From the Executive Director's Desk

As part of my many travels, I recently went to Boston where I spent a cold, but interesting Saturday at the Boston Museum of Science. The museum had invited me to participate in a preliminary brainstorming session that will serve as a starting point of a broad effort targeted to develop educational materials for 6-8th graders. This exciting project is led by a museum curriculum team, and represents a partnership between the Museum and WGBH’s Design Squad.

The team of four manufacturing post–secondary educators, and 4 middle school science teachers led the leadership of the museum’s development team with critical elements of manufacturing that should be included in the curriculum. They also offered specific ideas for activities and lessons that align with science and technology standards. I was excited to participate and offer my insights, meet new friends, and was highly impressed by the number of educators and curriculum developers engaged in the project.

Engaging the middle school crowd with manufacturing, even with rich media (Design Squad), is quite a challenge, and we are all anxious to review the first draft products. Despite the complexities, the project bears notice, and it will be interesting to track what they develop in the upcoming months.

This last newsletter of 2009 has stories about our jointly sponsored Nanotech Day at USF; our new “Made in Florida” learning challenges based on ConMed Linvatec in Pinellas County, a new “STEM at Work” challenge, a spotlight on the Teacher Quest program facilitated by Florida’s Technological Research and Development Authority, and a new monthly side bar “Did you know?” that captures important facts and data bits that are important to many of our stakeholders.

We end the year digging into a new phase of our curriculum alignment work and have chosen the WIDS (worldwide instructional design system) program design software to help us with this task. Through this effort, we anticipate showcasing alignment between external standards, state curriculum frameworks, course outcomes for both secondary and post secondary programs in a robust system that will allow us to quickly cross reference new competencies, standards and much more.

I am sending warmest wishes for a safe holiday to all of our FLATE stakeholders, partners, families and friends from the FLATE staff and working team.

Marilyn, Marie, Janice, Dave, Lourdes, Jodi, Teja, Kim, Brad, Richard, Phil
Wayne, Jennifer, Danielly, Colin, Patti, and Constantine.

Teacher Quest Program: Incorporating “forward-thinking” perspectives into the teaching experience

Florida’s Technological Research and Development Authority has been a leader in building the state’s technological foundations, ground up. The Teacher Quest program, for example, serves as an exemplar of TRDA’s commitment to ensure a fulfilling classroom experience for students and educators alike. It is a multi-week, paid summer professional development program made possible through a collaboration between select science and technology-based businesses, and is open to public and private school teachers, pre-K through 12, who possess a current Florida professional teaching certificate. Since the establishment of the program in 1997, nearly 1,500 math, science and technology teachers from across the state have participated in the program.

Diane Matthews, director of education at TRDA points to the initiative as “a relevant and worthwhile professional development program resulting in a stronger STEM teaching force in Florida.” The program has fueled a statewide effort to increase the number of engineering and science graduates from Florida schools, and significantly impacted teacher retention through initiatives that provide compensation for up to seven weeks of summer employment. Teacher Quest has also narrowed the gap between business and education “by defining skills relevant to current and future workforce needs.” It is a cost-effective way to bring skilled temporary employees who can introduce new perspectives in the workplace.

In terms of its impact in Tampa bay, the program shares a close partnership with the Helios Education Foundation and FLATE in identifying industry partners for the Teacher Quest program. This partnership has enabled educators to work closely with manufacturers such as Linvatec, Harris Corporation, and .decimal since 2005. It has also facilitated teachers to “serve as conduits in connecting mathematics and science to everyday skills needed in the workforce,” and to design curriculum that makes math, science and technology more exciting and relevant for students.

Teacher Quest has also been an effective vehicle in driving the success of the FLATE summer robotics camps. Allan Dyer, teacher at Dowdell Middle Magnet school and FLATE robotics camp instructor summarizes the experience as an “opportunity to challenge” himself, as well as an avenue to provide “much needed hands-on technology experience” for students. Gil Burlew, engineering and technology teacher at Braden River High School in Bradenton, and recipient of FLATE’s 2008 manufacturing secondary educator-of-the-year award also describes the program as an effective mechanism to sharpen technical expertise, and develop partnerships with local businesses.

Indeed, an evaluation conducted in 2008 by TRDA clearly reflects the program’s impact on the local economy. One hundred percent of the respondents in a post-employment survey indicated the experience motivated them (as educators) to seek ways to improve their teaching. The same percentage also ranked Teacher Quest as a positive professional development program, and stated they would share their experience with colleagues. Additionally, more than 75% of the respondents believed students got excited about their classes and improved teamwork, and approximately 80% reported students being more engaged in classroom projects.

For more information on TRDA’s Teacher Quest program, visit our Facebook page at, or contact Diane Matthews at

Biotechnology Industry Focus Group: Defining the educational and workforce needs of the biotech sector in Tampa bay

Florida Center of Excellence for Biomolecular Identification for Targeted
Therapeutics at Hillsborough Community College in Brandon partnered with Workforce Florida Banner Center for Biotechnology to host an industry focus group aimed at defining the educational as well as workforce needs of the biotech sector in Tampa Bay. This cohesive effort was part of a series of regional focus groups conducted by the Employ Florida Banner Center for Biotechnology at the University of Florida’s, Center of Excellence for Regenerative Health Biotechnology (CERHB), and was held Dec. 3 at the University of South Florida’s Downtown Center.

