A Closer Look at ATE Programs’ Passion to “Partner with Industry for a New American Workforce”

Every October, the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (NSF ATE) program supports a conference for the principal investigators, senior personnel of NSF projects and other involved stakeholders. The conference is a power-packed two days in Washington DC. Although the conference has a theme every year, the byline of the ATE program captures the root and essence of the ATE vision and passion for “Partnering with Industry for a New American Workforce”.

Three showcases, national speakers, round table discussions and working sessions provide the stakeholders of currently funded projects and centers many opportunities to share best practices, learn about new strategies and resources, and identify potential partners. I attended a deep dive round table workshop on industry partnerships where we brainstormed and shared effective strategies to get and keep industry involved in all aspects of our educational programs. Mike Ennis, FLATE’s partner from Harris Corporation, co-presented our own best practices at the session. Another working session on data and evaluation had many of us digging into good practices for collecting, analyzing and reporting impact data for NSF as well as our home institutions.

Despite being an active NSF ATE Principal Investigator (PI) for eight years, we are always looking for better ways to increase the impact of our programs and activities. One highlight of the PI conference is the interesting and provocative speakers for the general sessions. I have often left those presentations a bit uncomfortable and struggling with the potential impact of new, out-of-box ideas. Three, 2+ hour showcase sessions where projects and centers display their project activities are all highly stimulating sessions, and great vehicles to explore new technologies, pedagogies and/or valuable new ideas, demos and handouts.

This year Florida was represented by a number of projects and centers. Continuing projects and centers were joined by newly funded projects at Seminole State College, Polk State College, Tallahassee Community College, and South Florida Community College. There are brief summaries of all current NSF ATE projects and centers in Florida on our website at http://fl-ate.org/projects/ate.html. Check them out! They might have resources, or opportunities you are interested in, or spark an idea for your own grant project.

Perhaps the best is that the NSF ATE principal investigators, their stakeholders, and the NSF program officers are a real, working community of practice. It’s a community built on trust, helping and sharing. We face new challenges and mandates together. We work together to get the job done, each contributing what we can do best. We celebrate our individual and group successes together. We mentor and nurture each other. All of this provides fertile ground for personal growth and innovation. It is truly an honor and privilege to be part of such a warm and generous community.

The “New American Workforce” requires dynamic thinkers and strong leaders who cherish creativity and innovation. Articles in this December issue of the FLATE Focus, celebrate NSF ATE Centers’ role in forging partnerships with industry to build a new and skilled American workforce. On behalf of all FLATERS, I’d like to wish you all a warm and happy holidays!

Get into Gear with FLATE Awardees

Manufacturers and educators committed to promote, educate, and train Florida’s high-tech workforce will receive special recognition at the 9th Annual Manufacturers Association of Florida, Manufacturers (MAF) Summit. The awards will be presented on Dec. 6, during the president’s banquet at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Orlando, Fla., by FLATE (Florida Advanced Technological Education Center), the National Science Foundation (NSF) regional center of excellence for manufacturing located at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) in Brandon. According to Marilyn Barger, Ph.D., principal investigator and executive director of FLATE the awards “are a testament to Florida’s high-tech workforce.” They also “serve as an effective vehicle in recognizing outstanding educators and industry professionals who have made significant strides in training the next generation of high-skilled workers in Florida” Barger said.

Steve Portz will receive the 2012 Secondary Educator-of-the-Year award. Portz who is an instructor for engineering technology at Space Coast High School has been teaching engineering technology for the last 25 years. Portz is also the co-founder and lead instructor of the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Aerospace and Manufacturing) Academy at Space Coast High School. Portz played a leading role in co-writing the 2007 Florida Succeed Grant that lead to the establishment of an SLC academy. He has also hosted several industrial lecture series and offered summer camps with advanced topics in injection molding and composites, and instituted SolidWorks training program for the CSWA achieving a significant pass rate.

At the post-secondary level, Adrienne Gould-Choquette, faculty and program director of engineering technology at State College of Florida (SCF) in Bradenton, FL, will receive the Manufacturing Post-Secondary Educator of the Year award. Choquette nurtured the engineering program since 2009, and has been instrumental in launching specialized courses in alternative energy, electronics and digital design. She also developed over 15 courses that include SolidWorks, Industrial Safety, Quality, Manufacturing processes and Solar Energy. At the state level she introduced several new courses including off-the-grid, nanotechnology, sustainability, building envelope science, and biofuels.

