FLATE’s Robotics Camp: Giving students a “cooler” option to spend part of summer

It was a summer to remember! Away from the scorching heat of the mid-Florida sun, this year a handful of students chose a “cooler” option for part of their summer. More than 60 middle school students flocked to the Brandon campus of Hillsborough Community College to be part of the annual robotics camps hosted by FLATE. The week-long camps were held in July and August, and involved local middle school students from Orlando, Tallahassee, and even Las Vegas.

There were a lot of oh’s! and ah’s! during the final day of the competition as students and their parents watched the robots make a turn, respond to a loud clap, or veer off the course marked in blue tape on the lab floor. The challenges were fun and educational on multiple levels. They focused on different aspects of robotics technology, and gave campers hands-on knowledge about programming robots by working directly with the software. Austin Lukas, who attended the first week of camp said “The challenges made me think outside the box”.

The challenges also enhanced campers’ understanding of science, mathematics, engineering and technology (STEM), and helped cultivate leadership and team-building skills. It expanded their knowledge about the products that are “made in Florida”, steps involved in the manufacturing process, and provided insight about lucrative STEM-related career opportunities. Jared Kersman, who also attended the first camp, said “I will remember all the hard work involved in programming a robot, and the “Made in Florida” video that talks about industries and later jobs.”

FLATE’s robotics camp also served as a model program for Central Florida Community College as part of its effort to offer similar camps in future. Ed Niespodziany, professor of business and technology and program manager for the engineering technology degree at CFCC who came to observe the camp for an entire week said “The FLATE robotics camp provided an in-depth and clear perspective in designing and offering age-appropriate challenges.” He was impressed by FLATE’s attention to safety, and the camp’s curriculum model which kept students engaged—essential components given the age of the participants. Neispodziany is “looking to plant the seeds of interest in STEM education at an early age”, and hopes to offer a similar camp for middle school students next summer in Ocala. “Our best chance is to capture students’ interest while in middle school so they can continue to explore and expand their interest in STEM education” Neispodziany said.

Another dimension that evolved during the camp was a learning experience for several HCC students enrolled in EDG 2701—Teaching Diverse Populations—a summer course offered at the Dale Mabry campus. Apart from fulfilling a 15-hour observation component for the course, the camp gave the students an opportunity to witness the success and failure of young teams facing challenging tasks. One of the students, Lia Thornton, also made a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the overall camp activities and the challenge winners.

Indeed, the robotics camps were a fun and challenging way to capture students’ interest in STEM education by integrating them in a robotic platform. As one parent rightly noted “My child really enjoyed this (jumped out of bed). I hope this can be offered again next year for more weeks so more ‘future engineers’ can benefit.”

For more information on the robotics camp contact Dave Gula at 813.259.6581/gula@fl-ate.org. To view a clip of the robotics camp that was featured as part of the morning newscast on WTVT-Fox Channel 13 in Tampa visit www.fl-ate.org/news.

Florida’s 6th Annual Manufacturers’ Summit: An in-depth overview of Florida’s manufacturing today and tomorrow

MAF’s annual manufacturers summit has been a driving force in facilitating an open dialogue between manufacturers, industry leaders and educators across Florida. Since the inaugural summit in 2003, the event has been a key enabler in providing a panoramic view of Florida’s diverse manufacturing industry, and a focal point for showcasing and sharing business best-practices with industry colleagues.

In keeping with its tradition of excellence, the 6th annual manufacturers’ summit is poised to draw a wide cross-section of manufacturers from across the state. It is scheduled for Nov 5-6, and will be held at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, FL.

“Manufacturing Today and Tomorrow"—theme of this year’s summit—will serve as focal point in offering various strategies to address challenges faced by manufacturers. The sessions are designed to facilitate an open dialogue, and geared to generate vibrant discussions on all aspects of manufacturing. The summit will focus on “internal and external” manufacturing elements crucial for creating a high performance operation prepared to meet current demands and future challenges. Participants will also get the opportunity to tour Lockheed Martin and Mitsubishi Power Systems state-of-the- art manufacturing facilities.

At the “Developing World Class Talent in Your Business” session, Dr. Marilyn Barger will be discussing the academic and training pathways (Engineering Technology A.S./A.A.S degree program, APT frameworks, MSSC Skills Standards) created by FLATE to build a skilled workforce for today’s manufacturers. Additionally, FLATE will be presenting their “Industry and Professional Service Awards” to individuals who have made significant contributions to manufacturing education at the secondary, post-secondary, and professional level. Nominees for the award have made a tremendous impact in each of their sectors to train and educate today’s technology workforce throughout Florida, and will be recognized during the President’s Banquet at the Summit.

