Seeing is Believing: Mechatronics and Automation in the Supply Chain Sector

Last month, FLATE partnered with SCA (NSF ATE National Center for Supply Chain Automation) at their Annual Symposium that took place in conjunction with the Pro-Mat Trade Show and Exhibition in Chicago. The 3-day event for educators blended highlighted keynote presentations of the conference, visits to the exhibit floor, a grant writing workshop, industry tours, and demonstrations as well as sessions specifically focused on educational pathways for technicians.  Educators from around the country, the SCA the leadership team and their National Visiting Committee participated in The symposium which highlighted automation’s growing role in the supply chain sectors of the economy.

Several of FLATE’s Florida Engineering Technology educator partners attended the event.  Sam Ajlani, Program Manager for Engineering Technology at the College of Central Florida (CF) said it was great to see all of the new emerging technologies showcased on the exhibit floor. Automated warehouses are being built at a very fast rate across Florida and all need technicians that Sam’s program has been producing for a number of years. “Our regional manufacturers will now be competing with this high-tech warehouses for mechatronics technician graduates from our program,” says Sam. And, the more warehousing that moves into the area, the more production and manufacturing will grow. Sam particularly enjoyed visiting the Daifuku Innovation Center where symposium attendees got to talk with Daifuku research team members about their current projects to push the technologies used for package tracking and sorting, conveyor speed, truck unloading, and other bottlenecks in automated warehousing to the next level. Daifuku is the world’s largest manufacturer of material handling systems.

Dr. James McDonald, Dean at the Osceola Campus of Valencia College in Orlando attended with 3 of his high school partners.  Valencia College is developing a Supply Chain Automation Specialization under the A.S. Engineering Technology Degree that will be offered in 2020. With grants from the National Science Foundation and the state, a new facility is being built to house the program.  The college will also help support the development of an aligned high school program. The Valencia College team were “wowed” by the over 1000 vendors in the exhibit floor and the size of some equipment.  They also took away tips for running a strong program and overcoming common hurdles for new program startups.

The focus of the Education Symposium was support by panels of promising practices being implemented in 2-year colleges across the country, common issues in recruitment, new technologies, and flexible delivery options.  Dr. Celeste Carter, Program Director for the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (NSF ATE) program presented an overview of the ATE program and funding and reviewed strategies on how to write a competitive grant proposal to get funding for some of the needs expressed by attending educators. There are many creative ways schools to partner on project funding and Dr. Carter stressed the importance of working with industry partners. For more information about the Supply Chain Automation Symposium, visit their website. For more information about the advanced manufacturing and mechatronics education programs at Florida’s State and Colleges, contact Dr. Marilyn Barger (

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