Engineering Technology AS Degree is a Double Winner at the November FACC Convention

The Florida Association of Community Colleges (FACC) recognized FLATE Leadership Team member Brad Jenkins and FLATE Associate Director Dr. Marie Boyette at the November 2010 Crossroads Convention in Jacksonville.   St. Petersburg College’s (SPC) Engineering Technology program under Brad’s leadership was the recipient of a 2010 Chancellor’s Best Practice Award for recognition of programs that strive to be the most efficient and innovative in the Florida college system.  This program prepares students for employment or provides additional training for persons previously or currently employed in the manufacturing, medical, electronics, aerospace, and other related industries. The A.S. engineering technology degree is a planned sequence of instruction consisting of four specializations: electronics, quality, digital design and modeling, and biomedical systems with one common core. This flexible degree allows for additional technical specializations and certificates that are needed to stay up with advanced technology. Thus, local industry can identify the training gaps that exist and SPC can fill those gaps without developing a brand new A.S. Degree.
                On the same note, FLATE was selected as an exemplary practice by the FACC Occupational and Workforce Education Commission. Dr. Boyette’s presentation at the convention of The Engineering Technology Degree: A Unified Statewide Approach to Meet the Needs of Florida’s Hi-Tech Manufacturing Industry, discussed how the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center (FLATE), a National Science Foundation Center of Excellence in high-tech manufacturing provides educational synergy by connecting industry and workforce needs to targeted educational endeavors at community and state colleges across Florida. The Engineering Technology (ET) degree program conceived, engineered, and coordinate by FLATE is the first fully articulated inter-institutional program of its kind. The winning program at SPC is one of 10 implementations of the ET Degree statewide.  

FLATE/BITT Support Needs for Local Biotech Companies

As biotechnology interests and activities continue to increase in Florida and across the nation, a skilled workforce becomes increasingly vital to the success of this burgeoning industry.  The Florida Center of Excellence for Biomolecular Identification and Targeted Therapueutics (BITT) with its National Science Foundation partner, FLATE, continues to support the needs of local biotech companies by garnering the interest of secondary and post-secondary students as the first step toward a technical career in biotechnology.   One important component of the strategy to achieve this goal is to host professional development workshops for high school teachers.

A series of workshops will begin in February, and introduce attendees to current concepts and practices in biotechnology.  The first of the scheduled workshops, “Metrology & Micropipetting” on February 19th and “DNA Fingerprinting” on February 26th, will be facilitated by biotech faculty from HCC Brandon.  The techniques taught at these workshops can be incorporated into biology and chemistry classes, thus furthering the combined goals of FLATE and BITT.  In addition to targeting high school students for careers in biotechnology, BITT is also working to expand the online curriculum available to students at HCC enrolled in the newly established Biotechnology Program.  This program leads to an Associate of Science degree, which meets the education requirements stipulated by many biotech companies.  These activities represent just two of the ways BITT and FLATE are taking a long-term view to build a strong foundation for future student development and success.

sTEm–at-Work (Puzzle #14): Technician double tube heat exchanger installation test

A double tube heat exchanger has an inlet and outlet for each of its tubes. In most cases, one tube is inserted inside the other and the hot fluid to be cooled is allowed to pass through the inside tube. After any maintenance or installation operation, the technician conducts a system test by monitoring the temperature response as each of the two fluids pass through its corresponding tube for a fixed time period at a fixed fluid flow rate. In this specific test result's report the outside tube temperature is reported as line (a), the blue line.

This double tube heat exchanger is operating correctly. (yes or no).Submit your answers at

Welcome to our last FLATE Focus Newsletter of 2010

We are very excited to end 2010 with the long awaited re-launching of our Made in Florida website.  In response to our fall 2009 stakeholder survey that many of you responded to, we found that we could address much of the feedback and many of the comments by making additions and upgrades to this site.  Please take a look at the new 

We now have a more focused area to highlight industry including our FLATE honor roll of companies who have partnered with us in our outreach efforts.  We also have new pages dedicated to introducing the breadth of Florida manufacturing industries to our students and rising employees that we expect to grow with help and input from our industry partners.  These pages provide quick information about what different companies actually make here in Florida and some of the jobs that are available at these companies. Other industry links include Partner Industry Profiles; Corporate Honor Roll; our popular virtual tours; industry based educational challenges; FLATE Awards; and also Florida industry facts.  Early in 2011 we will be adding interactive maps of Florida industry, colleges and high school programs supporting manufacturing. 

Another new highlight is our link to student profiles. Watch for this section to grow as educational institutions disseminate the request for student responses, and please let us know if you have a student to add! Other highlights this month include state recognition of FLATE’s degree program implementation at St. Petersburg College as well as by the Occupational and Workforce Commission of the Florida Association of Community Colleges (FACC). Check up on the FESC and BITT project activities and don’t forget to try the new sTEm puzzle.  Dr. Gilbert’s 2011 New Year’s resolution is to reveal the solutions and we hope they will come early in the year.

Please congratulate Kati Prosen, our BITT project manager who was awarded her Masters of Science Degree in Microbiology from USF on Dec 6.  Finally, please welcome Janice Muhkia’s new son, Ethan, born December 1.  Both Janice and Ethan are doing well – and we will be glad when she is back with FLATE in February to take over the newsletter publication duties. Happy holidays to all. Be safe, rest and relax, enjoy your families and friends.

