From the Executive Director's Desk

Recently the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (the NGA Center) published a report entitled: “A Sharper Focus on Technical Workers: How to Educate and Train for a Global Economy.” The report is based on one of the NSF ATE Centers, AMTEC (Automotive Manufacturing Technical Education Collaborative) as a model of how academic institutions, industry, and state governments can work together to provide skills training for workers, and help secure the country’s economic security and prosperity. “The global economy demands highly skilled workers, and states are in a position to help foster the types of education and training partnerships that can fill jobs in economic sectors that are growing at a rapid pace” reports John Thomasian, director of the NGA Center. Thomasian suggests collaboration may be the key to building competitive, highly skilled workforce. AMTEC, like all NSF ATE Centers, is built on and thrives on academic and industry partnerships. It is a national center with 30 college partners, and 34 auto-related facilities in 12 states working to implement improvements in technical education focused on advanced automotive manufacturing.

In addition to its reference to AMTEC, the report also shares actions that states can take to shape the future of technical training that will support large and fast-growing industries. These include championing the importance of technical education and its global nature; focusing on industry with the highest potential for economic growth; considering financial support for college faculty; growing multi-state partners that provide high-quality, industry-valued training; requiring comprehensive outcome data to assess skills and credentials gained, informing policy makers and holding educational institutions accountable. Congratulations! to AMTEC for their accomplishments, and, kudos to all the other centers and projects in the NSF ATE community that work in education-industry partnerships throughout the country and across the many facets of technical education to reach the same goal of improving technical education in innovative and creative ways to strengthen our American technician workforce. The NGA report is posted at:

In this issue of the FLATE Focus, you can read about FLATE-sponsored summer educator professional development workshops, robotics camps and outreach activities at the HCC Brandon Campus, MSSC credentials alignment with the engineering technology degree technical core courses, the Florida “Ready to Work” program which aligns with the NAM-endorsed Stackable Certificate System (SCS), and of course sTEm puzzle # 9. Also don’t forget HI-TEC conference the last week of this month in Orlando (, and send in your nominations ( for FLATE’s educator and industry partner awards before August 30 .

Transition of Biotechnology into Biomanufacturing….is it a passage into the future?

Biotechnology and biomanufacturing are among the most rapidly expanding industries in the nation. Over the past 40 years, the U.S. biotechnology industry has matured from its emphasis on basic and applied research, to develop products that impact our daily lives. (Source: The Center for Science Education).

So what is the lure and scope of this emerging biotech industry?

Bill Woodruff, department head for biotechnology at Alamance Community College in Graham, NC says determining the scope of biotechnology is like “reaching out into the universe.” The evidence is in the numbers. According to Woodruff, eight years ago only 12% of all pharmaceuticals in the market were biopharmaceuticals, the rest were all chemical type. Eight years later, in 2010, that number has risen to 37% and is expected to reach 87% by 2020. The industry undoubtedly holds promise and is highly diversified. Furthermore, biotechnology’s transition from its research and development-centric focus into “biomanufacturing” has transformed it into a sustainable, income-generating industry—one that offers endless opportunities.

Richard Connolly, a Ph.D. candidate currently pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering at the University of South Florida in Tampa agrees the field of biology has evolved and grown more complex than most people’s textual knowledge about the subject. This shift has tremendously broadened the scope of biology, and raised the need for a well-educated, trained workforce that is prepared to address the challenges of a new industry.

The biomanufacturing workshop for teachers at Hillsborough Community College (HCC), for example, was one such initiative designed to provide information and hands-on training in new advanced technology career paths in biomanufacturing. The workshop was held in June at HCC in Brandon as part of a professional development opportunity for 29 high school teachers from Hillsborough, Polk, Pasco and Hernando counties in Florida. It also represented a cohesive partnership between Northeast Biomanufacturing Center and Collaborative (NBC2), a National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education Center at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, PA, FLATE at HCC in Brandon, and FCoE-BITT (Florida Center of Excellence for Biomolecular Identification and Targeted Therapeutics) at the University of South Florida.

“Protein is Cash”—the theme behind the workshop at HCC—was part of a series of national workshops offered by NBC2. Central to the workshop was its focus on the production of a “green fluorescent protein of interest.” The “protein” component was derived from transforming cells with foreign genes through the transformation of DNA into RNA. The “cash” component was derived from the process of maximizing protein production. Sonia Wallman, executive director of NBC2 pointed to the production of these proteins as a key enabler in developing vaccines, or drugs such as insulin and new therapeutics which are antibodies against cancer. “This methodology (making a green fluorescent protein) also makes the workshop exciting and hands-on for the participants” Wallman said.

