FLATE Moving Forward

In 2002, a small team from St. Pete College, Hillsborough Community College and the University of South Florida conjured up an idea to propose an NSF ATE Regional Center of Excellence for improving manufacturing education within 7 counties, the center being the Tampa Bay area. It would be called the “Greater Tampa Bay Regional Center for Manufacturing Education”, GTBRCM. The National Science Foundation awarded HCC, SPC, and USF $50,000 over 2 years as a planning grant to develop GTBRCM.

The expectation was that a solid and fundable proposal for the regional center be submitted in the fall of 2004. A small educator and manufacturer planning team was created and met regularly at Ven-Tel Plastics (now National Molding Medical Division) in Largo, Florida; hosted 2 big events at the 2 community colleges and surveyed regional manufacturers. By the end of the first year, it became clear to the team that the project should be expanded to encompass the whole state, so the GTBRCM concept transitioned into FL-ATE, and ultimately FLATE.

In 2004, the proposed project was submitted as a partnership effort from the three institutions with HCC serving as the accountable agent.  The grant was awarded, $2,000,000, and  the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center, FL-ATE (yes, in the early days, we carried a hyphen in FLATE) was open for “business”. A special thanks to Steve Meitzen and many thanks to that core team of believers that included Ed Venner, Drew Hoff, Bill Miller, Bob Carnahan, Eric Roe, Ken McMannaway, Brad Jenkins, Richard Gilbert, and the whole board of the Bay Area Manufacturers’ Association (BAMA).  Over the last 18 years, there are thousands of others to say thanks to today as we sunset our National Science Foundation Center and move our operations under FloridaMakes’s umbrella with additional support from the Florida Department of Education.

There is not enough print space or reader’s time to name and thank everyone who has contributed to and supported our successes as an NSF ATE Center. But I heartfully thank each and every one of you. This extended FLATE family includes people who intersect in all sorts of ways and places within the manufacturing ecosystem in Florida and across the nation. It includes educators, administrators, manufacturers, workforce and economic development professionals, local, state, and government officials, professional organization directors and membership, students, policy makers, and the many talented and dedicated staff that worked directly for FLATE over the years. We could not have had a better experience.

During our time as an NSF Center of Excellence, we have built a strong community of practice around manufacturing education in Florida and a large network of manufacturing educators across the
country. Most importantly, we recognize and thank the leadership in NSF’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program for their support, belief, and ideas in our early (and somewhat immature) visions and dreams. Their insight contributed to FLATE being recognized in a number of local, regional, and national venues for excellence in manufacturing curriculum, outreach, and recruitment strategies, first-class educational resources and rigorous and relevant professional development.

In 2015, we initiated interactions with FloridaMakes on different project and activities. Along the way, we developed relationships to learn what both organizations do and how it’s done. From the very beginning, our joint vision has been to sustain FLATE’s work within FloridaMakes. As we now officially “make the move” to FloridaMakes, integrate our work with theirs, we plan to grow and strengthen Florida’s manufacturing ecosystem to increase its impact and relevance in our community.

What should you expect now? Actually, the transition will be a somewhat non-intrusive experience that is almost transparent for you. My e-mail and office phone number will change; contacts with the Florida Engineering Technology Forum will not. Current FLATE projects will continue with gusto and new ideas will be welcomed and explored with vigor! The FLATE Team knows, understands, and appreciates that all of you are FLATE. Thanks!  For us, the idea is to keep the operational changes transparent to you. However, we may have to skip next month’s FLATE Focus ( “see” you in August). Bye for now.

Future Technician Preparation: Tomorrow; Tomorrow

The effort to attenuate the impact on technician education because of "future of work" issues will continue despite temporary impediments. The octopus tentacle nature of COVID-19 to alter our behavior as it expresses itself around the world is an example of a serious but, hopefully, a temporary impediment.  However, a much less dramatic  and very short interruption in our Future of Work Series commentaries is also going to occur now. Our National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education Center of Excellence in Florida on manufacturing education is sun setting.  FLATE has been funded by NSF for the last 15 years and it is now time to execute its succession plan.

