Defining Workable Education Models: A Closer Look at "Internships"

Last month we reviewed apprenticeships, which are rigorous, well-defined and regulated training programs
that are registered by the Department of Labor and operated by an industry, a professional organization, a college, or technical school, or a union. The basic model for most apprenticeships is that the apprentice works half of a day and attends classes the second half and are employees of a company. Generally they are about four years long (but defined by a number of hours), and progress in a defined sequence of work and classes. Additionally, some articulate for credit towards a two-year associate degree.

This month, we will tackle a much less defined student work experience: the internship. Last month, I said that these experiences could be paid, or unpaid. However, a recent ruling by a district court in the Midwest said that the interns (plaintiffs) in question should be paid. The proceedings highlighted when "unpaid" interns are legal. Six criteria from the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division capture the essence of any internship experience, despite focusing on the unpaid variety.
  1. The internship has to be for the benefit of the student/intern.
  2. The internship is similar to training that would be given in an educational institution.
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff.
  4. The employer that provides the training gains no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern.
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the end of the internship.
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages during the internship.
Interns are often required to graduate with a particular degree. Some are “courses,” and have a course number for which college students actually pay tuition. This particular situation emphasizes the “educational” component in #2 above. Typical expectations for this type of internship is close oversight by a faculty, or teacher, “assignments” related to the work experiences that are shared amongst the students in the internship class, and a recorded grade for the course (might be satisfactory/non-satisfactory) that will document the experience on the student's transcript. In Florida, student internships are also a required component of the Gold Level Career Academies, and are defined as educational in nature. They may be paid, or unpaid.

Many times internships at all levels (high school, state/community college and university) in STEM fields are paid experiences. Internships vary in length and are defined by college course requirements, the company host, or the school program. They range from a few days to a year, or more. Some companies work closely with local educational institutions, while others (mostly large corporations) offer internships independent of specific educational institutions.

Internships provide the opportunity for host companies to be closely connected to local educational
programs that are of interest to them. They can influence the curriculum of the programs as well as provide mentorship to the teacher, and/or professors, and help mold the experience of their future workforce. This in and of itself can be extremely valuable to any company that regularly hires young people to fill the ranks of their workforce. Additionally, the employer and student both get to “try out” the working arrangement and determine if there is a good fit. All of this, with no obligation from either party.

In closing, I would like to emphasize items 1 and 2 on the Department of Labor criteria list for unpaid internships. Internship experiences should benefit the intern and must be part of his/her education. Contrast that to the apprenticeship. Recall, that an apprentice is a regular employee of the company. Although the apprentice may be in a training situation at work (e.g., on-the-job-training) his/ her work is supposed to contribute to the company’s “bottom line” as with any other regular employee.  

Please take a few moments to relax and read the articles this month. We proudly make a toast to a Florida manufacturer and a past FLATE awardee for winning the national HI-TEC Industry Award. Additionally, we talk with professor Dr. Will Tyson, P.I of the PathTECH grant looking closely at the career pathways of students in engineering technology, and highlight FLATE’s ongoing outreach initiatives targeted to educate and engage women and girls in STEM. Finally, take a few minutes to get up-close and personal with Jon Arias, an international exchange student from Basque country who is here in Florida as part of a global technician training grant. Last, but not the least, don't forget to give your best shot at this month's sTEm-at-work puzzle! It might be one of the more challenging ones of the puzzle series, but it will get you thinking! 

PathTech Team at USF Analyzes Educational and Professional Trajectories of Engineering Technology Students

Educational choices and professional trajectories of students and incumbent workers are widely varied and open ended. Some are dictated by interest and aptitude, lure of a lucrative opportunity, while others are rooted in individuals’ quest for professional growth. To delve into the matter, and assist in a regional research initiative, FLATE, the National Science Foundation Center of Excellence at Hillsborough Community College in Brandon, has partnered with researchers at the University of South Florida’s department of sociology, anthropology and college of education to conduct research aimed at analyzing high school and community college students enrolled in engineering technology degrees and the reasoning(s) behind their chosen field of study.  

