NSF-ATE in Florida: Why Florida is a Great Place for the 21'st Century Technician!

 To end our series that emphasizes NSF’s partnership with A.S. Degree programs in Florida we just lightly touch the mouse pad of the "Way-Back" Machine so that we can creep back a bit to cover the 2011 NSF-ATE grants awards. New ATE efforts span the state from Northwest Florida State College (NWFSC) to the Florida Keys Community College (an eleven hour drive with brief stops to chat and sign autographs with the Florida Highway Patrol). Projects include a healthy dose of STEM, and range from cyber security to food safety as well as efforts to increase articulation of industry certifications to A.S. degrees and subsequent A.S. degree articulations and pathways to four-year degrees. We begin this virtual road trip in Northwest Florida.

Allison Beauregard Schwartz at NWFSC is adding hands-on field experiences to complement a course in aquatic environmental science. The proposed field activities will provide articulation opportunity to introduce two-year college students at NWFSC to GIS technology and environmental sciences. Traveling 300 miles across the state to the east end of Interstate 10, Randall Pegg, Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ), has a new project to develop a dual purpose, food safety laboratory which combines biotechnology student training facilities to a new biotechnology A. S. degree and certificate program. Jacksonville is now a major seafood import center with the corresponding increased responsibly for fish quality and safety inspections.

On the way down Florida's east coast on Interstate 95, Brevard Community College has a NSF ATE project to develop an alternative energy systems technology (AEST) specialization in partnership with Tallahassee Community College and FSCJ. This effort will add a new specialization to the A.S. engineering technology degree which is a FLATE developed degree implemented by the Florida Department of Education currently offered by 11 colleges in the Florida State College system. The 2011 ATE projects in central Florida are focused on cyber security. Gaby Hawat, at Valencia Community College and Craig Tidwell from University of Central Florida are partnering with four community colleges to create an A.S degree program in Computer Engineering Technology (CET). Hawat’s objectives are to include increased full-time entering students declaring a major in CET and also to increase retention rates. Tidwell’s project goals include curriculum alignment, faculty development, student retention activities, and online instruction best practices.

Indian River State College and four partners across the southeast are the leadership team for the Nuclear Education Regional Centers of Excellence that will offer students interested in nuclear energy careers a wide variety of opportunities for training for this field, and provide the nuclear industry with some innovative means for reaching potential job applicants. Moving slightly southwest from central Florida on Interstate 4 to Tampa bay, William Tyson, at the University of South Florida partnered with FLATE at Hillsborough Community College, Polk State College and the State College of Florida to examine student pathways from high school through community college to industry. Just south over the Skyway bridge, Jane Pfeilsticker at the State College of Florida, has a Biotechnology Alliance for Suncoast Biology Educators (BASBE) project to facilitate professional development for secondary school teachers leading to the design and implementation of new biotechnology laboratory activities in regional high schoolbiology classrooms.

Continuing south, down the suncoast on US 41, Edison State College is heavily involved in efforts to raise awareness among building and manufacturing professionals. For example, Foy Dennette's ATE project uses the established associate degree program in drafting and design to build a new curriculum for green construction and manufacturing. Shifting direction and traveling east across alligator alley, Palm Beach State College continues to address the emerging bioscience industry in south Florida. In this current ATE project, Alexandra Gorgevska is creating the biotechnology laboratory and skills training (BLAST) program. This project creates a new general biology course as a general education course, and emphasizes the molecular biology basis of biotechnology.

Finally, it's time to head south, down highway US 1 to the end of the line, the "Conch Republic." At Florida Keys Community College, Patrick Rice is leading the effort to develop the Tropical Ornamental Mariculture Technician (TOMT) certificate. The proposed TOMT certificate will provide a needed educational platform for the development of well-prepared technicians to meet the growth and development of the marine ornamental mariculture industry and marine conservation efforts prevalent throughout the Florida keys.

In summary, Florida is a geographically expansive state that offers exciting new career opportunities for technicians. The Florida state college system together with NSF-ATE are developing the curriculum, degrees, and career pathways for students to enter this high-tech workforce. Without both, neither would succeed. With both, Florida is going to be a great place for the 21'st century technician.

You can follow the stream of articles on NSF’s role in strengthening technician education in the sunshine state at www.fl-ate.org/projects/ate.html, or contact Executive Director and P.I., Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org, and Dr. Richard Gilbert, co-P.I. of FLATE at gilbert@fl-ate.org.

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