Indeed, Choquette has served as a great inspiration in persuading students like Andrew Sink to earn a degree in engineering technology. She helped Sink, a current student pursuing a degree in engineering technology at SCF find a job at a local manufacturing company, and “contributed immensely” to his “personal, professional, and academic growth.” Choquette is a member of the State of Florida Articulation Coordinating Committee for Engineering, and has been a faculty mentor for the FLATE-led Iberian partnership for technician excellence initiative for the last two years.

On the industry side of the continuum, Peter Buczynsky, president & co-founder of Pharmaworks, Inc. in Odessa, FL, will receive the Industry Distinguished Service award. Over the past few years, Buczynsky has coached a FIRST robotics team, and hosted several industry tours for students to increase technical interest and awareness. Buczynsky currently serves as a Pasco County Economic Development Council (PEDC) board member, and is the Chair of the PEDC Economic Growth Task Force. He is a member River Ridge High School’s engineering academy advisory board, and is part of the Pasco-Hernando Community College drafting and design advisory committee. Rob Aguis, director for community, career and technical education in Pasco County says “Bucznsky has been very influential in establishing and ensuring progress of career academies, STEM education and robotics throughout Pasco County.” Buczynsky is also a board member of the CTEF of the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute Workforce and Education Board, and has served as an advisory council member for the Banner Center for Advanced Manufacturing.

2012 marks the sixth year of the FLATE awards. Since the implementation of the awards program in 2006, FLATE has recognized 12 educators in secondary and post-secondary educational institutions, and six industry partners. For more information on the FLATE awards, contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org/813.259.6578, or visit www.fl-ate.org.

Great American Teach-In Emblematic of Industry-Centric Partnerships

For a number of years, the Great American Teach-in has offered students, educators and industry professionals across the nation an opportunity to share ideas and best practices on a vast range of topics. The program has helped “learners visualize and discuss ideal learning environments” enabling the cultivation of innovators and thinkers in society. It has also prompted creation of better workplaces by empowering individuals to work as a community. (Source: Great American Teach In)

Given its emphasis on industry-centric partnerships and impact on educators on a national and statewide level, FLATE, the National Science Foundation Center of Excellence in high-tech manufacturing, recently partnered with several manufacturers, industry partners and the school districts of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties to participate in the Great American Teach-In event for local students and educators. On November 15, more than 150 students got an up-close look at high-tech manufacturing outfits in the region, and re warding career options available to students in Florida.

FLATE partnered with the Bay Area Manufacturers Association (BAMA), a leading voice for manufacturers in the greater Tampa Bay area and HSA Engineers and Scientists, a local industry partner, to give local students an overview of STEM-related careers. Steve Meitzen, past president of BAMA and director of sales and marketing at Clarison Plastics in Ocala, FL, gave 25, fourth graders from Citrus Park Elementary School, a first-hand account of high-tech manufacturing operations in the region. FLATE also partnered with HSA Engineers and Scientists, a local industry partner in Tampa, to give students enrolled in the STEM Engineering Academy at Greco Middle an in-depth look at STEM based careers. Steven Janosik, senior project engineer at HSA talked to 6th and 7th graders about the importance of STEM and showcased its applicability in every day high-tech processes. Elizabeth Heli, lead technology instructor at Greco pre-engineering STEM academy and a technology instructor for FLATE’s all girls’ robotics camps said “the presentation was wonderful,” and gave students got a first-hand view of what it takes to be an engineer.

In addition to tapping into industry expertise, FLATE professionals visited Brandon High School, Walker Middle Magnet School, Bevis Elementary School and Greco Middle School in Tampa. At Bevis Elementary School in Lithia, Nina Stokes, project manager for the FLATE-led FESC program at HCC, gave two presentations that covered topics related to energy sources, energy efficiency, recycling, and water conservation. She distributed materials and examples offering students a real-world view and applications of the concepts discussed in the presentation. According to Stokes “the kids were fascinated by the simple windmills and how they could generate electricity just by spinning the blades.”

In another “show and tell” type presentation, students at Walker Magnet Middle School were taught about recycling. “Ms. Fedna did an amazing job with the students!” said Desaray Cochron from Walker Magnet Middle School. Fedna was very hands-on, and showcased real-life examples that got students excited about recycling. At Brandon High School, Danielly Orozco & Rick Cole gave students an insider’s look at educational and career pathways in high-tech manufacturing. Orozco, FLATE’s curriculum coordinator, presented Made In Florida manufacturing resources for teachers and students. The presentation enhanced students’ understanding about science, technology, engineering and mathematics, provided insight on what it takes to become an engineer, and how programs like the FLATE-created statewide degree in engineering technology can help students pursue STEM-related careers.