Successful Academic and Employment Pathways in Advanced Technologies, or PathTech, is part of the
National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program committed to support/fund community college programs that boost technician education across the nation. The grant targets high school and community college programs, and is devoted to researching pathways into technician education programs, gauge effectiveness of these programs, analyze outcomes of these targeted programs, and answer some of the questions that germinate from the ATE projects. Will Tyson, P.I. & associate professor of sociology at USF says the PathTech initiative is targeted to better equip local community colleges with information, not just academic, but personal experiences that lead students into enrolling in Engineering Technology (ET) programs and/or related courses, and possibly make recommendations on how community colleges can serve these audiences.

Target audience includes high school students, teachers, local community/technical colleges and local industries. “We’re not collecting all this information and sending it up an ivory tower” said Tyson. He hopes to inform colleagues in engineering technology about the scholarly importance of ET programs, stratification in education, and promote better understanding of challenges and transitions encountered by students in different educational contexts.

In all of this, partnerships have played an important role in advancing some of the goals and objectives of the PathTech initiative. Tyson describes the PathTech project as the beginning of a research agenda, and the
beginning of enduring partnerships in the Tampa bay area. PathTech represents a collaborative effort between several educational institutions in the region. Project partners include FLATE, Hillsborough Community College, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg College, Polk State College and the State College of Florida. “Our project partners have been extremely helpful in terms of helping us navigate the landscape of what are engineering technology programs, and defining ET students” Tyson said.

Furthermore, partnership with FLATE has afforded the team access to a broader academic and industry audience. FLATE’s Industrial Advisory Committee has served a pivotal role in connecting PathTech with local industries who occupy an important role in the engineering technology network. Tyson views FLATE as a model for what we (PathTech) wants to do/accomplish in terms of the broader impact the research can have. “Working with FLATE has enabled us to further our research, accomplish our goals, and promote these educational pathways” Tyson said. 

Stay tuned for the August edition of the FLATE Focus, where we will take a closer look at research methodologies employed by the PathTech team, and analyze results/findings from their pilot research. For information on PathTech visit, or contact Will Tyson at and Lakshmi Jayaram at For information on FLATE’s K-14 STEM based curriculum and professional development programs, visit and, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at

FLATE’s Teacher Workshop Provides Insight & Understanding about Engaging Girls in STEM

When it comes to engaging women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) there is
not a one size-fits-all solution. While aptitude in STEM based subjects are not defined, or guided by gender, the percentage of women engaged and/or employed in STEM based fields still remains low. “There is a huge lack of people in these fields” especially in terms of entering careers in manufacturing specifically machining, precision machining, said Shannon Sweatman, director of human resources at Southern Manufacturing Technologies in Tampa. “Young women do face more challenges in coming into STEM fields’ than their male counterparts” said Kim Moore, assistant principal at Middleton Magnet High School in Tampa. Linda Austin, program manager for Tri-Regional Information Technology, a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded grant program at Florida State College in Jacksonville says underutilizing women in STEM would amount to not maximizing potential of all people.

Indeed, all across the board educators and industry leaders are increasingly voicing a real and ever present challenge to engaging girls in STEM. To address some of these concerns, and to open a platform for an open dialogue, FLATE—NSF Center of Excellence in Manufacturing at Hillsborough Community College in Brandon offered a one day professional development educator workshop for Hillsborough County educators. “Recruiting Girls for STEM Pathways” workshop for teachers featured best practices for teachers, recruiters, counselors, educators and anyone interested in promoting STEM careers to girls.

More than 100 elementary, secondary and post-secondary educators as well as administrators from 13
counties attended the one day workshop which was held at Hillsborough Community College in Brandon. During the workshop, participants interacted with a panel of STEM experts, explored STEM based resources, and engaged in the development of strategic STEM based curriculum materials. “Reflection is always an important part of growth” said Moore. “Having these discussions and listening to different viewpoints and perspectives will help in everyday decision making process in my role as an administrator” Moore said.

