in developing tools for a customized outreach strategy in their region.

As in previous years, FLATE surveyed all MFG Month participants to include statewide industry

hosts, educators/chaperones, students and parents participating in a Made in Florida industry tours for 2016 MFG Day/Month. Of the 1557 student surveys received so far, there was an 83.5% increase in students’ consideration of careers in advanced manufacturing after the tour. Of the surveys received so far, Nearly 92% of students stated the tour helped them understand how STEM subjects are applied in advanced manufacturing industries. Approximately 97% of surveyed students stated they would recommend other students have the same opportunity of this tour. Out of the student surveys received and tabulated by FLATE so far, nearly 97% said that the tour gave them new information about careers in advanced manufacturing. In taking a closer look at post event survey data and demographic breakdown, there was an approximately 169.2% change in girls considering a career in advanced manufacturing after the tour compared to approximately 62% boys.

Industry hosts also deemed the MIF industry tours as a valuable investment of their company

time. Of the industry tour hosts that responded to FLATE’s surveys, 100% stated the tour was a good use of company time and resources. In an on line post industry tour survey formulated and tabulated by FLATE, an industry tour host stated that they “enjoyed hosting (the students,” and that it was a “great opportunity to help middle school students understand manufacturing.” Another host said “anytime we can show students the modern face of manufacturing it strengthens our future.”

FLATE also surveyed educators and parents to gauge their overall experience and response to the MFG Month tours. Of the surveys received by FLATE, approximately 95% educators and parents stated they found the tour helpful in understanding Florida high-tech jobs and career opportunities. One hundred percent also stated they would recommend other students have the opportunity to participate in a Made in Florida industry tour, and nearly 98.3% agreeing to promote a career in advanced manufacturing for students.

Manufacturing Month was special for manufacturers in Florida and across the nation as it

provided a platform to showcase local, regional and statewide manufacturing to statewide stakeholders. Manufacturers, school districts, regional manufacturers’ associations, professional organizations, and many individuals contributed to make this a successful endeavor. A full listing of statewide MFG day/month coordinators and partners are outlined in the October and November editions of the FLATE Focus. FLATE would like to once again thank all partners involved for making 2016 Manufacturing Month a grand success! We look forward to working and partnering with you and additional stakeholders for 2017 MFG Month!

For more information on FLATE’s statewide strategy for manufacturing day/month visit www.mfgday-fl.com. To host/organize a Made in Florida industry tour for your students, and other STEM-related initiatives during the regular academic year, contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org, or at 813.259.6578.

New MIF Curriculum Explores Women & Gender Diversity in the Manufacturing Workforce

FLATE’s newest “Women in Manufacturing video has been an effective tool in highlighting the
role and significant contributions of women who have made remarkable strides in the Manufacturing workforce. The Video, produced by FLATE in partnership with the Scientific League, discusses pertinent issues about the role women have played in the manufacturing industry, outlines their journey/struggles in entering the manufacturing workforce, and how women have maneuvered through each of the challenges to assume rewarding careers in manufacturing starting at the technician to the C Suite level.

Since the debut of the Video, FLATE has built a Teacher’s Guide featuring three comprehensive curriculum and lesson plans that addresses issues outlined in the Women in Manufacturing video. These curriculum/lessons align with the new Florida Standards (SP.PK12.US.3.3b), and are designed to serve as teaching aids to help educators formulate lessons that stir students’ interest in manufacturing, and help with academic and career planning, course selection, and/or post-secondary goals. The lessons outlined in the teacher’s guide also provide a first-hand look at real-life scenarios surrounding gender bias in the hiring process, and how these collective experiences have shaped the role of women in the current manufacturing workforce. Jesse Kokotek, FLATE curriculum coordinator states the lessons complement FLATE’s STEM based resources targeted to attract women/girls in STEM, and hopes the lessons will help educators enhance their curriculum and spur students particularly girls’ interest in manufacturing careers.