2010 “Body Forward” FLL Challenge

On December 11th, Hillsborough Community College’s Brandon Campus Conference Center was turned into a Florida Lego League (FLL) 2010 Qualifying Tournament site. This was the second year HCC and FLATE hosted this exciting event and attendance was well over 300 people.  Anxious parents, teachers and coaches watched as 24 teams from elementary and middle schools throughout the Tampa Bay area competed for points in order to compete at one of the five Florida Regional events.  This group of students is part of the 56,000 children in North America and 32,460 children from 35 countries internationally participating in the high-energy sports-like tournaments.     
All FIRST Robotic Competitions help young people discover the fun in science and technology while building self-confidence, knowledge and life skills while motivating them to pursue opportunities in science, technology and engineering.   Above all, it teaches the value of ‘Gracious Professionalism’, a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community.                       
 The FLL challenge this year is called “2010 Body Forward” in which teams explore the cutting edge world of Biomedical Engineering to discover ways to repair injuries, overcome genetic predispositions and lead happier and healthier lives. The challenge itself has two parts: the Project (the problem to be solved) and the Robot Game (making a working model of the solution utilizing various Lego pieces, motors and the NXT programming).    
Some of the  problems to be solved are : applying a cast to a broken bone, inserting a bone bridge, do a rapid blood screening and bad cell destruction,  mechanical arm patent, performing a cardiac patch, insert a pacemaker, nerve mapping, design an auto-dispensing medicine device and robot sensitivity. Each team has only 2.5 minutes to complete as many tasks as possible at which point the results are judged and points distributed.   
In addition to the competition itself, the teams are also interviewed privately and awarded points for Design/Programming, Research/Presentation and Core Values/Teamwork.  So, along with the accumulation of the robot competition points, the teams have many others ways to build up their final scores.  
After an accumulated 1,000+ hours of mind boggling problem solving and 7 hours of competitions the four teams winning the “Golden Ticket” were ‘Team Technoforce’, ‘The RoboPanthers,’ ‘Brick Buddies’ and ‘RoboCourgars’. They are now off to one of the five Florida Regional events and if successful at this level, they will move on to the Florida State Championships.      

If you would like to get more information or better yet, get involved with the Florida Lego League, please go to or one of the many other divisions of FIRST, (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), please go to    

Florida Energy Systems Consortium

Early in 2010, FLATE, along with representatives from the Florida Energy Systems Consortium (FESC), was invited to give testimony to the Florida Legislature regarding the best path towards educating a burgeoning energy technician workforce.  Follow-up work culminated with the Florida Department of Education approval of a new College Credit Certificate curriculum framework in July 2010 for an Alternative Energy Technology Specialist. 

In July 2010, FLATE sponsored a workshop entitled “The Science and Technologies of Energy Efficient Buildings” at the well-attended HI-TEC conference in Orlando.  The HI-TEC High Impact Technology Exchange Conference brought together technical educators, counselors, industry professionals and technicians focused on the high-tech sector workforce from all parts of the country.

Of major importance in 2010, Brevard Community College, Florida State College at Jacksonville and Tallahassee Community College, with FLATE as a grant partner, were awarded an NSF grant, “Creating an Energy Systems Technology Technician (EST2) workforce in Florida.”  Through this effort, FLATE has been facilitating the adoption of an Alternative Energy Specialist AA/AAS program at the organizations listed above. 

Work on course content development continues at FLATE.  To date, initial efforts have been made at producing modular content for the course EST1830 Introduction to Alternative/Renewable Energy.  There are currently a total of 13 modular topics for the course in completed draft form.  The long-term plan is to upload modularized content to the FLATE website and make available to any state/community college that wishes to supplement its course materials, as well as to anyone that desires to learn more about alternative/renewable energy. 

Please visit or for more information on the FLATE-FESC partnership.

FLATE’s Executive Director Examines the Importance & Impact of STEM Education in the Educational Continuum

Are we as a nation heading in the right direction with the many different programs and various approaches to enhance STEM education throughout the educational continuum, K-20? What have we learned from the past? What do we know about good teaching and learning practices that we should now implement? Will putting more money into the silos of STEM help produce the STEM workers we need now and will need more of in the future? Is it time for systemic change In STEM education practices? In addition to STEM workers with specific skills and knowledge to support emerging technologies, our country will also need for all citizens to be STEM literate.

Dr. Rodger Bybee, past executive director of the National Research Council’s Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education (CSMEE), and director emeritus of the BSCS (Biological Science Curriculum Moving towards STEM literacy) defines STEM literacy with these 4 bullets:

• Acquiring scientific, technological, engineering, and mathematical knowledge and using that knowledge to solve and interpret STEM-related issues.
• Understanding the characteristic features of STEM disciplines as forms of human endeavors that include the processes of inquiry, design, and analysis.
• Recognizing how STEM disciplines shape our material, intellectual, and cultural world.
• Engaging in STEM-related issues with the ideas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics as concerned, affected, and constructive citizens.

Further, Dr. Bybee suggests alternative definitions of and approaches to STEM education, centering education on contextual-STEM. One strategy would include health, energy efficiency, natural resources, environmental quality, hazard mitigation and frontiers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These “units” would be studied at various levels: personal (self, family, and peers); social (community); and global (life across the world). These units are problem-based and offer relevancy to the theory and abstract nature of pure math and science. Food for thought for all of us. Please feel free to comment and share your ideas below in this blog.

November is always very special for us at FLATE because we celebrate our annual educator and industry award winners as well as MAF’s Manufacturers of the year. Read about David, Dean and Art and their successes as well as their tireless commitment to manufacturing education. Know someone doing great things in or for education? You will be able to nominate them as early as March for the 2011 FLATE awards. Didn’t get the last sTEm puzzle? Try again this month sTEm puzzle #13 might bring you luck in cracking its sTEm connections.

