Ringing in New Year, New Beginnings by Celebrating a Banner Year of Accolades!

As we start a new year, it is common practice to make resolutions for new beginnings and changes, as well  as reflect on past successes and opportunities. Looking back to 2012, I would like to share some FLATE milestones. Most importantly, the National Science Foundation (NSF) funded FLATE for an unprecedented third cycle at full center funding level early in September. We look forward to the next three years, working together with all our stakeholders across Florida to meet our goals and objectives. The past year brought a number of recognitions to the FLATE staff, individually, and collectively to our community. Brad was honored as the 2012 Hi-TEC educator of the year in July for excellence throughout his long career serving engineering technology community in Florida. In March, I was inducted into the Epsilon Pi Tau honor society for excellence in technological education. Over the summer, Eric Owens, previously the state supervisor for the manufacturing cluster and strong partner of FLATE for our curriculum work, was promoted to senior director of career and technical education programs. Many of you also know that Janice Mukhia, FLATE’s communication guru, took a three-month leave to take her two-year-old son to India to meet his large extended family, and during her stay got a chance to explore the state of technical education in that part of the globe.

Notable in our outreach and recruitment work was the retirement of David Gula, FLATE’s outreach manager for 7 years. Dave continues to be missed. Other achievements in our work include improvements in our outreach and recruitment data collection and analysis that have in turn better enabled us to reveal impact on the participants. We took our 4,000th student on a “Made in Florida” industry tour, and have expanded our initiative to work more closely with regional groups home school consortia to offer high quality, high impact tours.

We expanded our summer robotics camp offerings to Ocala in partnership with the Institute for Human Machine Cognition (IHMC) who hosted three camps for middle school students in their Ocala facility last June. We also updated our wiki site that hosts curriculum resources and our two existing FLATE best practice guides for camps and tours, and have already seen an increase in traffic on that site. We also published a new Best Practice Guide focused on “Communications.” We will publish our forth volume later this month, “FORGING POSITIVE PARTNERSHIPS IN FLORIDA: Strategies for Starting and Sustaining School-Industry Partnerships,” in partnership with the Center for Advanced Manufacturing Excellence (CAME) the newly formed 501c3 arm of the Manufacturers Association of Florida (MAF). Together with MAF, we also closed out our six year of supporting a Florida Trend NEXT advertorial for manufacturing. FLATE’s Made in Florida video was awarded a Communicator award and the Florida Career Pathways Network (FCPN) presented FLATE with two leadership best practices awards for our tours and our manufacturing pathways. FLATE was also recognized as a critical contributor of alternative energies workforce curriculum in HCC’s award for its college wide commitment to sustainability from AACC’s inaugural Green Genome Award.

A summary of 2012 news and updates for the engineering technology degree can be found in a separate article in this month’s FOCUS. You can also read about Governor Scott’s challenge for state colleges to offer $10,000 bachelor degrees, get a round-up of outreach events that dominated December, start budgeting to attend HI-TEC Conference in Austin, TX, and start your year off right by trying the first STEM puzzle of 2013! From all of us at FLATE, Happy New Year!

Recounting A Year of ET Degree Growth and Recognitions

We are very proud of the 2012 milestones related to our curriculum work around the A.S. Engineering Technology Degree including Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Hilda Solis recognizing FLATE and the work with the ET Degree and its community of practice as foundational to the DOL award to SPC of a $15M DOL TAACCCT grant in September. The state’s ET Core curriculum frameworks were reviewed by an industry and education committee, and the committee endorsed most of the existing standards and benchmarks, adding several benchmarks related to sustainability in the workplace and deleting several benchmarks noted to be obsolete. The committee reworded some benchmarks and standards for clarity. In 2013, the ET degree community and its industry partners will review the specializations to complete this review cycle.