The workshop was undoubtedly helpful and shed light on aspects of STEM that many educators may not
 have addressed in their daily curriculum and instruction agendas. Jeff Kaloostin, aerospace technology teacher at Robinson High School in Tampa admits he did not know, other than learning how to recruit girls in STEM, what to expect from the workshop. His perspectives were altered. In that the workshop reinforced Kaloostin’s belief in challenging female students to “feel that they can do the same courses” and excel in them “just like the guys.”  Discussions with other teachers and panelists also gave him new ideas on topics that he could potentially discuss with middle school students in general. “I’m going to take a few girls with me to the middle schools that feed Robinson High School, and have them talk to the classes there about being in the Aerospace program at Robinson” Kaloostin said.

The key to attracting girls/women into STEM is to keep it real, says Sweatman. “Don’t gush over them” she cautions. “Give them (women) all the same opportunities, treat everybody equal, and encourage them into the programs.” When creating a “hook” for girls, Sweatman points to engaging women in hands-on training and conducting local industry tours as effective tools in giving students a chance to witness applications of STEM in everyday life and be educated about related opportunities available in the field.

The workshop was an effective vehicle in showcasing strategies for attracting women into STEM. Given its
impact on educators across the board, Moore applauds the efforts of regional partners like FLATE, Bay Area Manufacturers Association and SMT in giving educators exposure to what is happening in industry, and helping them incorporate those experiences and ideas back into the classroom. In keeping with Moore’s sentiments, a post workshop survey shows over 60% of participants agreed, or strongly agreed that the workshop helped them learn about strategies for engaging girls in STEM. The same percentage of participants also agreed, or strongly agreed that they became more familiar with available STEM resources for recruiting and engaging girls in STEM, and more familiar with challenges associated with recruitment and retention of girls in STEM.

If you are interested in co-hosting  similar workshops contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at, or visit and www.madeinflorida.orgTo learn about FLATE’s award winning STEM focused curriculum and professional development resources visit the FLATE Wiki page where you will find a wealth of resources. For a complementary story about FLATE’s efforts to engage middle school girls in STEM and robotics, read the accompanying story about FLATE’s “All Girls Camp” in this edition of the Focus.

STEMulating Strategies for Securing Students in STEM

Shifting the pendulum to the student side of the continuum, the question about engaging girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) still looms large. This time round we examine STEM through the lens of robotics. All things considered, does robotics alter the equation in the same manner for STEM enthusiasts and STEM converts alike, or does it remain the same?

To get the answer we head over to FLATE’s ALL Girls robotics camp, where 25 women engineers,
doctors and future aspiring STEM professionals had fun working through a given set of challenges using their NXT MINDSTORM robot. Kayla Grubben and Amya Gupta, members of the Girlbotics team say they just “love robots” and building and programming them. As the overall winners of the challenges, both Kayla and Amya “dig” science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and aspire to be future engineers. “I love math and the consistency in answers” says Amya. “I love technology as it is a window to creating and innovating” says Kayla.

Kayla and Amya are not alone in sharing their love for STEM and robotics. Lexi Kelley and Kennedy
 Warren from Team LK, both aspiring engineers who love working through the challenges at the camp, are equally enthusiastic in voicing their interest. “I love STEM” says Lexi, a fifth grader at Bushnell Elementary school in Tampa. Tying back to educators’ thoughts during the workshop on connecting curriculum to hands-on activities and showcasing practical applications of STEM, Lexi stated that she “always likes to know how things are made and how they work.” As part of the challenges campers attending the week-long all girls robotics camp reconfigured LEGO MINDSTORMS Robots and programmed them to follow specific commands. Caroline Lamoreux and Clare Mooney, fifth graders at St. Lawrence Catholic School in Tampa, were also among the group of campers who articulated the challenges as thought-provoking. “I especially liked the hands-on stuff like building the robot” said Caroline who voiced a common interest among campers about enjoying working with their hands, and building and programming robots.