“Great American Teach-In was a great collaborative success” said Dr. Marilyn Barger. Barger, principal investigator and executive director of FLATE, said the hope is “to educate and motivate students to explore unique career options in manufacturing,” and bring the world of high-tech manufacturing into the classroom of local schools.

To participate in Great American Teach-In visit www.declarationofeducation.com. For information on FLATE-led local and statewide STEM based projects contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org, or visit www.fl-ate.org and www.madeinflorida.org.

sTEm–at-Work: Answer for Puzzle #31

This puzzle provides the opportunity to explore the plots and determine that two of the
three batches of devices have failed quality expectations each for a different reason.  The inverse response dependency is present in one of the failed batches while the other does not exhibit this inverse relationship. This provides opportunities to discuss direct and inverse relationships relative to function response.   The high temperature response of the other two batches provides the distinction between failed performance and expected performance for the two batches that do exhibit inverse response characteristics.  The interesting point to make about Diode lot: PP#203B is the fact that although it has in inverse linear region, the fact that the output voltage value goes up as temperature goes up is a valid reason for rejecting the batch.  This high temperature region response suggests that there was a flaw somewhere in the manufacturing process and thus the devices with that flaw cannot be trusted to perform as expected through their entire life cycle.  The fact that the devices in Diode lot PP#520B fail as expected provides an opportunity to discuss the fact that devices are designed to operate within a desired range.  If the devices operate correctly within that range and do not exhibit unexpected operational characteristics outside that designed range, the devices will pass their quality inspection.

All three batches of these devices have to be reported as not meeting performance expectations?

Answer: NO

FLATE Steps Forward in Building Strategic & Sustainable Industry-Education Partnerships

FLATE, the Florida Advanced Technological Education Regional Center of Excellence, was established by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2004 to help develop a skilled and qualified workforce for Florida’s manufacturers. FLATE builds the pipeline of future workers for Florida's advanced manufacturing sector by using a comprehensive, three pronged approach: Curriculum Reform, Outreach, and Professional Development. FLATE’s vision and mission are grounded in collaborative partnerships. In 2011, Florida industry expressed the need for partnerships with schools to develop a pipeline of STEM-educated employees, and schools have expressed a strong desire for this partnership, but both entities have had a slow start forging ahead to make these partnerships happen.

Given the interest from both sides of the continuum, FLATE has stepped in to facilitate strategic partnerships between industry and education at both the grass roots and higher levels. Through the Center’s efforts, industry and educational institutions can now engage in a variety of partnerships and activities as outlined in our new guide that is currently in production and produced in partnership with the Manufacturers Association of Florida’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CAME). Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE says “partnerships often begin with a single, regular involvement in an outreach activity, and increases as interest in that activity grows and expands to others.” Although partnerships may start with a single person in a school, or company, it is imperative this initiative will expand to involve more stakeholders. In the school, this could be a program director (CTE director and/or principal). At the company, the group might include human resources, media and outreach/community involvement personnel as well as plant or operations managers, engineers and/or technicians. “Strong, lasting partnerships involve relationship, and relationships involve people” Barger said.

FLATE’s goal in this activity is to build a network of sustainable partnerships. As a first step forward in that direction, FLATE is sharing lessons learned and best practices on how to create successful and sustainable school/industry partnerships. The Center is offering a “laundry list” of possibilities that schools and industry can mix and match to create strong partnerships that result in “win-win” scenarios for both. “We will offer tips for talking with students about aspects of manufacturing that young people can relate to and are even passionate about” said Barger. The partnerships will have many common and fundamental threads, but they won’t look alike and shouldn’t! FLATE can help you get started on your partnership adventure to grow a strong and engaging educational pathway for manufacturing careers. Please do not hesitate to share your stories; we would love to celebrate and share them.

Finally, providing the correct image of manufacturing is imperative. Many still see the manufacturing industry as merely assembly lines of workers manually processing widgets all day. Educating and informing students (and parents) about the world of modern manufacturing and the opportunities available in the field is essential. Too many young people are disregarding manufacturing as a career, unaware of the career and wage potential. However, the image will not change unless we do something to change it. Involvement is vital!