The first lesson plan “Now Hiring-Help Us Pick the Best Candidate” simulates a real-life scenario
where students are provided with resumes and asked to identify the best candidate for a fictitious position at a manufacturing plant. This lesson is intended to be used prior to watching the Women in Manufacturing video, or doing any other lessons. It also serves as a discussion starter about gender stereotypes and inequality. Expected outcomes include building insight/understanding about gender stereotypes and how it can play a role in the hiring process for technical jobs.

The second lesson plan, “Traditional versus Non-Traditional Jobs” compares the two types of jobs often sought by women. The primary focus of the lesson is to explore and contrast manufacturing and technology-driven careers in terms of education requirements, standard of living and job availability. Expected outcomes of the lesson include: an understanding that not all career paths are equal, and sometimes, it is advantageous to seek employment in a non-traditional technology-driven field. The lesson also underlines the importance in assessing standard of living and job availability while choosing a career.

The final lesson plan, “Women Who Lead the Way” takes a closer look at women who have
made significant impact and contribution towards gender equality in the workplace. The lesson helps students understand how past experiences of women in manufacturing have helped shape the way women are currently perceived, and/or will be treated in the workplace in the future, particularly in manufacturing and technical jobs that are considered nontraditional for women. At the conclusion of the lesson, students gain an understanding of how present-day opportunities represent a culmination of discrepancies women have encountered in the past, and the ongoing need/quest for gender equality in the workplace.

For more information on the Women in Manufacturing video and related curriculum/lesson plans visit the “STEM Resources for Girls” section on the FLATE Wiki. To watch the Women in Manufacturing video head to FLATE’s YouTube Channel at https://youtu.be/rKW7DslaZAs, and/or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, Executive Director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org, and Jesse Kokotek, FLATE curriculum coordinator at kokotek@fl-ate.org

sTEm–at-Work Puzzle #57: Special North Pole Addition

Well, of course you might have guessed! Rudolf was playing pawball last week and bumped his
nose. Now it is bruised and will not glow. Naturally Santa should not have allowed him to play but who is going to tell Rudolf he can't play in any reindeer games? (Not Me!! J).

Anyway, the biomedical technician elf (of course there is one) went into Santa's North Pole Workshop maker space (yep best one in the world) to design and then fabricated a nose glove that fits perfectly over Rudolf's sort of swollen nose. It uses a low frequency red LED and an API that lets Santa turn on the LED using his phone. The Tech knows the relationship between wave length and frequency.  This elf also knows that Wave Number is inversely proportional to the wavelength.

From the 4 possibilities show in the graph, which LED did the Tech select for Rudolf’s nose glove? 



Submit your answers below the blog post, or at www.fl-ate.org.                                                                                                                

STEM Family Night Gives Local Students & Parents’ a 360 Perspective of High-Tech Careers & Educational Pathways

FLATE has a vast network of partners that works closely with the Center in formulating STEM-based
programs that are geared to reach out to diverse groups of students and educators across Florida. One such partnership culminated in Fall 2015 when FLATE was invited to be part of this elite STEM ecosystem. The Tampa Bay STEM Network (TBSN) is part of a national Community of Practice led by the White House-initiated STEM Funders Network to support STEM education and nurture learning opportunities for students, and is the only recognized STEM ecosystem of its kind in Florida and in the Southeast. The project which “was built on over a decade of research into successful STEM collaborations,” is building momentum in greater Tampa Bay, and has a number of outreach strategies that targets underprivileged youth by creating an educational ecosystem.

In keeping with some of its targeted outreach goals, Tampa Bay STEM Network, the Alliance for Public
Schools at the School District of Hillsborough County, Moffitt Cancer Center partnered with FLATE and Hillsborough Community College’s Brandon campus to host a STEM-themed family night for middle and high school students from the School District of Hillsborough County. Students and their families from Jennings Middle Schools, McLane Middle School, Armwood and Brandon high schools were invited to attend the STEM Family Night on December 6. FLATE and HCC took a leading role in formulating a stimulating program designed to stir students (and their parents’) interest in Manufacturing, and educate them about STEM related careers and educational pathways.