There was a lot of “ET activity” at all of the partner colleges. St. Petersburg College, the College of Central Florida and the State College of Florida opened new laboratory facilities in support of their growing Engineering Technology degree programs. Hillsborough Community College added significant new equipment to support its niche in process controls and automation. Florida Gateway College hired Margi Lee, who holds an MS in mechanical engineering to re-start the ET program in Lake City. Brevard Community College now offers its ET degree programs on two campuses, Palm Bay and Cocoa. Tallahassee Community College was awarded a grant from NSF to develop a strong dual enrollment program with its local high schools and Polk State was awarded NSF funding to transition their ET Degree program to an “open entry / open exit” modular and competency based structure.

FSCJ was busy developing new certificate and specialization frameworks to tie their work on a 2011 TAACCCT grant to the ET degree. In addition, Pensacola State College acquired impressive multi axis machining equipment, significantly upgrading its course offerings. It is also working closely with FLATE and other colleges to restructure the college certificates related to that technology. Finally, FLATE completed its own ET degree core equipment grant program in July 2012. Since 2009, over $210,000 was awarded to ET Degree Colleges to purchase tools and equipment to support the engineering technology core courses.

The ET Degree community grew to 14 state and community colleges in Florida in 2012. The degree is now offered at 50% of all Florida colleges and 56% of those colleges offering any related technology A.S. degree. Broward College (BC), Northwest Florida State College (NWFSC), and Gulf Coast State College (GCSC) all adopted the degree. NWFSC and BC are already offering ET programs and GCSC will be start offering ET Degree courses in 2013.

In addition to new colleges, new labs, and framework revisions, FLATE worked with several colleges to develop frameworks and justifications for two new specializations which will be approved by the FLDOE in March 2013. The new specializations are Industrial Energy Efficiency Technology (developed in partnership with the NSF EST2 Grant project that involves BCC, TCC and FSCJ), and Digital Manufacturing, which is a blend of 3D modeling, prototyping and machining. Together with the 30 credit hour Mechatronics Certificate mentioned above, five brand new frameworks were developed in 2012 to address industry needs in various regions of our state. We look forward to following the growth of these new programs.

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In the nitty-gritty world of curriculum alignment of the academic standards to the MSSC standards, FLATE  completed its work with the colleges to develop a set of student outcomes for the ET Core courses aligned to both the frameworks and MSSC standards that each college agreed to adopt. Courses can have additional student outcomes, but this set will help to ensure that students will be well prepared to successfully take the MSSC skills certification tests. These ET Core student outcomes and recommended MSSC testing sequence is now published on the ET degree pages of the FLATE website (http://fl-ate.org/projects/Stackable-Credentials-Aligned-Certificates.html). Finally, we continue to validate the MSSC alignment to the core with testing of students enrolled in academic courses.

Colleges in other states and other disciplines have adopted and implemented the ET degree structure and continue to do so. The degree’s groundbreaking statewide articulation of the MSSC credential to the ET Degree core, its numerous ramps between the workplace and education, and the several opportunities for accelerated degree achievement have been identified as working best practices. Recognition for the work we have accomplished together in Florida over the past five years has come from around the country and around the world from those interested and working in some aspect of workforce education.

FLATE frequently gets calls from colleges, economic development officials, and workforce education professionals about how the ET Degree “works” and how we were able to implement the program throughout the state. I would be remiss without taking this opportunity to share praise and recognition with our community of stakeholders, without whose work and support the ET degree would not even exist. After long conversations about how it works, and how we implemented it, I always find myself closing with comments that it cannot happen without a “friendly” working community in which all stakeholders participate. I think we have successfully built such a community in Florida around our ET degree and I hope we can continue to work to keep it growing and strengthening.

So, continue the good work in 2013 and remember that FLATE is here to help. For more information visit the Made in Florida, ET Degree webpage, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org.

sTEm–at-Work Puzzle #32: Performance Test for Surgical Robotic Arm

A product quality assurance technician has been assigned the responsibility of executing a performance evaluation procedure for the company’s surgical robotic arms before each is shipped to the intended customer. Before that procedure begins, the tech examines the graphic below that shows the plot of the expected voltage values while the arm goes through its prescribed standardized set of movements. After examining this expected performance plot, the technician will apply the correct voltage signal to put the arm in its reset position and then execute the test procedure and compare the voltage signal pattern that the computer records for the arm being tested to the expected voltage signal pattern provided in the reference plot shown below. However, upon close inspection of this particular expected performance plot, the technician believes there is a mistake in the plot and submits a change order with a recommendation of what should be altered in this graphic.