Florida’s Manufacturers & Educators Receive Special Recognition at the 7th Annual Manufacturers Summit

Educators and manufacturers have long played a role in building a strong manufacturing base in Florida. Their cohesive efforts in laying the ground-work for innovation have secured Florida as a high-tech hot spot in the national arena. FLATE acknowledges the relentless contributions of educators and industry, and bestowed special honors to three individuals for their commitment in promoting, educating and training a high-tech workforce in Florida. Awardees were recognized during the President’s Awards Dinner at the 7th Annual Manufacturers Association of Florida Manufacturers Summit in Orlando, FL., held Nov. 3 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Orlando, FL.

Dave Lintner
Dave Lintner was named Manufacturing Secondary Educator-of-the-Year. Lintner who is an industrial education and technology teacher at Ridge Community High School in Davenport, FL is a former engineer who has taught industrial technology in Michigan and Florida for over three decades. He brings insider’s knowledge of having worked in various segments of manufacturing into the classroom and says “integrating that valuable experience into teaching has been very important as well as a real plus with all the various projects his students have completed over the years.”

Lintner’s ability to support global professional needs through local student skills set development has also lead to the production of a number of projects that range from automated hydroponics, ergonomic workstations, smart home technology, automated can crushers, to solar panels, hovercrafts, automated drawbridges, steam- powered catapults, and Maglev Trains. He played a leading role in establishing the engineering technology academy at Ridge HS. The academy introduces students to engineering and technology concepts in manufacturing, electronics, robotics, computer integrated manufacturing, and energy. His teaching lab that he opened in 2006 is frequented by visitors from across the state, and serves as a model for other schools to emulate. The future he says looks bright for the program as students engage in team projects that give a real-world view of manufacturing operations, and gives them an opportunity to learn various areas of technology and engineering.

Dean Eavey at the MAF Summit
On the post-secondary level, Dean Eavey, associate professor of business and technology division and program manager for electronics engineering technology and computer integration manufacturing (CIM) at Gulf Coast Community College (GCCC) in Panama City will receive the Manufacturing Post-Secondary Educator-of-the-Year Award. Eavey who has served in this capacity for the past ten years is part of a $500,000 grant from the Department of Labor geared to promote manufacturing training in Florida. His driving force lies in preparing students to enter the field of high-tech manufacturing and witness them succeed. This he says helps them pursue rewarding careers and helps the country remain globally competitive.

Outside his role as an educator, Eavey serves as an industrial trainer and examiner for Toyota in southern Indiana, and spends his summers teaching apprentice classes on a part-time basis for General Motors and Johnsons Controls. Over the course of years, Eavey has enabled technicians to gain skills in electronics, programmable logic controllers, fluid power, robotics, motor controls, and industrial computers, and has promoted distribution of mobile laboratory kits containing the latest in automation and robotics hardware and software, as well as online and workplace state-of-the-art-training facilities. He was a past member of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, and played a key role in developing the first national model for CIM programs in the early 80s. His efforts to create innovative instructional materials for computer and electronics engineering, and manufacturing technology have proven as a valuable tool in developing programs that emphasize on computer-controlled systems for manufacturing applications.

On the industry side of the continuum, Art Hoelke, vice president and general manager at Knight’s Armament in Titusville, FL received the Industry Distinguished Service Award. Hoelke has been a strong voice in affecting positive changes for manufacturers at the industry, education, and legislative levels.
At the legislative level he played a pivotal role in formulating the Career and Professional Education (CAPE) Act which changed the deployment of career and technical education programs in school districts throughout Florida. This spearheaded the establishment of CAPE career academies that have allowed students to operate in small learning communities focused on earning national industry certifications. Hoelke has also supported Brevard County School District’s career and technical efforts by providing paid summer internships for several Brevard County’s engineering technology teachers, and has been instrumental in establishing inroads that have facilitated a number of opportunities for students and incumbent workers across the state. 

Art Hoelke at the MAF Summit
Art's partnerships with various educators and industry leaders also paved a path for Heritage High School in Brevard County to offer the M.S.S.C industrial credential that articulates 15 credit hours into Brevard Community College’s two year A.S. degree in engineering technology. Art also provided numerous hours of community support while serving on the advisory committee for Space Coast High Schools’ engineering academy. He worked closely with the academy’s teachers, volunteered Knight’s Armament as a field trip site for students, and facilitated national manufacturing experts to make local presentations to students. Furthermore, he is intricately involved with Reusable Resources—another organization that teaches kids to build products from recycled materials.

As the country undergoes one of its most challenging times he sees the need for manufacturers to secure their bases. A key component of his message to manufacturers is to work cohesively with local middle and high schools in communicating a better understanding of industry’s manpower and brainpower needs. His ultimate goal is be an agent in fostering positive changes, and steer manufacturers away from the traditional mindset that they can’t make a difference.

The time, he says, is now to push the need for a qualified workforce, and the only way to do that is to strengthen technical abilities, refine machine capability, and equip young people with the skills-set that allows the work to remain locally/globally competitive. “With the right people, we can be assured Florida will continue to be a viable manufacturing state that will offer great opportunities for our young people and future generations” Hoelke said.

For more information on the awards and/or its recipients visit, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at

Watch the video on GCCC's Robotics CIM program

sTEm–at-Work (Puzzle #13): Technician LVDT operation performance test

The linear variable differential transformer, LVDT, is a sensor that indicates the linear change in the horizontal (vertical) position of a robotic arm and sends an electrical signal to indicate how much differential movement has occurred. The sensor makes symmetrical differential distance measurements; the output signal provided by the LVDT is simply a % of the total output signal the sensor can deliver. In addition, the detected movement is expressed as % of total possible translation of the sensor movement shaft on either side of the null position. The technician routinely runs performance tests on the LVDT to be sure the LVDT meets operational expectations. A summary of one of those tests is provided.