NSF-ATE expectations for its Centers of Excellence includes the successful execution of the Center's stated mission and a specified executable sustainability plan.  An NSF supported center can normally expect two funding awards that permits, after a progress view, 10 years of operation.   Although FLATE's mission was important enough to warrant extended NSF complete support, there was an enhanced expectation for its continuation after agency funding.  FLATE departs its NSF Center status with both mission and sustainability success.

 As FLATE's NSF goals where accomplished it became evident that in Florida there was a developing infrastructure gap between the technical workforce needed to support manufacturing and the state's capacity to generate that workforce. The federally legislated Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program is executed at the national level through the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as a public-partnership program dedicated to supporting small and medium-sized manufactures. FloridaMakes houses the MEP center that operates at the state level in Florida. It uses NIST-MEP resources to work directly with manufacturers and their workforce to improve production processes, upgrade technological capabilities, and facilitate product innovation.  However, the individual state MEP Centers do not have resources to support their state's career and technical education (CTE) system. Similarly, NSF-ATE provides resources to support technician education systems, but its primary mission excludes direct support for manufacturing.

After recognizing the strengths and identifying the resource restrictions of the federal MEP and ATE programs, FLATE's sustainability plan was crafted. FLATE will transition from an NSF Center to an organizational element of FloridaMakes. Operation resources would be developed through NIST-MEP in partnership with the Florida Department of Education and executed through FloridaMakes.  At the national and state levels, the goal of these respective funding partners is a model that: demonstrates effective and efficient application of resources that support the creation and development of the technical workforce for small and medium manufacturers; and facilitates individual state college NSF engineering technology education related grant project submissions that target and complement those manufacturers' technician workforce needs.

The plan's objective is to optimally combine: Florida's CTE capabilities with FloridaMakes' in-facility interactions with Florida's manufacturers: FLATE's ATE expertise, statewide college and industry connections, direct interactions with Florida Department of Education's CTE division; the Florida ET Forum's A.S. program interactions; and the Florida State Colleges technical degree program interactions with their partners within the state's manufacturing community.   This sustainability plan has been successfully executed and FLATE, after its NSF sunset, will become part of FloridaMakes with direct interactions with and involvement of the Florida Department of Education CTE division.
In summary, the biggest interruption for this Future of Work Series: No departing questions for you!  However, your questions, concerns, and interest are always important to us!!  Let us know what you think (gilbert@usf.edu).

FLATE 16 Years of Success Focused on Florida’s Manufacturing & Advanced Technological Education

Since the award from the National Science Foundation for the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center (FLATE) in 2004, FLATE has focused its energy on providing services and leadership for our stakeholders to build capacity and excellence in manufacturing education across Florida in 2-year public institutions. FLATE’s broad success has had impacts locally, nationally, and internationally on all sectors of manufacturing. This article includes a summary of FLATE’s impact and service during its sixteen-year tenure. We’ve categorized these outputs under each of FLATE’s core goal areas of sustainability, curriculum development, outreach, and professional development.

Curriculum Reform and Development 

Strong, rigorous, and relevant curriculum is foundational to the Engineering Technology (ET) Associate Degree (AS) program. FLATE has focused on many aspects of curriculum including authentic lessons for secondary students that embeds technical content of the ET AS degree program, Florida Curriculum Framework reviews for secondary and post-secondary levels, alignments to industry credentials, and articulations into the ET AS degree and out to bachelor level programs. FLATE has developed more than 47 industry-sourced, integrated STEM middle and high school lesson plans.

In 2016, FLATE began engaging with mechatronics faculty from around the country in a grassroots online community, the Mechatronics Community Exchange (MCE), to help better understand this emerging field and the subtleties of industry needs around it.