There is a flaw in this expected performance graphic and the change order is required. Yes or NO.

If your answer is yes, use the blog comment space to indicate what the change should be. You can also post your response at www.fl-ate.org. Additionally, all STEM puzzles are posted, archived and available for download at

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ET Degree Supports Gov. Scott’s 10K College Degree Plan

Associated Press Release (11-26-12)

“Tallahassee, FL (AP) -November 26, 2012- Gov. Rick Scott wants Florida's community and state colleges to develop bargain four-year degrees costing no more than $10,000. Scott made his proposal Monday in the form of a challenge before an audience of elected officials and college and community leaders at the Clearwater campus of St. Petersburg College.

The 28 colleges in recent years have begun offering a limited number of four-year degrees, but the bulk of their students are in two-year programs. Most of Florida's bachelor's degrees are produced by the state's 12 public universities. The four-year tuition there is about $24,000.

Scott's challenge comes just three weeks after his task force on state higher education reform recommended that Florida's 12 universities be allowed to increase tuition rates that are among the lowest in the nation.

A challenge to be sure, but the Governor’s selected site to make this major education policy announcement together with the groups invited to stand with the Governor during the announcement was strategic and summarized in the photo. Standing to the far left of the Governor, in this photo, is the president of St. Petersburg College, Dr. William Law, and on the Governor’s far right are two of the Principal Investigators for FLATE, Marilyn Barger and Brad Jenkins. Dr. Law, as president of SPC, is very familiar with costs and operations of a major Florida state colleges and said that SPC would be taking on this challenge. He administers extensive A.S. and B.S. programs and has a key focus on technical manufacturing degree programs. Dr. Marilyn Barger, P.I. & Executive Director of FLATE and Brad Jenkins, director of engineering technology degree at SPC and FLATE’s Co-P.I., as members of FLATE’s leadership team, have been involved in the restructure of the Florida, Department of Education approved engineering technology education pathway since 2006.

FLATE designed, developed, and delivered to FL DOE an A.S. engineering technology degree is one model of the “Florida Plan” for implanting and managing A.S. degree programs. The ET degree with its articulation by industry certification mechanismsnd valued by industry offers specialization options soon to be articulated to their own technical certifications, dual enrollment opportunities, options for experiential learning stands ready for the challenge at any Florida state, or community college. “FLATE’s expertise resides in our knowledge and experience in educational structure options, many of which support key elements that a ‘bargain’ degree will require” Dr. Barger said.

For more information on FLATE’s award winning, A.S. degree in engineering technology visit www.madeinflorida.org/engineering-technology-degree, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org.

FLATE’s STEM-Based Outreach Targets Students, Educators and Industry

FLATE’s holiday season was marked by a plethora of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) based workshops and tours for incumbent workers, educators and high school students. On the student side of the continuum, 15 students from King and Gaither High Schools in Tampa toured FLATE’s engineering technology lab at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) in Brandon. The initiative was made possible through Helios Education Foundation’s “Transitional Success through STEM Academies” grant. The goal according to Jakub Prokop, curriculum and program development specialist at Learey Technical Center in Tampa, was to “build career pathways for students, and to encourage them to pursue post-secondary credentials on their way to high-tech, quality jobs.”

During the tour students got an overview of the engineering technology degree offered at HCC and 13 colleges in Florida, and learned about pneumatics, hydraulics, motors and controls, and also got to operate PLCs. “The purpose was to get a deeper understanding of engineering and engineering technologies, and also gain hands-on experience of modern high-tech manufacturing concepts and operations” said Dr. Alessadro Anzalone, professor of engineering technology at HCC in Brandon. Students also gained a better understanding about different career pathways, and the ET degree specializations. “It’s all about doing what you like to do” said Anzalone.