The LVD for this robot system is operating correctly. (yes or no). Submit your answers at

A Manufacturer’s Call to Action

Manufacturing has undergone monumental changes in the past few decades. Gone are the days when grandpa’s grimy machine shop was sufficient in meeting industry needs. Today manufacturing is all about automation and robotics that require high-tech, high-skilled labor. Despite the emergence of a new face in manufacturing, traces of the old visage still haunts the industry leaving manufacturers like Terry Iverson to address misconceptions that are no longer relevant to manufacturing.

In many ways Iverson is a positive representation of what manufacturing was, and should be. He is the president of Iverson & Company, a third-generation manufacturer of a 79-year-old CNC machine tool distributorship located in Des Plaines, IL., and has made a living selling machine tools to manufacturers in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana for the last 30 years.

For the past three decades Iverson has established strategic relationships with a number of technical colleges, and maintained partnerships with high schools that are involved in STEM or Project Lead the Way initiatives. He recently served on the CTE Foundation Board, Northern Cook County Workforce Board, and currently serves as a member of FLATE’s National Visiting Committee. His involvement with FLATE’s NVC has brought fresh perspective, technical expertise, industry knowledge that has contributed to the Center’s ongoing success. He points to FLATE’s outreach and partnership with local industry as a key part of its success, and agrees “having those kind of connections is vital to sustaining the vision/mission of the organization.”

Iverson points to America as one of the most technologically savvy nations in the world. Given his numerous engagements and insider’s know-how of manufacturing, he often wondered about his customers’ inability to find good, skilled talent for their manufacturing requirements. He says he noticed a loss of manufacturing’s lure over young people, and a disappearance of high school/apprentice programs. Iverson also points to an ageing workforce as one of the current challenges manufacturers face across the board. As jobs get outsourced, and manufacturing processes get more automated and technologically savvy he notes an immediate need for young and fresh minds, as well as a high-skilled, educated workforce.

Taking all of this into account, he decided to take action, to do something, to make a difference in the manufacturing industry. In March, 2010 Iverson founded a not-for-profit organization called C.H.A.M.P.I.O.N. Now which stands for Change How American Manufacturing is Perceived In Our Nation-Now! The NOW represents an immediate call to action for change that will impact young people by tearing down misconceptions of manufacturing perpetuated via the media or traditional ideas, and encouraging them to pursue career choices in skilled areas of high-tech manufacturing.

The organization whose primary vehicle of communication is through its website has a broad focus. The site offers a number of resources on current, new and upcoming trends in the manufacturing industry, information on salary, jobs/career choices that are geared to fire up interest in manufacturing. “The U.S. is still the number one manufacturing country in the world. From a national to an economic standpoint, manufacturing is important to our country.” Its message is not only targeted towards current/future incumbent students and workers, but more importantly towards key decision makers—parents, teachers, guidance counselors—who hold a traditional view of manufacturing, and have the power to dissuade young people from educational/career pathways in manufacturing.

Despite its infancy, the organization and its site has been a magnet for educators and industry representatives from 38 different states who have offered their support. The site has enabled Iverson to hold a “CNC Technology Day” for local students where students take a field trip to Iverson & Company demo room to witness the latest in CNC processes. His ultimate hope he says “is to get USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and even 60 Minutes interested in helping change the misperceptions of American manufacturing, and underline the
importance of manufacturing in maintaining the technical and innovative edge the U.S. had has thus far.”

To get the ball rolling on these efforts, Iverson has joined forces with a film maker in Wisconsin to produce a documentary about manufacturing which is scheduled for release in Jan. 2011. Looking to the future, he hopes to organize a nationwide event to conduct industry-tours to high-tech manufacturing facilities. Through that Iverson hopes to reposition manufacturing in a positive light so parents will encourage kids not only to pursue careers as doctors, lawyers, accountants, but encourage kids to pursue careers in manufacturing and engineering-related careers. “With a rejuvenated effort for the youth of tomorrow in American Manufacturing, we will all prosper” Iverson said.

You can join Terry’s cause at, or contact him at

FLATE’s Sterling Evaluation and Scoring

After initial focus groups with its industry partners, the FLATE leadership team realized that it needed an evaluation plan that would be of value when interacting with the National Science Foundation (NSF) as well as FLATE’s state wide industry partners. With this necessity in mind, FLATE decided to use the Florida Sterling Criteria for Organizational Performance Excellence as a basis for its NSF-ATE grant evaluation plan. This is an industry-recognized, best practice model for managing and leading organizations, which parallels the Federal Government’s Baldrige Performance Excellence Program criteria. The Sterling model is an organization-wide approach to implementing and assessing performance, improvement, and organizational sustainability of any organization in any industry or sector. Thus, FLATE uses this model as a template for evaluation because it is an industry validated assessment tool also recognized within the Federal government. From FLATE’s leadership team’s perspective, it is the best way to demonstrate FLATE’s intention to use its federal grant funds to accomplish its grant declared goals and secure Florida based industries help to accomplish its mission.

FLATE’s evaluation plan is built on a set of core values which the Sterling model integrates into seven categories encompassing every facet of organizational leadership and management. The Figure summarizes the Sterling Framework and these systematic relationships of every aspect of an organization. The cyclic interaction of the 7 model elements shown in the figure suggests the cyclic nature of FLATE operational mode.

Click to Enlarge
An essential component of FLATE’s daily activity is a constant effort to continuously improvement all aspects of its operations. This overall improvement involves continuous review of activities as they impact grant performance measurement, analysis, and knowledge management. To assure that activities optimally help accomplish grant declared goals, a Sterling based evaluation of FLATE is conducted on a two-year cycle. The results of this formal review process conducted by FLATE’s Sterling certified NSF grant evaluator provide a quantitative measure or score of our organizational performance that can be compared to our previous Sterling “scores” as an indication of our quality improvement progress.