Course content covered a wide range of topics, and was developed in response to local/national industry needs. Participants learned how to transform cells with foreign genes, learned how these transformed cells are cultivated in increasing numbers to maximize the amount of protein, how protein is purified from the cells or nutrient medium, and how quality control tests are used to determine the characteristics of the produced protein. “Knowing the background and how to conduct each of these processes in a small scale can help them develop/perform these tasks on a larger scale” Wallman said. Participants also got an opportunity to participate in clinical trials board games, explore career pathways in biomanufacturing and biotechnology, and tour labs at Moffit Cancer Center.

The workshop was instrumental in positioning biotechnology at the forefront of cutting-edge technology. “What we want to do is give them the skills that they can take back to their classrooms, not just talk science, but “to do” science—that’s the “hook” for generating excitement/engagement” Woodruff said. Teachers Rebecca Rouch and Michelle Lee, biology teachers at East Bay High School in Tampa could not agree more. “Workshops like these help us stay current with the latest content and technologies that are being implemented in the biotech/biomanufacturing field.” It also served as a networking opportunity to exchange ideas with teachers, professors and research students on latest technologies and equipments that can be used in the classroom/lab.

Indeed, given the dynamic environment, it is important for current/prospective students interested in biotechnology/biomanufacturing to be inquisitive about science, recognize the importance of industry-related training, and develop an understanding of how a biomanufacturing facility operates, or what each job entails. Richard Connolly says the major focus right now is on molecular biology, and on manufacturing protein-based drugs, bio therapies, gene therapies and drug therapies, and students need to grab the opportunities that are out there. Connolly points to Florida as a fertile ground for launching successful careers in biomanufacturing, especially with the money filtering in from the biotech corridor, and with the growth of small biotech companies across the state. “There is a lot more to biology than the kingdom, phylum species classification systems. Biology is being used to develop cures, it can be an applied science like chemistry, engineering or applied physics as opposed to just being a field of knowledge about zebra fish” Connolly said.

For information on biomanufacturing and biotechnology initiatives and workshops in Florida contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at, or visit For information on Northeast Biomanufacturing Center and Collaborative contact Sonia Wallman at, or visit

Testing MSSC Alignment

As more state and community colleges across Florida move to adopt the Engineering Technology (ET) degree program, FLATE and its college partners are working to ensure that ET core courses which align with the MSSC (Manufacturing Skill Standards Council) Certification are preparing students to earn a passing grade on the MSSC Certification test. FLATE worked to align state level ET program frameworks with MSSC standards. The next step is to identify, evaluate, and remedy any gap between the program frameworks and actual course outcomes. In order to bring together and validate alignment with MSSC Certification for ET core courses, FLATE examined course outcomes based on student ability to score a passing MSSC test grade.

In the first of a series of studies with colleges adopting the ET program, FLATE and three college partners administered the MSSC Safety Certification test to students completing the college credit course, Industrial Safety (ETI 1701/1720). The results, outlined below, are representative of a total of 53 outcomes from three participating colleges: Brevard Community College, Central Florida Community College, and State College of Florida (Manatee)

.• Data were collected for 46 males and 7 females with a demographic distribution of 13 Hispanic, 2 Black, and 38 White students who were scheduled to take the test.

• The average age for both male and female students was 33 years of age. 79% of participating students were enrolled as degree seeking students in an Engineering Technology two year degree program.

• For students scheduled to take the test, there were 40 passes, 6 did not pass, and 7 rescheduled. For those who took the test, there was an 87% pass rate.

• 76% is the MSSC cut score for this test; the average scores for the MSSC Safety Test in this sample were 80% for females, and 84% for males.
[The MSSC-Workplace Safety, Health & Job Skills National Average is listed as 58.3%.]

FLATE also began working with colleges and FLDOE partners at the Engineering Technology Forum held at Florida State College at Jacksonville last month to help ensure that Florida’s college courses aligned with MSSC standards are delivering prepared, workforce ready students. Keeping an eye on college course outcomes by examining quantitative measures based on a successful pass of the MSSC certification test is one way of supporting the national, industry-led MSSC Certification System. At the same time, this effort works to strengthen the core course outcomes of Engineering Technology courses, and helps ensure that students are prepared and ready to supply the workforce that Florida’s industries need.

