FLATE’s Awardees: A Testament to Florida’s High-Tech Future

“I have always liked working with my hands” says Greg McGrew, recipient of FLATE’s Manufacturing Secondary Educator-of-the-Year award. McGrew graduated from Indiana State University with a B.S. and master’s degree in technology education, and has been teaching for over 25 years. His love for teaching stems from his teachers in school who instilled his love for designing, fabricating and simply building things. Currently he is a teacher at Lakewood Ranch High School in Bradenton, FL, and has been teaching engineering technology for over 15 years.
Source: Bradenton Times
“The hallmark of my program is giving students the best possible experience they can have to reach their individual potential.” McGrew is a firm proponent of hands-on education that prepares students for the “real world.” From basic skills like reading a ruler to running a CNC mill, to using screwdrivers, cutting wood on a table saw, to engraving with lasers, or welding with a tig welder, McGrew incorporates as many hands-on skills as possible, with as many tools and equipment as possible that are used on a daily basis in manufacturing, construction, transportation and engineering fields.

Not only do his students learn job-ready skills, McGrew has also implemented MSSC testing into his curriculum. “My hope is that the students gain the knowledge and skills needed to pass the MSSC certification exam” so students can leave his program with a highly valued national industry certification that “better prepares them for the working world.” McGrew’s students are constantly engaged in exciting projects like making trebuchets, building cardboard chairs, toothpick bridges, animatronics etc. In 2010, his students worked with a local welder to build a nine foot statue of a Mustang—the school mascot. In addition to technical skills, McGrew also states safety and tool maintenance along with listening and working with others are also very important skills.

Greg's enthusiasm and love for teaching prompts him to constantly adjust his curriculum so his students are abreast with latest technology. His suggestion to other educators is to visit as many manufacturing plants, companies, businesses, and other schools so “you can be better informed which in turn makes you a better teacher.” He compliments FLATE’s “Made in Florida” outreach program for assisting students and teachers to gain real-world exposure to high-tech manufacturing. This award, he says, confirms that he is teaching is what his students need. “I know there are many other great teachers in the state of Florida. I am just lucky enough to represent them for this year.”

At the post secondary level, Robert Deckon, manager for operational excellence at Saddle Creek Corporation in Jacksonville, FL, and past director of engineering technology at Florida Gateway College (FGC) will receive the Manufacturing Post-Secondary Educator of the year award. Deckon has been engaged in industry, engineering, and engineering technology (ET) education for over 25 years, and was instrumental in revamping the engineering technology program at FGC. He developed the new courses within the A.S.E.T. concentrating on the Quality Specialization including the six sigma black belt and green belt college certificates. The core of the program, he says, is problem solving. “Employers want and need employees who can solve problems, and the ability to apply these tools to a wide variety of situations.”

To that effect, he proposes educators to showcase the role technology plays in innovation. He says educators should coordinate placement of students at local companies so they can use their technical skills to work on real-world projects. Deckon also developed the first mobile ET laboratory in Florida. His lab equipment consists of electronic test equipment, programmable logic controllers, instrumentation and process control equipment, and hydraulics and pneumatics trainers, lodged within a large 52ft triple axel trailer that can be towed to any school, or company site for training. “Education needs to borrow from industry and implement many of the same cost cutting, process improvement methods to their processes and reduce costs, eliminate redundancies and waste.” He adds “Education needs fewer chiefs and more Indians.”

On the industry side of the continuum, Mark Snyder, vice president of global operations & supply chain at ConMed Corporation in Largo, FL, will receive the Industry Distinguished Service award. In this capacity, Snyder is responsible for the co-ordination and optimization of world-wide operations and logistics which includes procurement, manufacturing and distribution, as well assuring quality, delivery & cost to customers both within and outside the United States. “I am passionate about manufacturing and the need to stay competitive. Constant improvement has been a consistent theme throughout my manufacturing career.” Over the last 25 years, Snyder has been at the forefront of affecting positive changes in the manufacturing sector in Florida. Most of what he’s been involved in entails bringing jobs to Florida and moving work to low cost region manufacturing areas.

Snyder notes the manufacturing industry landscape is constantly in flux. In Florida, the pendulum has shifted from Department of Defense manufacturing to medical device manufacturing. In light of these changes, Snyder encourages current and incumbent workers to streamline manufacturing processes by increasing their understanding and practice of lean and six sigma. These he says “are methods that challenge the status quo of a process.” He also calls on manufacturers to focus on quality and delivery improvements. He says the most important asset we can allocate is time, not money. “This is why companies that embrace Lean and Six Sigma succeed” Snyder said.

From the outset, Snyder has been a firm supporter of the A.S. degree in engineering technology developed by FLATE. He has been a speaker before industry associations advocating merits of the ET degree, and has been a role model for other manufacturing companies to become involved in this educational process. “As a major manufacturer in the region, ConMed Corporation employs many students who make use of these technical education programs.” Snyder says “it benefits ConMed Corporation to assure these programs address the needs facing us today and in the future.” Additionally, Snyder was a member of FLATE’s executive committee from 2005-2010, served as the Chair of FLATE’s Industrial Advisory Committee from 2005-2010, and has been a member of FLATE’s National Visiting Committee since 2009. He has also served for the past five years on St. Petersburg College’s ET Advisory Committee. Bringing his real world manufacturing strategic skills to these committees, Snyder organized subcommittees to study and recommend curriculum and technology changes in the engineering technology curriculum. He also served for one year on FLATE’s Executive Committee at Hillsborough Community College, St. Petersburg College and the University of South Florida.

In all of this, Snyder says his role was to “assure the voice of industry was clear and understood.” He applauds FLATE’s efforts to integrate the Florida Sterling program which has allowed the Center to measure results, make adjustments, and stay focused in the core areas of curriculum, outreach and professional development. Snyder notes FLATE has achieved many successes in all three focused areas. “Statewide articulated A.S. Engineering Technology programs, integration of the MSSC certification, the “Made in Florida” campaign, work with the Manufacturers Association of Florida as well as the Florida Forum for Engineering Technology are all examples of these successes” Snyder said.

Indeed, FLATE’s awards have been an effective vehicle in recognizing outstanding educators and industry professionals who have made significant contributions to the training and education of today’s high-tech workforce. 2011 marks the fifth year of the awards. Since the implementation of the FLATE awards program in 2006, FLATE has recognized 10 educators and five partners at the secondary/post secondary education levels, as well as industry colleagues who have augmented education and career awareness on a local and statewide level. Awardees will be recognized during the president’s banquet at the annual Manufacturers Association of Florida Manufacturers Summit, which will be held Nov. 30- Dec. 1 in Orlando.

Please join us in congratulating the FLATE awardees for their outstanding achievement, contribution and impact on Florida’s manufacturing community. For more information contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at 813.259.6578/barger@fl-ate.org, or visit www.fl-ate.org.

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