Another commonality between student campers and educators was the importance asserted to team based activities. Campers participated in several team based challenges, learned design techniques, and how to operate 3D printers. Like most of her fellow campers, Mooney described working as a team as a “super important” aspect of the camp, in that, campers had to collaborate ideas and strategies to work through each challenge.

Curriculum for the week-long camp comprised of a mixture of Lego educational materials that are integrated
with STEM subjects, and are conducted in a competitive, problem-based learning environment. To get their innovative and problem solving skills animated, campers were assigned with a task to create their own product and present it to their team members. In this task, Caroline and her teammate, Clare, emerged as trailblazers as they added new components to the robot and started talking with their robot to execute any commands.

Given robotics camp focus in showcasing high-tech manufacturing and integration of robotics in everyday industrial settings, campers were taken on a tour of the Publix dairy in Lakeland, FL.  The tour helped develop better understanding and knowledge about high-tech manufacturing operations. “It was amazing to see the assembly line” said Lexi. “The machines were automated, and it was amazing to get a behind-the-scenes-look at Publix” Lexi said.

In terms of altering preconceived notions about STEM and robotics, the camp did help change some conceptions. In that, Brianna Goulbourne, a seventh grader from Orange Grove Middle Magnet School who considered mathematics as challenging, said the tour and her overall camp experience has helped  build her mathematical skills to “figure things out and work through problem solving.”

For more information on FLATE’s robotics camps email Desh Bagley, outreach manager at For information on FLATE’s outreach initiatives to middle and high school students and teachers visit www.madeinflorida,org  and

Click on image below to watch a news clip about FLATE's ALL Girls Camp on WTSP News Channel 10

sTEm–at-Work Puzzle #35: Gasket response to an applied test pressure pattern

A technician for Sun Hydraulics is performing the quality check on a hydraulic driven actuator before it is to shipped to the customer. To test the actuator's gasket, the Tech applies a pressure step pattern,  (as shown in the image) to the actuator and knows that the gasket should not leak when this pressure pattern is applied.  Because of an understanding of hydraulics, the Tech also knows the gasket's expected response to this test pressure pattern.

The Tech measures and records the pressure on the gasket. The pressure response is shown below and the technician absolutely knows if the actuator should be shipped, or not!  The actuator should be shipped to the customer. Yes, or NO.

Submit your answers below the blog post, or at

Florida Manufacturer & FLATE Awardee Wins National Industry Recognition Award

Now for a toast to a Florida Manufacturer who has made significant contributions to the manufacturing community in Florida. Michael Ennis, a manufacturing engineer at Harris Corporation will receive the 2103 HI-TEC Industry Recognition Award. The HI-TEC Industry Recognition Award will be presented July 23, 2013 at the High Impact Technology Exchange Conference (HI-TEC) in Austin, TX. The Award recognizes key industry personnel for outstanding contributions to promote technology education and career awareness. Nominees for the award must have demonstrated impact on technology education on both a local and national level.

The honor is most befitting Ennis as he has gone far beyond his call of duty to advance technician education
and training. Ennis is an adjunct professor who teaches applied mechanics in the Harris-BCC Applied Associate of Science degree in Engineering Technology (ET) at Eastern Florida State College (EFSC), formerly known as Brevard Community College, and was instrumental in setting up BCC classes for Harris employees.When Michael heard about Harris' aerospace division working with EFSC's aerospace program, he decided the operations department should do the same, He initiated contact with Meer Almeer, associate professor of the ET program at EFSC, and got the ball rolling on the initiative. "His patience, help and guidance were invaluable" Almeer said.

As a result of Ennis’ input, the ET degree is the model program for the “Florida Pl a pivotal role in developing the Harris Cohort program at BCC." Harris Corporation pays full tuition, books, and fees for participating students, something that Ennis continues to strive for amid pending budget cuts. Ennis has guided Harris operational personnel through every BCC stage, from admittance to graduation. To date, 160 degrees and certificates have been awarded to Harris employees.