STEM Family night served as an information session for all attendees on various STEM based programs
offered by the School District of Hillsborough County and how these programs are aligned with the FLATE-created A.S degree in Engineering Technology degree and other STEM related A.S programs offered at Hillsborough Community College. Students and parents also got to meet face-to-face with local manufacturers. Roy Sweatman, president & CEO of Southern Manufacturing Technologies, a high-tech manufacturer in Tampa spoke to attendees about career opportunities in manufacturing available at SMT and the educational credentials required to secure those positions. Dr. Nancee Sorenson, President of HCC Brandon Campus and Dr. Alessandro Anzalone, Dean of A.S. degree programs at HCC in Brandon also highlighted various programs at HCC and how these programs prepare students with the necessary educational and technical skills-set sought by high-tech manufacturers like SMT. “Everyone should bring their kids to such programs so they can expand their knowledge base about the resources, programs and careers that are available locally here in Tampa Bay” said Liza who was attending the event with her son, Matthew, who is a student at Brandon High School in Brandon, FL.

As a facilitator and a co-host of the STEM family night, FLATE took a leading role in setting-up various
stations for students to tour FLATE/HCC’s state-of-the-art engineering technology lab. During the tour students got a first-hand understanding about engineering technology concepts and how these are applied in high-tech operations. Attendees were separated into four groups and rotated through eight stations that included several demonstrations. Michell Puentes, current engineering technology student at HCC and FLATE project assistant gave a demo of the robotic arm and electrical motors. Michell’s presentation centered on providing students/parents a hands-on understanding of robotics and also its real-world applications in manufacturing operations. Michell demonstrated how students can use the teach pendant and the software to program a robotic arm. “The process of discovery is what fascinates me about STEM” said Rachel who currently attends Brandon High School. “It is important to know about these technologies and educational options so you don’t limit yourself” Rachel said.

STEM family night also included an up-close meeting with Brandon, FLATE’s humanoid robot. Jesse
Kokotek, FLATE curriculum coordinator who brings years of real-world experience building and programming robots gave a demonstration highlighting robots’ potential as an educational tool, and how robots are an extension of how STEM concepts are applied in the real world. “My son enjoyed the demo of the NAO robot. What we saw with the robot and how they had to troubleshoot to make it work is relevant in everyday situations as well” Liza said.

In addition of the NAO robot, engineering technology instructors at HCC, Ron Smith and Shirley Dobbins
gave a hands-on demo of the 3D printer and SolidWorks. HCC students from the engineering program showcased some of their work with the electric car and showed attendees how to operate programmable logic controllers. “What I enjoyed about tonight was the demo of Brandon, the humanoid robot” said McKinsey, a student at Mulrennan Middle School. As part of the tour, students also got to meet and greet local manufacturers, and toured HCC’s state-of-the-art Biotechnology lab in Brandon. " We try our best to make science fun and exciting for our K-12 students by encouraging their natural curiosity about the world and teaching them how to find answers themselves"  Debrati Ghosh, program manager for the biotechnology program at HCC. During the biotechnology lab tour students/parents got a to see first-hand a display of DNA fingerprinting techniques to identify the suspect. Through this process students were also able to witness the transformation of bacteria with flow protein and the aseptic practices in the world of tissue culture. "Together it was the recipe for getting learners excited about and interested in the science of learning that will follow them in their future" Ghosh said. 

Both students and parents deemed highly informative. “There is value in learning new things” said Michelle, who was attending the event with her daughter, Rachel. She further added that is it is important for her daughter and others students to make a connection and see first-hand what they are studying in school is relevant and how it is being applied in the real world and in high-tech industries.

STEM family night was the first of its kind co-hosted by FLATE, but is part of a series of STEM-themed
events that are scheduled at various locations across Hillsborough County. “We are glad parents and students overwhelmingly deemed the tour valuable in learning about FLATE/HCC’s engineering technology degree, its workforce programs and the local industries they support” said Dr. Marilyn Barger, Executive Director of FLATE who is at the helm in leading several successful STEM based initiatives in Florida and across the nation. To view a full listing of upcoming STEM events visit http://all4schools.org/events.