To put these biennial scores in context, it is important to appreciate that the scoring process is not linear. As an organization gets better at accomplishing its goals to realize its mission, the expectations for quality improvement also increase. In other words, the score at any specific time in an organization’s existence depends on the extent of the types of management systems in place, their deployment and alignment with organizational goals, and the implicit knowledge gained from regular improvement of these systems. A Sterling “score” reflects the organization performance based on the current status of their management system(s) with the expectation that the next round of scoring will not only reflect quality improvements but increased “organizational maturity” and effectiveness in their management system(s). Thus, average or typical organizations will continue to score around 20-25% or 200-250 points overall. Sterling award winning organizations show continuous increases in score values even though the performance expectations for the organization to achieve the average score also continue to increase. This nonlinear seemingly moving target scoring process pushes the organization toward excellence and produces Sterling recognized award winners with typical scores of 500+ points as a minimum. No organizations receive perfect scores, as there are always progressively higher level opportunities and expectations for improvement. It is unlikely an organizations would score in the 900’s, although it is not unusual for Sterling Award winning organizations to score in the 90% range in one or more individual categories of the criteria summarized in the Figure.

In summary, evaluation using the Sterling model provides strengths, opportunities for improvement, and a score on a scale of zero to 1000. FLATE’s 2008 score at 250 points improved to 362 points in 2010. This new score clearly indicates that FLATE is moving toward excellence with it management systems and overall all objective to be a high performance based organization. The score indicates that FLATE is above the norm and that it has identified new opportunities for improving quality. It also indicates that the next round of scoring will be based on these higher performance expectations. This cyclic improvement with continuous increased demands for perfection will lead FLATE not only to a Sterling Award but an organization where high quality results are represented in normal daily activity.

For more information visit, or contact Phil Centonze at

(Contributed by Phil Centonze, FLATE External Evaluator)

Kudos to Dave Gula from FLATE’s Executive Director

It is my extreme pleasure to announce that David Gula, FLATE outreach manager has been selected as the Brandon Campus Employee Excellence Award winner in the supervisory category. We are thrilled that he was selected as our campus awardee. Dave has worked tirelessly since 2005 as FLATE’s Outreach Manager. In his current role, he developed a comprehensive industry tour/field trip model that has taken over 3,000 Florida middle and high school students into manufacturing facilities in Florida. He also diligently seeks facilities and school programs that can be good partners after the tours conclude.

Dave also manages and oversees our summer robotics camps, another model outreach program. From partnering with others in a supportive role, to developing and running our own camps, FLATE has grown considerably in this area since we started in 2006. This summer we had 200 students attending weeklong camps at 4 different sites and 2 different levels. The fact that all 9 camp sessions went flawlessly with only the highest kudos from parents and kids alike – is all Dave’s doing. To enhance our own summer camps and highlight the HCC academic program in Engineering Technology, Dave has brought a number of local and regional robotics competitions to the Brandon Campus of HCC. These competitions, no matter what level (elementary, middle or high school) are intense and require a lot of logistical support before, during and after the events (including weekends and nights!). Dave supports them all by helping with logistics, set-up, judging, teardown and clean up.

What else does Dave do? Dave makes FLATE look fabulous! He develops a variety of display items, posters, and presentations. He also supports our website with information about events, companies, and develops the virtual tours posted on to help students and the community get an inside look at advanced manufacturing companies in Florida. As we all do, Dave does data, helping keep FLATE’s outreach documentation in tip-top shape and as impactful as possible. Dave also helps keep FLATE robot mascot, FLATER uniquely costumed and appropriately dressed for any occasion or holiday.

Please join me in congratulating Dave for this well deserved recognition!

Enjoy the rest of our October FLATE Focus with another challenging STEM puzzle, an informational article about the work FLATE has been doing with the Florida State Common Course Numbering System, and a review of the July HI-TEC conference through the eyes of the principle of a Post-secondary Adult Vocational Technical Center here in Tampa. Congratulations also to recipients of the 2010 FLATE Awards for their role in promoting excellence in education and training today's technology workforce.

HI-TECH through the lens of a post secondary adult vocational educator

Career and technical education is an important component in building the knowledge and technical base of the 21st century workforce. The 2010 High-Impact Technology Exchange (HI-TECH) Conference held in Orlando, in July, served as a hot-spot for cultivating excellence in technical education/training. The conference was jointly hosted by two NSF ATE Centers, FLATE and SPACE TEC, and offered several venues for networking and professional development. 
AnnMarie Courtney, principal of ALTC

For educators like AnnMarie Courtney, the conference was a true depiction of how industry can work with educators in defining advanced technical education systems. Courtney who serves as the Principal of Aparicio-Levy Technical Center (ALTC), a post-secondary training center specializing in business and information technology skill training located in Tampa, FL, says one of the most valuable take-home nuggets from the conference “was the free exchange of ideas, knowledge about best-practices, and sharing technical know-how between attendees and administrators who administer successful advanced technical programs across the country.” She describes the sessions as informative—one that brought a shift in thought about standard procedures, shed fresh perspective on ways to effectively meet instructors’ as well as students’ needs, and highlighted the need to make industry leaders aware about educational, project-based learning programs available in high-tech centers of excellence throughout Florida.