In addition to his crucial role in setting up the program for Harris employees, Ennis is also a member of
Florida Advanced Technological Education Center of Excellence (FLATE) for manufacturing's Industrial Advisory Committee (IAC). As a member of the IAC, Ennis has helped FLATE expand connections between technical programs in the state's college as well as update and unify the degree curriculum. Michael's "industry needs" perspective, his focus on industry credentials, and his drive to get his message across to others are among the reasons that today there is single FL DOE statewide articulated A.S.E.T program embedded in 14 of the 25 state and community colleges offering A.S. degrees.

Ennis serves on the EFSC ET advisory committee and the FLATE National Visiting Committee. He has participated in the national ATE PI meeting in workshops and panels, and has testified his support of the MSSC credential’s value to Florida’s industry. His broad experience was essential to establishing these ET career pathways starting in high schools and connecting to four-year ET degrees. Ennis has also served as a mentor in FLATE’s Iberian Partnership for Technician Excellence —a FLATE-led initiative to support high quality, international educational experience to Florida’s community college students and educators.

As a result of his relentless contributions, Ennis received the 2009 FLATE Industry Distinguished Award. The Award recognizes key industry personnel for outstanding contributions to the outreach, education, and training of today’s advanced manufacturing workforce. For more information on the HI-TEC Industry Recognition Award visit For information on FLATE Awards, or to submit a nomination for the 2013 FLATE awards contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at, and visit

Up-close & Personal: How A Global Training Grant Facilitates Cross Cultural Technician Education & Training

My name is Jon Arias. I´m 25 years old and I come from the Basque Country. Last year I finished my studies in higher vocational training, specialty in energy efficiency and solar thermal energy. After achieving my degree, I worked for six months in an energy efficiency company in my country until I was accepted the Global Training grant from the Basque Government. The objective of the Global Training grant is to enhance transnational mobility of young people in the Basque Country for activities and projects related to their academic and professional companies/organizations in foreign countries, with a plan pre-planned practical training.

My expectations are to put in practice, as much as I can, the knowledge I achieve from my studies. I´m also
open minded to learn new skills in different areas, and I´d like to take advantage of this opportunity to improve in my field, learn as much as possible, and be well prepared for my future career. I started this internship in February. My first job was in Mustang Vacuum Systems, a company where I learned about vaporization and sputtering systems. I worked here until April and then thanks to FLATE I started a new way where I lived a lot of nice experiences.

In April I worked as teacher assistant at the State College of Florida’s (SCF) Venice camps. At SCF-Venice I learned about sustainable conservation systems and smart grid systems. I also had the opportunity to participate in interesting workshops such as pressure sensor and Siemens PLC that were facilitated by FLATE at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) in Brandon where I am currently. I have a wide range of areas where I can work, starting from level, flow, pressure, process control to PLC programming. Fortunately, I´m surrounded by very pleasant and qualified people from whom I´m learning a lot.

In summary, the value of what I have been doing these past four months has been very positive. I realize, my
experience would be incomplete without all the places I´ve been, the things I´ve learned and the people. I´m sure this experience will be very helpful for my life in every sense. This experience has improved/enhanced my personal & professional life in many ways. It has helped me learn a different way of working, how to relate to people from different countries, improve my English speaking skills, and expanded my ability to adapt to new situations. I definitely obtained a wider spectrum of knowledge in manufacturing and engineering technology, and appreciate how things are “Made in Florida!” I had the chance to gain valuable experience with real, hands-on, high technology applications. When I move back to Basque, I am sure this experience will contribute, tremendously, in finding future job in energy efficiency anywhere in Spain, Europe or any other country. I feel better prepared to face my career.

Thank you FLATE, SCF, MVS, HCC and anyone else invovled in ensuring an academically, socially and culturally rich experience during my stay.