For more on MSSC certification, or the Engineering Technology degree contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at, or visit

sTEm-at-Work: Energy Systems Tech (Puzzle #9)

This is the last of a set of puzzles that deals with sine waves, or if you prefer cosine waves. Next month we might go over some the response data. But, in the meantime try this one out!

The Tech is checking the operation of an alternative energy system that uses capacitors to store and release a flow of charge, electrons on a wire, and knows that when operating correctly this electron flow, current, and the corresponding voltage do not go up and down together. They are not in phase. In fact, the voltage goes down after the current goes down, that is, the voltage “lags” the current. In the oscilloscope cartoon below, the system's voltage signal is connected to Channel B and the current signal is connected to Channel A.

The energy system is operating correctly? (Yes or No). Submit your answers at


Educating the educator about STEM and Robotics

It may sound like preaching to the choir, but have you ever asked math and science teachers if robotics, science, technology, engineering and mathematics can be considered “cool” and “fun”? Well apart from the obvious response, their enthusiasm in not just “learning”, but “doing” science, math and technology is sure to hit a home-run.

“I think technology and showcasing the everyday applications of STEM is what’ll be the hook for students” says Heather Russell, a math teacher at Hudson Middle school in Pasco County. Russell was one of the teachers who attended the summer camp-style STEM workshop for teachers hosted by FLATE at Hillsborough Community College in Brandon. The week-long workshop was attended by 17 teachers from seven counties in Florida and was held from June 28-July 2. In many ways the workshop served as a first step in “educating the educator” about STEM resources for the classroom, and was geared to explore various facets of robotics technology and curriculum to promote learning in STEM-related subjects.

Central to the workshop was its emphasis on hands-on learning. Anna Speessen, a math and science teacher at Brooksville Elementary School in Hernando County agrees the first step to empowering students is for teachers to “learn more” about STEM and robotics. Speessen believes “if students are given hands-on experience in robotics they can be confident in using robotics technology and venture in this new direction.”

During the workshop, participants had access to a plethora of resources that projected a fun and creative side of robotics. As part of an effort to develop learning objects to enhance students’ understanding of STEM-centered curriculum, and to share those resources with other educators, participants also developed a robotic arm that they could program to perform certain tasks. They were also updated on latest technology applications, had access to curriculum challenges and content developed by engineers and curriculum experts, explored links to nanotechnology, and engaged in exercises focused on stimulating and building soft skills needed to operate in the diverse 21st century workplace/classroom.

In addition to hands-on activities, participants got a taste of “robots in action” through observation of FLATE’s Lego Mindstorms robotics camp. They also toured Valpak’s modern, high-tech manufacturing facility located in St. Petersburg, FL, and witnessed use of robotics technology in everyday manufacturing operations. Donna Burns, a teacher in Lake Wales, FL, was shocked to see how clean and appealing the modern manufacturing environment was for workers. Prior to her visit to Valpak, Burns admits she held the old-school, traditional view of manufacturing as a dirty, grimy profession—one she did not encourage her students to consider as a probable career option. She wasn’t aware of local robotics initiatives in central Florida, and “always thought you had to move to Japan or someplace else to get a closer hands-on experience of robotics.”

Burns is not alone in sharing this misconception. Rachel Burgin, Senate representative for district 56 in Florida who attended FLATE’s robotics camp and the teacher STEM camp, agrees there is cultural misconception that “those interested or have skills in mathematics/science are the ones who need to be doctors, engineers, or accountants”. Burgin states these perceptions are changing the educational climate/direction and is one of the biggest challenges that educators as well as manufacturers currently face. “From that standpoint, I think as a state we have to ensure that all kids have the access and the resources to be able to learn, understand and educate themselves about STEM, and it is our responsibility to instill/change perceptions that math and science is for everyone, not just for certain types of individuals” Burgin said.

Indeed, the STEM workshop served as an effective vehicle in deconstructing some of the myths, and in empowering educators to learn about STEM and robotics. For more information on teacher workshops and/or STEM curriculum and resources visit, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at

Are your employees truly ready to work?

Even in a tough economy, forward-looking manufacturers constantly have an eye on steps they need to take to grow the workforce of the future. One way to begin building a talent pipeline is to recognize – and even encourage – the Florida Ready to Work credential as you hire, train and promote.