Given the role of educators in igniting students’ interest in STEM, FLATE also offered a one day LEGO MINDSTORMS robotics workshop for local high school teachers. During the workshop, 24 middle and high school teachers from the School District of Hillsborough County got an in-depth overview on LEGO® NXT microprocessor, building instructions for functional robots, and programming with the NXT-G software. The workshop focused on strategies for using LEGO MINDSTORMS to teach math content standards, and integrating these concepts into their everyday curriculum. It also shed light on LEGO MINDSTORMS data logging techniques to teach next generation science concepts.

To address professional and workforce development needs of local manufacturers, FLATE also hosted a basic programmable logic controller (PLC) workshop for incumbent workers. Given widespread usage of PLCs in everyday industrial settings, the two-day workshop was designed to give attendees a better understanding of PLCs with emphasis on programming, installations and troubleshooting. The workshop was heavily hands-on, and was taught using three different tools that included Allen-Bradley SLC 500 series, MicroLogix 1500 PLCs and RS Logix 500 programming software.

Participants got an opportunity to engage in logical program development, batch documentation and programming techniques, examine on/off instructions, witness PLC program scan cycle, and troubleshooting common problems. It also provided insight on latest emerging trends and capabilities. Dr. Anzalone, who was the instructor at the workshop, hopes students will gain the knowledge and confidence to program PLCs, how to build hardware for the program, and above all be able to solve real-life problems thinking like a PLC programmer.

For more information on FLATE’s STEM based curriculum and professional development initiatives visit www.fl-ate.org and www.madeinflorida.org, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org.

HI-TEC Conference: Why You Should Attend

The HI-TEC Conference is produced by a consortium of National Science Foundation funded Advanced Technological Education centers and projects as an annual event where secondary and postsecondary educators, counselors, industry professionals, trade organizations, and technicians can update their knowledge and skills. The conference, launched in 2009, evolved out of the highly-successful SAME-TEC Conference. According to Michael Lesiecki, director of the NSF funded Maricopa Advanced Technology Education Center in Arizona, the conference “focuses on preparing a skilled and educated workforce needed to meet the demands of high-tech sectors that drive our nation’s economy.”

Each year, HI-TEC uniquely explores the convergence of scientific disciplines, and new and emerging technologies. These include advanced manufacturing technologies; agricultural; energy and environmental technologies; biotechnology and chemical processes; electronics; engineering technologies: information communications: geospatial and security technologies: learning; evaluation and research, and micro and nanotechnologies. Deb Newberry, 2012 conference chair and director of the Nano-Link Center in Minnesota said “attendees include high school, community college & university educators, workforce development advocates, trade organizations, industry professionals, and technicians.”

Conference options include a choice of 14 pre-conference workshops and 2 industry site tours during the first 2 days, followed by the 2-day main conference featuring keynote speakers, 60 breakout sessions and poster sessions. Attendees are encouraged to present on new and emerging technologies in their area of expertise. “We’re currently accepting half-day pre-conference workshop presentation proposals, main conference session presentation (45, 75, and 90 minutes) proposals, and poster session proposals on our website” said Gordon Snyder, director of the ICT Center in Massachusetts and 2013 conference chair.

Outside the immediate context of the conference, HI-TEC is also a great place to network with people who have NSF grants, and learn write one and maybe even have a little fun. Austin is the live music capital of the United States that coupled with restaurants, shopping and lots of other activities make it a nice conference to bring families along.

“There are opportunities for just about everyone attending to present, learn and leave with classroom materials that can be used immediately” said Snyder. We want to learn about your technology and what you’re doing in your classrooms with your students. You don’t need to have an NSF grant to attend, or present. HI-TEC runs July 21-24 this year in Austin with call for presentations and registration currently open at http://www.highimpact-tec.org.

For more information on HI-TEC contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org, or visit http://www.highimpact-tec.org.