To that effect, Courtney applauded FLATE’s (the NSF Center for Excellence in Advanced Technological and Manufacturing Educationh located at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) in Brandon efforts in facilitating such events. “I think FLATE has a perspective that is not bounded by the parameters of the traditional school district/educational set-up, and has access to avenues that underline the importance of partnerships between industry and education to accomplish targeted goals.” The conference was a “true validation of what industry and educators are trying to accomplish,” and provided a wealth of online resources (webinars, curriculum guides) to community college and technical school educators. “We felt welcomed, felt like we were a part of that puzzle in promoting and refining higher education and the programs, and felt like we had something to offer everyone on a national level” Courtney said.

Indeed, for centers like Aparicio-Levy Technical Center (ALTC), HI-TECH served as a guide in charting a “roadmap for success.” The Center caters to a diverse range of students that include those looking for initial career skills to enter the workforce for the first time, students looking to retool current skills set for career advancement, and assist local industry partners with proprietary training needs.

Given its strategic role in shaping the educational/career pathways of students ALTC relies heavily on industry feedback to maneuver the flavor of its courses/programs, and offers programs which range from 150 hours to 1,000 hour courses. Under the post secondary adult vocational program, ALTC offers a plethora of programs ranging from biomed technician, information technology specialist, manufacturing tech, new media production tech, medical office technician, e-business courses etc. “We are about putting people to work, and we want to give people the opportunity to continue their education, earn those essential credentials that can either land them that job they’re looking for, or help advance their career goals” Courtney said. ALTC also offers workforce essentials skills that help people acquire basic knowledge/skills (interviewing skills, computer skills, workplace etiquette) to launch a specific career. For corporate clients the Center offers continuing education credits and industry training programs that include CPR, entry-level management courses, and diversity training credits.

ALTC’s commitment lies in providing industry relevant training that is supported by program advisory boards, and has embedded employability components. Students can earn a variety of industry certifications depending on the type of program they’re enrolled in. The information technology specialist program prepares students for the A+ exam, as well as the CISCO certification exam. The mobile electronic installer program prepares students for the Mobile Electronic Certified Program, while the students enrolled in the new media production specialist program can earn the Adobe Associate Essentials credentials in Photoshop, Dreamweaver and FLASH. Students also have the ability to earn a number of Microsoft certifications in WORD, PowerPoint and Excel.

ALTC also serves as one of the testing centers to earn the Florida Ready to Work credentials that tests three essential skills: reading for information, applied mathematics, locating information. “We are able to successfully encourage students to continue their education to earn industry certifications that provide access to statewide articulation agreements/programs to transfer those credits to continue higher education” Courtney said. This seamless transition offers greater flexibility for graduates to transfer credits to either join the workforce, or continue their education.

To implement some of the forward-thinking perspectives gleaned from the high-tech conference into its current curriculum/programs, ALTC held a preplanning meeting three weeks after HI-TECH. As part of that meeting, they introduced online webinars and other resources garnered from the conference which will give staff an opportunity to explore various options to integrate technology in the classroom. The meeting also prompted a large percentage of ALTC staff to join a book study, Brain-based Learning for the Digital Age.

For more information about Aparicio-Levy Technical Center and its programs, contact AnnMarie Courtney at 813.740.4884 or visit For information on the HI-TECH conference, or about FLATE contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at or

Statewide Course Numbering System offers seamless transition for students in Florida

The Statewide Course Numbering System (SCNS) is an integral piece in Florida's K-20 system of articulation. This seamless system of articulation has been in place since the 1960s, and provides a database of post-secondary vocational courses at technical centers, community colleges, universities, and participating nonpublic institutions. Central to the system is its effort to assign numbers, describe course content to improve research, assist program planning, and facilitate seamless transition of courses for students transferring among various colleges. (Source:

In Florida, the effort to better align, classify and define existing courses as well as new discipline areas of engineering technology began in Fall 2007. According to FLATE’s Executive Director, Dr. Marilyn Barger, “FLATE’s efforts to develop the new A.S. degree in engineering technology served as a strong impetus for this reform activity at the state level, and continues to play an important role in the processes.” FLATE’s objective is to make engineering technology education through the state college system unified in all aspects so it is easy for all stakeholders (students, employers, educators). The review and reorganization of the SCNS ET disciplines is just one activity FLATE has undertaken to reach this goal.

Participants at the ET Forum

 In a special ongoing effort since early 2008, the division in the department of education that oversees state post-secondary courses/course numbers began a comprehensive look at several discipline areas including engineering technology education. The objective of the project was to move courses to discipline areas that better define them; consolidate redundant courses, review and update discipline area descriptions/definitions, and reorganize the discipline areas which are subsets of another. The new definition for the engineering technology discipline area and thereafter all courses associated with applied engineering focuses on the practical aspects of the specific technical disciplines preparing students to do one or more of the following: analyze, assemble, design, fabricate, install, operate, troubleshoot, maintain, and manage engineering and related systems.

FLATE, together with the ET Forum, played a crucial part in working with the state to redefine the discipline definition, rewrite all ET course prefix definitions and reclassify them in a more organized manner. Brad Jenkins, program manager for the engineering technology degree at St. Petersburg College and one of the SCNS state coordinators for aligning the numbering for the EET, EST and ETI courses under the engineering technology discipline says the initiative is a leap in the right direction as “it gives all colleges that have adopted the ET degree a chance to change their numbers and align it with the new course numbering system.”

Jenkins points to several benefits the reorganization will have students, educators and employers. The biggest advantage for educators, he says, is not reinventing the wheel, rather “adding specialties and aligning them within the frameworks of the ET degree.” It makes a nice fit for students as well. In that the articulation will be straightforward, and students won’t lose credits while transferring between colleges. “We also hope the reorganized and redefined system will simplify recruiting for our industry partners who employ our students” Jenkins said.