Ready to Work is a “FREE” training, testing and credentialing program aimed at building career readiness skills like applied math, reading, and locating information (which is using and interpreting workplace graphics like charts, floor plans, gauges, etc.). Since these are critical, sought-after foundational skills, the National Association of Manufacturers recommends mastery of these skills prior to jobseekers and employees working toward manufacturing-related certifications like the Certified Production Technician (CPT) certification. Depending on scores on proctored tests, individuals can earn a credential that shows employers they have the right skills for the job – a useful tool for applicant screening purposes and, later for workforce development.

Beyond screening, 400+ employer partners across the state are using Florida Ready to Work in a variety of ways such as:

• Testing -- Supplementing or replacing current employee assessments and pinpointing strengths and development needs in the workforce.

• Training/Courseware -- Using the free online courseware to build work (and life) skills of the current workforce, showing measurable results.

• Job Profiling -- Making more objective, informed promotion decisions. Using an EEOC-compliant job profiling process, employers can identify the skills and skill levels employees need for success in higher level roles.

The FRW program enjoys widespread participation, and is being implemented by school districts and companies across Florida. On a local level, approximately 10 schools have adopted the FRW program within Hillsborough County School District; five from Sarasota County School District, nine from Pasco County School District, and three each from Pinellas and Polk County School Districts. Statewide, Brevard County School district leads the way with more than 4000 candidates from 50 schools participating in the program, and earning the FRW credentials.

Local companies using the program include Pepperidge Farms, PGT Industries, Denny’s Restaurant, Shands Jacksonville, and Busch Gardens. For more information, or to view a full list of community colleges, adult education, technical centers, regional workforce boards and/or community based organizations throughout Florida that have adopted the FRW program, visit, or contact Sharon Albrecht, business services director at 941.914.0046, or

Contributed by our partners at Florida Ready to Work.

Robotics, STEM AND Girl Power

“Girl power” reigns supreme this summer as STEM education takes center-stage at FLATE’s robotics camps. The picture gets clearer as Elizabeth Heli, one of the lead instructors for the 2010 robotics camps talks about teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) concepts using a robotics platform to middle school students throughout Hillsborough County.

Heli is the lead teacher for the engineering STEM academy at Greco Middle school where she teaches technology education—a pre-engineering course—for the past six years. But there is a more “fun” side to Heli than meets the eye! She brings an exciting dimension into the classroom by incorporating her interest in electronics, technology, and video gaming which “helps strike a connection with the kids.”

Given Heli’s affinity for technical stuff, she is involved in a number of STEM-related projects at Greco that deals with civil engineering, aerospace engineering, and transportation technology. For aerospace engineering projects, she helps build rockets, parachutes, hot-air balloons, and egg-drop vehicles that simulate launching capsules to the space/moon. Under transportation technology, she teaches how to build carbon dioxide-powered race car models using Newton’s laws of motion. Another fun and interesting project she is involved in at Greco is designing and building mazes using technical drawing software.

In terms of the FLATE robotics camps, Heli will be the lead instructor for the “Girls Only” robotics camp at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) in Brandon, and the robotics camps at HCC’s SouthShore campus in July. She loves the way the challenges are designed. In that she applauds FLATE for integrating current/relevant robotics engineering technologies into the curriculum, and designing age-appropriate materials that showcase real-world applications. “Where the STEM concepts are really getting ingrained is when students have background knowledge acquisition, and then they get to apply what they have learned through hands-on exercises that require problem-solving” Heli said.

The possibilities are endless. Heli hopes the lessons learned during the camp will motivate kids to encourage teachers at their respective schools to start a robotics program, or encourage them to join FIRST Lego League clubs/competitions. “If they can have more hands-on time with robotics and/or STEM-related activities it will enhance their learning, as well as build on problem-solving skills they gained during the camp.”

Indeed, Heli is a big proponent in securing students’ interest in STEM/robotics, as well as high-tech manufacturing. She says attractive flyers are an effective way to spark students’ interest, particularly for girls. Capturing students’ interest while they’re young, using curriculum that portrays a fun or the real-world side of what they are learning, and finding innovative ways to showcase careers and educational pathways in high-tech fields is yet another way to garner interest.

Heli points to FLATE’s camps as a great platform to expose students to the world of STEM and robotics. To that effect, she is interested in using some of the resources she is learning at the camp to improve curriculum for future camps, and/or implement some of the concepts into her daily teaching experience. “It’s all about STEM and fun. This is how learning takes place, and is what matters at the end of the day” Heli said.

For more information on FLATE’s high-tech robotics camp visit, or contact Dave Gula, FLATE’s camp manager/outreach coordinator at 813.259.6581 or