Kim Wilson, project manager of FCoE-BITT at HCC-Brandon said the discussions and feedback provided during the session were critical in underlining the essential components in building and strengthening current/future biotech workforce sector in greater Tampa Bay. It helped capture educational and technical credentials sought by current and potential employers, and served as an effective vehicle for “cross communication between industry, education and government agencies”. Lori Wokciechowski, assistant coordinator of education and training at CERHB also described it as a helpful tool in formulating strategies “to deliver industry-specific training programs, and help identify emerging trends and occupations”.

The session was moderated by Dr. Christopher Reuter, technical director of Osprey Biotechnics Inc.—a leading manufacturer of specialty biologicals located in Sarasota. Participants included industry representatives, members of regional workforce boards, representatives from local chambers of commerce as well as professors engaged in teaching biotechnology courses at regional colleges and universities.

Results from the focus group will be used to identify and fill existing gaps between educational programs and expected industry needs, streamline current courses and develop future courses that match the needs of the biotechnology industry in Tampa bay. It will also be combined with other focus group results to better define regional and statewide needs.

For more information visit, or contact Kimberly Wilson, at 813.253.7845/

A "New" MIF Challenge: Perfecting the art of Measurement and Precision

Think about a car, a camera, a cell phone—designing and manufacturing any one of these products requires high degree of precision. In a world tilted towards automation and high-tech manufacturing, “Measurement and Precision” are key players. Given their central role in the manufacturing process, FLATE has created a “new” challenge for middle and high school students aimed at sharpening the understanding and importance of these critical competencies.

This new challenge is designed to enhance the understanding and application of number systems in problem-solving utilizing mathematical computations. It is an addition to the “Made in Florida” learning challenges designed to give middle and high school students a hands-on view of manufacturing.

The lesson plan places students in a real-world manufacturing facility where they are challenged to understand the importance of precise measurement in the design and manufacturing of a surgical blade for a company located in Central Florida. ConMed Linvatec (Least Invasive Technology) is a global leader in the fields of arthroscopy, multi-specialty endoscopic medical video systems and powered surgical instruments. Headquartered in Largo, FL, ConMed Linvatec is at the forefront of technology for a growing range of minimally invasive and orthopaedic surgery procedures. Besides integrating science, mathematics, and technology, the challenge sharpens the students’ ability to select and apply techniques and proper tools to estimate measurements to appropriate/required levels of precision and accuracy.

The MIF challenges for modern manufacturing are aligned with Florida’s Sunshine State Standards for science, mathematics, reading/language arts and the curriculum framework for technology education. There are currently six learning challenges that highlight different phases in the manufacturing process (Innovate, Design, Fabricate, Test, Market, and Distribute) and are designed to present age-appropriate complexities. These lesson plans also serve as a bridge between students, teachers and manufacturers throughout Florida. Since its implementation in 2006, the Challenges have been presented to over 200 educators across the nation and have served as an “educational best-practices” model at several conferences.

For additional information on the challenges or to help develop a challenge for your facility, visit, or contact Jodi Sutton at 813.259.6575/

sTEm at Work Challenge

Supporting the idea that the holiday issue of the FLATE Focus be brief, the discussion of the November sTEm puzzle is delayed until the next issue. However, in compliance with the our general belief that “to rest is not to conquer”, we do provide a new puzzle for your leisure time entertainment. Have fun with this puzzle and have a great holiday season.

This time your technical position is that of a propellant test specialist. After setting up, safety checking, and repeated operation of a test stand apparatus, you have acquired the following data and are prepared to submit your report that includes answers to the two questions provided below. Do any of the fuels meet both design requirements?

Send us your answers at

It's a small world: Nanotechnology for educators

FLATE and NACK (Nanotechnology Applications and Career Knowledge) partnered with Nanomaterials & Nanomanufacturing Research Center (NNRC) and the Center for Molecular Delivery at the University of South Florida's College of Engineering to offer a one-day workshop on nanotechnology-based curriculum and resources. Bringing nanotechnology into your classroom—the theme of the workshop—reflected a broad effort by National Science Foundation Centers of Excellence to integrate cutting-edge technology into the K-12 and community college curriculum.

The workshop was conducted by Robert Erhman, director of education & outreach services at NACK, and held at NNRC at USF. It highlighted key topics pertaining to vacuum engineering, available nanotechnology-related resources from NAKE and USF, and provided effective strategies for integrating nanotechnology into the classroom.

At the workshop, Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE provided an in-depth overview about career and educational resources available in Florida, and underlined resources posted on FLATE’s Made in Florida website. “The workshop provided K-12 and Florida state college educators and administrators a hands-on introduction to nano science and technology, and is a good example of the professional development activities FLATE supports throughout Florida" Barger said. FLATE staff together with professors and instructors from the USF College of Engineering also provided classroom activities and nanotechnology insights for the attendees.

Participants witnessed nanotechnology demonstrations, toured the USF Nanotech laboratory, and were introduced to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) principles used to develop and measure low pressure-controlled environments that are used in micro, membrane and nanotechnologies. Ms. Robin Little, engineering curriculum co-coordinator for D.L. Jamerson Elementary School in Pinellas County indicated the ideas she gained from the workshop “will help teachers continue to integrate engineering and math principles into all of our subjects throughout all of our K-5 grade level classrooms.”

Looking to the future, FLATE will work with workshop participants to develop, incorporate, and share nanotechnology lesson plans and provide a stipend for development. For more information, contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at, or visit