Look for the new FLATE Best Practice Guide in January and hit the ground running in 2013. To join FLATE in this strategic mission visit www.madeinflorida.org and www.fl-ate.org, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, P.I. & executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org.

Another use for Toothpicks!

At this time of year when holiday food and feasting are popular pastimes, toothpicks are often little items that play a big role, but did you know that toothpicks also play a major role in learning about effective corporate communication skills? For a number of years, FLATE has put toothpicks to work in addressing industry’s need to provide “soft skills” training for employees. FLATE’s Toothpick Factory© is a hands-on, experiential activity designed to stimulate awareness about a wide range of communication and teamwork skills crucial in corporate environments.

How does it work? The Toothpick Factory© comes in a complete kit with everything needed to facilitate a workshop session. “Jobs” in the Toothpick Factory© consist of clients, pre-production, production, distribution, and quality control teams that are split into teams of four, or more individuals. Excitement builds with “monopoly style” cards which can mix things up for the teams. Reflective post activity scorecards provide the opportunity for individual self-reflection, are effective as a springboard for facilitated debriefing, and can be used as a resource for further assessment.

The Toothpick Factory was awarded a 2011 National Career Pathways Network (NCPN) Best Practice Award. Each “kit” comes packed with all the resources and no assembly, additional purchase, or cutting required! There is even a disc containing a ready-to-use PowerPoint presentation. A variation for a shortened version of the “game” is included in case time is limited. Its uniqueness and popularity has earned fans in six states and around the world, as far away as Australia. This hands-on and interactive “simulation game” has also provided fresh perspective on soft skills to over 600 educators and business professionals, and has been a great starting point for students preparing to enter the workforce. Out of 349 collected surveys, 96% of participants agree, or strongly agree that the Toothpick Factory© is “a resourceful way to promote the importance of soft skills.”

Sessions are typically provided in conference settings, on teacher development work days, and by request for professional development events. Toothpick Factory© kits are available for purchase online on FLATE’s, Made in Florida website, and are typically purchased for employee and teacher orientations to facilitate communication in new teams. High school and college teachers have also used the kits to improve student communication skills, and teach listening, speaking, adapting, and leading skills which are so important in today’s teamwork-oriented environments. It is also a good way to start a pattern for cooperative learning.

Research suggests that learning “by doing” is the best way to explore and learn about soft skills. In fact, employers rate communication skills as a highly desirable trait in employees, and a critical skill for effective interaction with co-workers. To that effect, FLATE’s Toothpick Factory© provides a fun and effective addition to typical team building workshops. To learn more, visit http://madeinflorida.org/toothpick-factory, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org.

Path To Excellence in Technical Education—Is Asia’s Next Tech Tiger up for a Top Challenge?

Technical Education plays a crucial role in India’s economy, and is a major booster in positioning India as one of the high-tech hot spots in the global arena. Over the past few decades India has heavily invested in improving its educational infrastructure. These changes can be traced back to the mid 19th century when the government started laying the foundation for a structured technical education system. A major overhaul in technical education took place with the appointment of the Indian Universities Commission in 1902. This was followed by the constitution of Technical Education Committee in 1943, the formation of the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) in 1945, the establishment of the statutory AICTE Act in 1987, and its implementation in 1988. The AICTE currently oversees the planning, formulation, maintenance, monitoring and evaluations of all technical programs throughout the country. (Source: All India Council for Technical Education).

Technical education has, indeed, always been the bedrock of Indian economy. Technical Education is divided into three levels: industrial training institutes that offer trade courses for skilled workers; polytechnic institutes that offer diplomas for mid-level technicians; and engineering colleges that conduct undergraduate and post graduate studies in engineering and technology. Of late, with an increase in government expenditure and emphasis in technical education programs, private engineering institutions are also playing an integral role in meeting regional technician training and workforce needs.

According to a study conducted by Naresh Kumar at the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies (NISTADS) there are currently 7,361 degree providing institutions that offer 10,364 programmes with an intake capacity of 1,954,482 students. The study also revealed that India has the highest number of engineers per million persons among emerging economies, with demand for technical professionals at an all-time high. The basic framework consists of federally funded institutions, state-funded institutions and self-financed institutions. Then too, the engineering and technical infrastructure is not uniform. In that “it is more skewed towards south central, south and north west regions of the country.” The states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra have the largest number of technical institutions, while the north east states have least number of technical institutions. (Source: NISTADS).