For more information on the summit, or to submit a nomination online for the FLATE awards, contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at 813.259.6578, or visit www.fl-ate.org and www.mafmfg.com.

From the Executive Director's Desk

FLATE's mission to create a unified, education delivery system for Florida's 21st century high- performance production manufacturing sectors has been our target since our pre-planning grant phase began in 2000. From the very beginning we understood the usual way of doing business—where educators build academic programs with the expectation industry will use and benefit from those efforts—did not work and would not work this time either. Fortunately for FLATE, Dr. Eric Roe, who was part of our initial planning group, understood how we could make our connection to industry and was crucial in building those efforts.

As FLATE's Director, Eric put his energy into this part of our Center, and his success is what has helped FLATE identify its state-wide industry partners. He became the principle investigator of a FLATE-supported, Hillsborough Community College (HCC) proposal to Workforce Florida Inc. for its Banner Center for Manufacturing. The College was awarded that grant, and Eric's impact on that Center made it the model for the state. Recently, he was named the principle investigator for a United States Department of Labor, technology based learning grant that was also awarded to HCC.

In addition to all this great work, Eric took a leading role in FLATE's commitment to Florida Department of Education's Cluster Working Group to develop the Automation and Production Technology (APT) framework for Florida high school and post-secondary programs. These frameworks are aligned with the MSSC Certified Production Technician skill standards, and provide seamless articulation into the A.S. or A.A.S. Engineering Technology degree. Add to this mix all the typical activities that an NSF Regional Advanced Technological Education Center director has to do and you can begin to sense the huge amount of energy Eric posses and brings to any task he tackles.

This past year, HCC opted not to apply for a third year as the home for the Florida Banner Center for Manufacturing and that Center was awarded to our neighbor, Polk State College. Eric has decided to accept the directorship of that center, and will serve as a program manager for their new A.S. degree in engineering technology as well. Polk County has an assertive strategy to develop its industry base, and PSC plans to play a pivotal role in that effort. Eric will be a valuable contributor to that cause.

All of us at FLATE will surely miss our daily interactions with this warm, friendly and congenial co-worker. However, we also look forward to working with Eric through partnership projects and activities with PSC, the Florida Banner Center for Manufacturing, the Engineering Technology Forum, and the Florida Manufacturers Association, and continue our work towards our mutual goal of making Florida's technician workforce education and training programs models for the nation.

The entire FLATE team - Jodi, Dave, Janice, Kim, Lourdes, Teja, Jackie, Richard, Brad, Phil, Ginger, Carlos, Sabrina and myself, wish Eric every success in his new career adventure.

FACTE: Providing effective tools for technical educators across Florida.

Florida Association for Career and Technical Educators' annual conference and trade show has been an effective tool in providing career and technical educators across Florida with resources to foster “professional leadership and partnerships that prepare individuals to participate in a world class workforce.” The 43rd Conference from Aug. 4-6 in Orlando was an extension of its commitment to these very principles!

At the conference, Dr. Eric Roe, director of FLATE, made a presentation about key program changes and resources for advanced manufacturing education at the secondary, post-secondary adult vocation, and college levels. A key component of Dr. Roe’s presentation centered on the new Automation and Production Technology framework created by FLATE, and the resources to support this curriculum model.

The APT program framework is aligned with the MSSC-CPT industry certification competencies. It was developed by responding to manufacturers input obtained via statewide focus groups conducted by Banner Center for Manufacturing, and brings the real world of automation and manufacturing based examples into the classroom.

Under this program, students can earn their MSSC CPT and then articulate 15 credit hours into the Engineering Technology (ET) A.S. college degree. The coupling of the new APT program, ET degree, and MSSC-CPT certification prepares students for jobs in advanced engineering, manufacturing, and other high-technology industries.

In addition to FLATE’s information dissemination, the conference also served as a venue for significant presentations, panel discussions, and vendor updates. Notable presentations included: Careers in Biotechnology; Updates from Florida Department of Education regarding upcoming changes that impact CTE programs at the state level (including industry certification requirements, split programs, data reporting, and technical skills attainment inventories under the Perkins IV implementation); Program assessment and quality assurance monitoring; and Pre-Apprenticeship and apprenticeship program creation, and new federal regulations.

“FACTE did an excellent job shortening the conference program without sacrificing on quality” Roe said. The conference also operated as an effective platform to enhance and strengthen CTE programs throughout Florida, and presented educators at the secondary and post-secondary levels opportunities to network with colleagues and industry professionals. For more information on FACTE and CTE programs in Florida, contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at 813.259.6578/barger@fl-ate.org or visit www.facte.org.