FLATE is looking to host similar “Engineering Technology Experience” tours and open houses for Hillsborough County School District students in Spring 2017. To schedule a visit to FLATE/Engineering Technology lab at HCC contact Janice Mukhia, FLATE project/outreach manager at mukhia@fl-ate.org. For more information on FLATE’s STEM based outreach, curriculum and lesson plans for middle and high school students and upcoming events contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org, or the FLATE Wiki, www.madeinflorida.org and http://fl-ate.org/events.

Local High School & College STEM Programs Paves Pathway for Careers in Manufacturing

Manufacturing is a rich and evolving industry that offers diverse opportunities. The changing face of manufacturing from its grimy past, to a modern, high-tech industry that is defined by cutting edge, automated tools and technologies has paved the pathway for a spike in demand and need for high-skilled workers. This demand for skilled technicians, who have the educational credentials and the technical know-how, is being addressed through multiple channels, one of which is education/training.

Here in Hillsborough County, Fla., Armwood High School recently launched a manufacturing program in
machining. The program represents a joint effort between some of FLATE’s regional partners that include the Manufacturing Alliance of Hillsborough County, School District of Hillsborough County, Hillsborough Community College, CareerSource Tampa Bay and Hillsborough County. “Manufacturers across Florida are constantly on the lookout for skilled machinists” said Dr. Marilyn Barger, Executive Director of FLATE, the Florida-based National Science Foundation Regional Center of Excellence in manufacturing education and training. Barger hopes the program at Armwood will help address the regional and statewide manufacturers’ demand for skilled machinists.

The Machining Technology program at Armwood High School aligns with FLATE’s efforts in reaching out
to high school students, tapping the interest of fresh talent, and getting them excited about careers in manufacturing. The Program is poised to provide students with a quick and direct pathway to enter the manufacturing workforce. Armwood’s Machining Technology lab is replete with two new fabricating machines to include a HAAS CNC lathe and a HAAS Mill that can manufacture automotive parts, and also design parts for military and/or medical purposes. FLATE Curriculum Coordinator, Jesse Kokotek, who was present at the ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the rollout of the machining program, noted the machining area looks and feels like an actual production cell that you would find at a local manufacturing facility. “Clean grey industrial flooring and modern storage cabinets give the training center an authentic atmosphere” Kokotek said. The program which currently has 80-100 students also featured several manual lathes and drill presses. The program is still in its infancy, but will be sure to provide more updates as the program expands. For information on the Machining Program at Armwood High School contact Michael Rendas at Michael.Rendas@sdhc.k12.fl.us and Lauren Walden, Supervisor of Career, Technical & Adult Education at the School District of Hillsborough County, at Lauren.Walden@sdhc.k12.fl.us.

New Engineering Technology Lab at College of Central Florida 

In addition to the new program at Armwood High School, the College of Central Florida (CF) also
recently hosted an open house to showcase its newly renovated Engineering Technology lab. CF which is one of the 19 colleges across Florida offering FLATE’s award-winning, A.S. degree in Engineering Technology, hosted an open house for approximately 40 attendees that included post-secondary educators, manufacturing representatives, and members from the local chapter of Career Source Florida. The lab consisted of four FANUC robotic arms, and several PLC and electrical trainers. The new ET lab will not only support the curriculum framework for the program, but is expected to give students first-hand knowledge and experience in using technologies that are already being used in advanced manufacturing industries. The upgrades in the newly renovated Engineering Technology lab will enable the College of Central Florida (CF) to start offering Fanuc certified Robotic Training courses in Spring 2017. More info at http://www.fanucamerica.com/CERT

CF currently offers the two-year A.S. ET degree program with specializations in Advanced Manufacturing and Quality. CF also offers Certificates in Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, Engineering Technology Support Specialist, Simulation and Automation and Mechatronics. This FLATE-designed and implemented degree is offered at 19 community and state colleges across Florida.

For more information about the engineering technology degree at the College of Central Florida visit http://www.cf.edu/engineering, or contact Program Manager, Sam Husam Ajlani at ajlanis@cf.edu/352.864.2322 ext. 1471. For information on the statewide A.S degree in engineering technology visit http://madeinflorida.org/engineering-technology-degree/e-t-overview, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, Executive Director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org.


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