Kumar notes that over the past few years “India has registered a substantial performance in technical education” and measures are being taken to “improve the quality of technical education by greater use of technology in teaching-learning processes.”These are not blanket measures. They are being implemented on a state-by-state basis, and are targeted to ensure maximum return on investments.

In the state of West Bengal, for example, the growth rate in higher technical education has remarkably improved, particularly in emerging areas like information technology, computer science and engineering, electronics, and communication engineering. In keeping with changes in technology and to meet workforce-related demands, plans are also in place to introduce courses in engineering/engineering technology, biotechnology, genetic engineering, environmental engineering, pharmaceutical technology, material science etc. (Source: West Bengal Department of Higher Education).

The situation is similar in the neighboring state of Sikkim. In that unlike earlier years where civil, mechanical, or electrical engineers were treated exclusive of each other and operated in separate silos, engineering education has witnessed a greater level of integration both regionally as well as nationally. Ruben Phipon, associate professor at the department of mechanical engineering at Sikkim Manipal Institute of Technology (SMIT) attributes this change primarily to the computer revolution. Phipon believes “computers have enabled greater degree of flexibility in terms of transferability of skills/knowledge” from one field to another.

Curriculum is not the only factor that has experienced changes and growth. There has been a major expansion in degree level engineering and technology education. In that, in 1947 there were only three engineering colleges in the state of West Bengal that could accommodate a maximum of 320 students. That number grew to 12 colleges with an increase in maximum capacity from 320 to 1452 students. Today the number of engineering and technology colleges has multiplied six times, with total intake capacity of more than 20,000 students reported between 2008-2009. All colleges in the state are AICTE approved and affiliated to West Bengal University of Technology which is the governing body ensuring “uniformity in academic curriculum, up-gradation and excellence in all technical arenas.” (Source: West Bengal Department of Higher Education).

Indeed engineering and technical education has been a driving force in most economic spheres in India. Then too, technical and engineering education is undergoing a major metamorphosis. At the higher secondary as well as post-secondary education levels much is being debated about the quality, or the maintenance of high standards of engineering education, and its competitiveness in a global arena. Like many educators in the region and around the country, Phipon believes there is a need for a major overhaul in the curricula at the high school level. In terms of S & E related subjects, Phipon says, there is a lot of mathematics and numbers at the high school and two-year college level which tends to threaten students who are not naturally numerically inclined. The curriculum also tends to emphasize theories and theorms which “bore students.”

Dr. Rajendra Prasad Dhakal, principal of Kalimpong College in the state of West Bengal echoes Phipon’s sentiments. “If you look at the Indian educational system, the curriculum framework is not hands-on” says Dhakal. Even at the bachelors of Science level, the curriculum does not prepare students to become technically inclined. Subjects like physics, chemistry, and mathematics are too academically oriented with little to no exposure to practical applications of these subjects/concepts. To that end both Dhakal and Phipon believe “it would be helpful if students were allowed to engage in more experiential based learning at an earlier stage” rather than be engaged in a mere theory based form of education.

Besides a lack of hands-on education, major contentious issues include centralization and lack of autonomy vested to individual colleges, and accountability of statutory bodies like the University Grants Commission and even AICTE. Lack of proper infrastructure combined with a lack of common consensus in reforming curricula to ensure technological competitiveness, limited access and regional disparity are emerging as areas for concern in streamlining engineering education. Other areas of contention revolve around the need for establishing creditable national standards in the assessment and certification of skills and competencies, and a general need to obtain industry based training and experience for partial credit towards completion of degrees. (Source: NISTADS).

As of today, India clearly stands at the crossroads of a demand driven need for a high-tech, high-skilled workforce that is ready to perform at optimum levels in a global economy. To that end, both state and central governments have invested in qualitative as well as quantitative improvements in higher education, and have started the process of expansion to cater to the growing demands for technical brainpower both within and outside the country. If government, as well as the upper, mid and lower echelons of academia can find a meeting point, India might very well assume the title of Asia’s next tech tiger.

For more information on technical education in India visit AICTE, West Bengal Department of Higher Education, Sikkim Manipal Insitute of Technology, and National Institute of Science Technology and Development Studies. For information on FLATE’s award winning statewide engineering technology degree program offered in 12 state colleges throughout Florida visit www.madeinflorida.org, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org.