The proposed changes were approved by SCNS and the Florida Department of Education in April 2010, and will be implemented in Aug. 2011. For more information visit, or contact Brad Jenkins at and Dr. Marilyn Barger at

sTEm–at-Work (Puzzle #12): Technician LVDT Operation Performance Test

The linear variable differential transformer, LVDT, is a sensor that indicates a linear change in the horizontal (vertical) position of a robotic arm and sends an electrical signal to indicate how much differential movement has occurred. To increase their versatility and coincidentally emphasize the fact that the sensor makes differential distance measurements, the output signal provided by the LVDT is simply a percentage of the total output signal the sensor can deliver.

In addition, the detected displacement is expressed as the percent of total possible translation of the sensor movement shaft from the null position. The technician routinely runs performance tests on the LVDT and compares that data to the LVDT’s manufacturer provided standard test (red plot) data. Results of one of those tech tests (blue data plot) are provided.

Should the tech recommend that the LVDT for this robot system be replaced? (yes or no). Submit your answers at

Focus on Florida's Manufacturers & the products that are Made In Florida

Did you know there are more than 14,000 manufacturers in Florida that employ roughly 372,000 individuals across the state? Ninety-one percent of Florida’s exports comprise of manufactured products that generate nearly $35 billion in revenue.

These astounding figures demand close attention not only on the manufacturers, but on the products that are “Made in Florida”. FLATE’s Manufacturers Display case is a depiction of some of the very products that we all love, have simplified our lives, and use on a daily basis. The display located on the 2nd floor of the Student Services building at Hillsborough Community College in Brandon, highlights the predominant role manufacturing plays in Florida’s economy, and the contributions made by manufacturers across the state.

Approximately 18 manufacturers across 9 industry divisions and over 100 manufactured items are on display. There are a wide variety of display items from the medical instrument, electronic, food, drug, paper, plastic, aeronautical, entertainment and heavy machinery industries. Some of the manufacturers are Tropicana in Bradenton, ConMed Linvatec in Largo, Sun Hydraulics in Sarasota, Signature Brands in Ocala, Catrike in Winter Garden and Biomet 3i in Jacksonville. All the items are either the final products, parts used in other manufacturing processes or raw materials. Several pieces are displayed in production stages so students can follow the manufacturing process from a piece of stock titanium to the final polished facial replacement part. These items also serve as educational pieces during ‘Made in Florida’ classroom presentations, and for students in HCC’s engineering technology program.

To donate a product or item for the MIF display case contact David Gula, outreach manager at, or visit

“Programmed for Success” Offers Information about Robotics and High-Tech Careers

Career and technical education occupy a central role in steering global leadership and innovation. Given this integral role, FLATE hosted an informational session for middle school students who attended the LEGO robotics camps this year and their parents about educational/career pathways in various high-tech fields. Central to the event was its focus on providing current/relevant information about robotics, jobs in various emerging technologies, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)-based resources available within the School District of Hillsborough County.

Rob Weinberg speaks to parents and students 
about the importance of STEM

During the fast-paced, one hour program attendees received an overview of the statewide engineering technology degree created by FLATE, particularly the advanced manufacturing program offered at Hillsborough Community College in Brandon. Indeed the session provided a broad overview of the resources available at the local level. Rob Weinburg, district resource teacher for career and technical education curriculum and STEM initiatives at the School District of Hillsborough County in Florida says there is a pressing need to educate students about the importance of STEM-related subjects. Weinburg who was one of the speakers for the evening underlined the importance of getting students intricately involved in STEM through “exploration and witnessing applications that are geared to develop knowledge and skills in STEM-related areas.”

Dave Gula with door prize winner

Students and parents also got an opportunity to tour the manufacturing lab at HCC, and were encouraged to take advantage of the resources available on the “Made in Florida” website. Response from parents as well as campers was overwhelmingly positive. Chip Meyer who attended the intro camp last year and the advanced camp this year said the camp helped him develop an interest in science and mathematics. “The programming gave me a first-hand knowledge/helped me understand STEM concepts better” Meyer said. His father, David Meyer, described the session as a validation of his own beliefs in the importance of STEM. “I want him to see the practical application of what he is learning in the classroom. I believe information sessions like these can show a young person the available options and will motivate them to consider careers in high-tech or STEM-related fields.” Jacob Cunningham another camper who attended the SouthShore camp this year agrees the experience sharpened his interest in science and math. “I used to like those subjects a little bit, but now I like them a lot” Cunningham said.

For more information about the robotics camps please call or email FLATE’s Outreach Manager, David Gula at 813.259.6581/, or visit

From the Executive Director's Desk

In conjunction with Labor Day, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM, has released the 2010 annual index, “Made in America? What the public thinks about manufacturing today.” The objective of the annual survey/report is focused on three areas:manufacturing importance and image; future outlook for manufacturing and the talent pool; and competitiveness environment and areas for improvement. The snapshot of the industry provides important messages to our policy makers. Over 1000 Americans across the country responded to the survey, their age distribution, education level, and survey protocols are provided in the downloadable document.

Despite the current economic conditions, Americans in overwhelming numbers continue to agree manufacturing is very important to our economic prosperity, and 76% believe it is also important to our standard of living. Additionally, manufacturing was ranked second only to the energy industry for its importance to a strong national economy. Although only 30% would encourage their children to choose a career in manufacturing, many more now believe that the industry offers safe and clean working environments and high-tech, higher paying jobs requiring higher education. Most also said they would like to see manufacturing in our country strengthen and grow, at the same time anticipate it will weaken in the near future.