ET AS Degree Program - Grant activities capitalize on the FLATE built statewide-manufacturing education system with a convergent curriculum that optimizes technician preparation in manufacturing and its enabling technologies. This nationally recognized model includes: a single statewide ET AS degree program; completely articulated program structured on a set of core technical courses; alignment with stackable industry credentials endorsed by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and offered by the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC); and, for current Certified Performance Technologist (CPT) credential holders, degree completion with 45 credit hours rather than 60.

FLATE in collaboration with the Florida Department of Education’s Career and Technical Education team, Florida colleges, and Florida industries defined the new AS Degree program in ET currently with now 31 curriculum frameworks with 11 specialization tracks and 20 technical college certificates. The ET degree was rolled out in 2007 with three colleges adopting the program. Today, 24 out of the 28 Florida community and state colleges offer one or more specializations or certificates under the ET AS Degree; enrollment data from FDOE, indicates favorable long-term growth from 9 in 2007-08 to 2,027 in 2018-19.  This strong and continued enrollment growth also indicates the degree’s popularity with employers statewide and its stable, college orchestrated, student outreach and recruitment platforms.

Outreach Initiatives

FLATE has effective outreach platforms for Florida’s industry, secondary and post-secondary educational facilities. Online dissemination channels include fl-ate.org, MadeinFlorida.org, flate.pbworks.com, and a monthly FLATE Focus online newsletter. The FLATE Focus Newsletter provides an important avenue to disseminate not only FLATE’s work but that of other manufacturing, STEM and technical education supporting organizations. The FLATE Focus Newsletter is an online blog with a significant expansion into social media over the past sixteen years. Since 2009, these online resources have provided over 234,000 visitors with free access to: information, news, events, educational resources, interactive lessons, outreach and recruitment tools, and Best Practice Guides that support teachers, industry, and the manufacturing education community.

FLATE’s Made in Florida (MIF) industry tours has proven to be a very impactful outreach strategy to endorse a positive image of manufacturing, promote STEM education to a wide student demographic, and educate students, teachers, and counselors about pathways for STEM careers. Since the inception of national Manufacturing (MFG) Day and Month in 2013, a cornerstone of FLATE’s statewide outreach for MFG Day and Month has been its defining effort to promote broad, statewide participation, and to survey student tour participants. Over 47,095 Florida students and educators have been impacted by 1,432 MIF industry tour outreach campaign events. Tour attendees included 1,916 teachers, 1,080 parents and chaperons in events from 50 Florida counties.

Since 2005, FLATE processed surveys from more than 11,553 students who participated in MIF industry tours. Of the surveys received, there was an average of 47% increase in students’ consideration of careers in advanced manufacturing after the tour. Approximately 97% of surveyed students stated they would recommend other students have the opportunity to participate in a MIF industry tour. Nearly 95% educators and parents stated they found the tour helpful in understanding Florida high-tech jobs and career opportunities. These impressive numbers confirm the impact MIF Industry Tours have on students, educators and parents in creating a positive image of manufacturing and its multiple successful career pathways.

FLATE annually hosts and promotes summer camps as an additional supportive, sustainable, and effective mechanism to recruit and motivate students interested in STEM education. Since 2005, FLATE has collaborated with schools and sponsors to offer 1,712 high school and middle school students camps focused on robotics, mechatronics, alternative energy, and manufacturing related career pathways. By opening the doors to institutions and training faculty to deliver STEM-focused learning activities, STEM based camps have assisted in transferring similar lessons to classrooms which helps to sustain FLATE’s efforts in building interest in manufacturing education and careers.

