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 www.fl-ate.org/awards, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org/813.259.6578

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 http://www.fl-ate.org/

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 www.championnow.org 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 www.championnow.org, or contact him at tiverson@iversonandco.com.

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.

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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 http://www.floridasterling.com/, or contact Phil Centonze at phil.c@fl-ate.org

(Contributed by Phil Centonze, FLATE External Evaluator)