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!

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