The FLATE Awards recognizes the contributions of educators and industries in advancing technician education and training on a regional and statewide level. The FLATE Awards, presented in conjunction with the Florida Association for Industrial and Trade Education (FAITE), have grown in prestige for educators and manufacturers, and helps promote not only the dedicated people involved in manufacturing education, but the industry sector itself. FLATE has recognized 28 outstanding manufacturing educators and 14 industry champions in an annual awards program. Financially, the awards have always been underwritten by industry sponsors taking ownership of the awards.  FLATE’s awards program have been hosted over the years by the Manufacturing Association of Florida (MAF),  Florida Association of Career and Technical Education (FACTE) and FloridaMakes.

FLATE has published eleven best practices guides for educational curriculum, outreach and professional development. These guides are developed to share methods, techniques and resources that have consistently shown excellent results and outcomes. Best Practices booklets are available online in flip book format, PDF format and are available at http://fl-ate.org/best-practices.

Professional Development 

FLATE's professional development opportunities are offered throughout the year with fun and relevant technical material to keep educators current with technology and pedagogy. FLATE worked with FloridaMakes, MSSC, FACTE, FCPN, and others to define, provide, and support technical training and professional development (PD) to industries and educators. Since 2004, FLATE has provided more than 54,700 hours of PD to over 42,000 educators (K-14) and 15,000 workforce personnel in multi-day workshops, presentations, and online webinars at hundreds of events in Florida and elsewhere.

The ET Forum, coordinated by FLATE, is the premiere Florida State College system faculty two-day bi-annual PD event. The FLATE model for curricula topic forum provides a viable means for industry and educators across the state to meet and  discuss common interests and issues surrounding the education of tomorrow’s advanced manufacturing workforce. The ET Forum includes an ET Forum State College Faculty Leadership team, forum funding by the host college and vendor attendees which grants the forum's sustainability.  Even with the significant disruption of education due to COVID-19, 80 participants representing 19 colleges actively participated in the forum. This model has been replicated at other statewide level programs.

FLATE’s ET and MSSC Summer Workshops, are popular and includes multiple day workshops for Florida educators. FLATE’s workshops include annual advanced manufacturing summer training programs on a variety of topics including 3D printing, alternative energy, robotics, STEM Problem based learning, MSSC CPT and many more. 

FLATE’s success would not have been possible without the support of its partners: statewide industry partners, the Florida Department of Education, the state’s Regional Manufacturers Associations, FloridaMakes (Florida’s MEP), professional organizations, Florida’s community and college networks, school districts, local and state governments, vendors, students, workforce and economic development organizations as well as individual champions of manufacturing. FLATE's effective partnership strategies have been the key to the success of the FLATE center. We thank everyone, including the National Science Foundation, who has worked with us to build a strong community around manufacturing education in Florida.

For more information about FLATE impacts visit http://fl-ate.org/about-us/impact/or email Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org.

Sustainability Superheroes in Manufacturing

In partnership with the USF College of Education Gus A. Stavros Center for Free Enterprise and Economic Education and support from the Coca-Cola Foundation, FLATE coordinated a panel discussion about sustainability in manufacturing for nearly 40 secondary educators from across the central-west coast of Florida in May 2019.  Click here to learn more about that Sustainable Manufacturing workshop. The four industry panelists were later interviewed to capture what they and their companies were doing. Those interviews, are being posted on the Sustainability Superheroes Blog site with design thinking lesson plans based on the interviews. The interview with Peter Cirak from Seal Dynamics is now available the Sustainability Superheroes blog. The interview is divided into 3 segments as Peter responds to the panel questions in this very different setting. His story is also provided in the blog post with a short quiz that educators can use to focus on the facts about how Seal Dynamics approaches sustainability in the work they do. The blog post includes a short video about design thinking for students that integrates sustainability into its process. Stay tuned for for the next 3 interviews with Patti Gander, Executive Director of the Manufacturing and Supply Chain Association in Polk County; Jerrika Rice from The Mosaic Company; and Suzanne Alvarez, C & D Printing and Packaging.

For more information about FLATE and Made in Florida STEM Lesson plans visit http://flate.pbworks.com or email Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org.