Although they strongly believe in the capabilities of the American workforce at all levels including research and development and technology and innovation, they are not so sure that our governmental policies provide and/or support a competitive manufacturing environment. Top disadvantages perceived by the survey respondents include business policies, tax rates, government leadership, and trade policies. Hopefully, government officials at all levels will read this document and explore opportunities to better support manufacturing in our country.

Please enjoy our September FLATE Focus articles about Tallahassee’s new Advanced Manufacturing Center, the innovative STEM Institute learning communities in Hillsborough County public middle schools, and learn the secrets behind the blue envelope millions of Americans open every day printed and assembled right here in Tampa Bay’s Valpak Manufacturing Center. We are also starting a new Educator’s corner that will be included occasionally throughout the year. Most of all enjoy the hectic, creative energy of the first days of a new school year – it often fades too quickly.

Technology Behind Your “Blue Envelope of Savings"

What comes to mind when you think about high-tech mass production, automation, and robotics? Chances are coupons and printing presses may not cross your mind. Gone are the days when Johannes Gutenberg labored over rolls of paper and ink. Today robotics and automation have revolutionized printing and made mass production possible. The paper and ink are still around, but the mind behind the machines is technology.

Take for instance the Valpak coupons that come in your mail every month. Sure we’ve all used a coupon or two from our “Blue Envelope of Savings” to drive down grocery bills, eat at that upscale restaurant down the street, or attend a local gig, but have you ever thought about the technology behind these money savers?

Indeed, there is a world of robotics, automation and technology at play that makes a colossal enterprise of this magnitude operate seamlessly. Valpak is a direct marketing company that has redefined print manufacturing. The company which is currently owned by Cox Enterprises Inc. was established in 1968 in Clearwater, FL by Terry Loebel (pronounced as label). The Center which is now located in Saint Petersburg, FL represents the convergence of technical expertise from around the globe.

From a small garage operation, Valpak has evolved to a state-of-the-art high-tech manufacturing facility. The brain behind the brass is clearly automation technology. This next generation “computer-controlled factory of tomorrow” is housed within a 440,000 sq. ft facility that can fit 13 Boeing 747s. Construction of the new Valpak Manufacturing Center (VMC) in 2007 has allowed the company to cut back operating costs, and streamline manufacturing and automation processes from four days to four hours. The VMC is a showcase of print automation with high-performance plate transfer systems that move along the ceiling, print roll buffers, collation systems and high density storage systems. Referred as “the Lexus or the Cadillac of presses,” these machines move at 2000ft per minute, and can create 100,000 impressions or coupons in an hour.

Within this gigantic scale of operations, customers still occupy a central role. Marsha Strickhouser, public relations manager at the corporate office in St. Petersburg, FL says the goal is to reach out to consumers via mail, phone, computer, or online advertising. “Whatever be the channel we want to be the first to be there for our customers in saving money where they can.” The company currently operates 180 franchises in North America which includes the United States and Canada, and has 54,000 businesses across the country that advertises in the blue envelope each year.

Despite stiff market conditions, success seems seamless at Valpak. The company boasts of a high “open rate”, in that nine out of ten people that receive the Valpak envelope actually open it. Another component of Valpak’s ongoing success lies in its firm commitment to research, combined with a direct marketing strategy which allows businesses to automatically detect/track the origin of the coupon to Valpak’s Blue Envelope of Savings. For the past 42 years, Valpak has conducted various research using Claritas, Simmons, Nielson, Scarborough and some of the major research companies to identify its customer base. It puts a lot of time and effort behind the scenes to match the needs of customers with coupons that best serve their needs, behavior/patterns, and spending habits. The rewards are enormous. Strickhouser says “The money we invest upfront helps our franchises in the frontlines to reach out to customers, and in turn helps us get more advertisers who want to do business with us.”

Valpak not only sits at the forefront of latest cutting-edge automation technology, but is premier in integrating new technology through the use of mobile platforms, or dot com products. Want an ice cream sundae in the middle of the night? There’s an app for that! For the past 14 years the company has been offering mobile coupons that can easily be downloaded using smart phones. Within the last year, it has launched four apps for the Palm Prix, iPhone, BlackBerry and the Droid which has made it easier and faster for customers to find what they’re looking for. “We feel our 42 years of experience, combined with latest research-based tactics and the construction of the new VMC has enabled us to stay ahead of the competition and enabled us to try on new things” Strickhouser said.

Campers watch Valpak robots at work
Valpak stands tall in exercising corporate responsibility, and has garnered numerous awards over the years. In 2009, Valpak received three industry certifications, certifying its paper is from forests that use sustainable practices. Most recently, it won an award from the local Florida Power Company, as well as a philanthropic award last summer for community-based initiatives such as building homes for Habitat for Humanity. Other community-related programs include partnership with the United Way campaign and the Pinellas Education Foundation.

Valpak has also been one of FLATE’s strategic partners in facilitating the “Made in Florida” industry tours that have given nearly 300 middle and high school students as well as educators throughout Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee counties an opportunity to witness its high-tech manufacturing operations. The tours have been an essential factor in showcasing “the integration of various skill-sets in a manufacturing facility, intricacies of manufacturing processes, and how everything is inter-connected.” The MIF tours have also served as a vehicle in underlining the importance of science, technology, mathematics, and engineering in securing high-wage, high-skill jobs. In January, 2010 the VMC also hosted FLATE’s National Visiting Committee meeting, and the National Association of Manufacturers Skills Certification System roundtable discussion.

For more information on Valpak, contact Marsha Strickhouser at For information on the “Made in Florida” industry tours contact Dr. Marilyn Barger or Dave Gula at 813.259.6577, or visit You can also read a full transcript of the interview with Marsha by following us on Facebook.

Watch this manufacturing process video from