Executive Director's Desk: Follow-up & Updates from HI-TECH & FACTE

I have covered apprenticeships and internships in detail the past two months, but perhaps it is time to take a break this month and highlight the 5th annual High Impact Technology
Exchange conference (www.highimpact-tec.org) held July 20-24 in Austin, TX. This conference was established, is organized and sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Centers to meet the needs of educators that teach, or are involved with advanced technological education at the secondary and post-secondary levels. Over 500 attendees convened for four days of workshops, tours, presentations, meetings, exhibits, and networking. Conference trademarks that contribute to its success include: tightly focused sessions on trends in new technologies, pedagogies, strategies for working with industry and other partners, grant management and implementation, industry site visits that get people talking, and recognition awards for those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.  

FLATE took the 2013 conference opportunity to open a nationwide, cross-country conversation on mechatronics. Ninety five interested folks attended our panel session designed to explore mechatronics programs across the country and its emerging role as an enabling technology cluster that supports a variety of technology disciplines. The interest in the panel was electrifying and sparked conversations and connections for the following three days that will put new focus on mechatronics and mechatronics related technologies for the coming years across the country.

FLATE will organize an expanded mechatronics program for HiTEC 2014.  Stay tuned for more mechatronics and “mech” community building in the coming months and  plan to join us at HiTEC 2014 next July in Chicago.  I’d like to thank my colleagues who helped make this year's effort happen including our panel: Ernie Friend (FSCJ); Dan Horine (VWCC) and Niaz Latif (PUC) for sharing the interworking of their own programs. A special thank-you to everyone who enthusiastically provided information during the “Mechatronics Moments” pre-conference session that dramatically changed the image of mechatronics. Kudos and many thanks to LabVolt for its support and each of you and your teams for your incredible contributions!  Rest assured the Mechatronics Moments pre-conference session will be back next year!

FLATE was also extremely pleased to have Michael Ennis, manufacturing engineer at Harris Corporation chosen for the prestigious Industry Recognition Award at HiTEC. This national award recognizes an industry partner that provides exceptional support to technician education and the students in our technical programs. I am sure that there are many deserving folks out there that meet the criteria, but we are very proud that Michael was selected for this honor at HiTEC 2013. We think all of our industry partners are winners, but are truly happy to have Mike recognized in a national venue like HiTEC.  Congratulations Mike Ennis!

Immediately following HiTEC the FLATE team scurried from Austin to Ponte Vedra, FL, for
the annual Florida Association for Career and Technical Education conference to present our activity packed workshop focused on integrating Manufacturing Skills Standard Council (MSSC) into our Florida high school curriculum. Neil Reddy, executive director of MSSC presented an overview of MSSC and CPT credentials, while Ted Norman, state supervisor for manufacturing, transportation and logistics, did the same for the Florida Department of Education curriculum frameworks.  Aaron Bowman from JAXUSA Partnership gave workshop participants a wonderful snapshot about the manufacturing industry in the greater Jacksonville area. Three teachers, Jack Clark from Treasure Coast High School, Dale Toney from Marion Technical Institute, and Russ Hernderlite from Petersen Academy in Jacksonville, lead an intense panel conversation on their best practices for implementing and integrating the four MSSC tests into their Automation and Production Technology aligned programs. Two intense hands-on activities filled out the day as well as provided the seeds for some shared resources for our manufacturing high school partners. Thanks to the FACTE organization team for their help.

Now it's time to sit back, relax and enjoy this August issue of the FLATE Focus.  For those of you have been anxiously waiting, the solution to STEM puzzle #35 is revealed!  We also showcase many of our summer professional development activities and our student robotics camps, not to mention the incredible teachers and young people who participated.  An overview of the recently released National STEM Strategic Plan is also provided in this month issue.

PLEASE NOTE:  This is the final (YES last 30 days) to submit your nominations for FLATE’s Educator and Distinguished Industry Partner awards.  Click here to go right to the online nomination form, and recognize your colleagues and/or peers. 

A National STEM Strategic Plan Proposal

The news from the "sTEm-at-work" desk here at FLATE FOCUS is centered on the
National Science and Technology Council 's, Committee on STEM Education which recently released a five year strategic plan.  The latest iteration of the President's proposed 2014 budget request has at least a 6% funds increase allocation for STEM education. Included in the strategy for 2014 fund allocation is the intent to reduce the number of federally supported programs (currently approximately 225) to closer to 100 (the announced target number at this point is 110) programs. The details of the proposed STEM program changes are available in the five year Federal STEM Education Strategic Plan prepared by the Committee on STEM Education of the National Science and Technology Council as required by the America Competes Reauthorization Act of 2010.

The driving force for the stated approach is the attempt to increase the effectiveness of federally supported programs to improve STEM education.  Integrated with this intention to improve performance is the desire to establish useful measures of program impact. At this point, other than the need to consolidate, specific details about the consolidation process and the impact on the programs affected are not available.  However, the Plan does outline the altered roles for the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation.

The Department of Education role will increase with efforts focused on K-12 by supporting partnerships among school districts, universities, science agencies, businesses, and other community organizations. The objective will be to transform  teaching and learning by crafting a STEM relevant teacher. Suggested strategies for this task are to establish a STEM Master Teacher Corps and create STEM Innovation Networks to connect school districts with available  local, regional, and national STEM resources.

The National Science Foundation's role will also increase. NSF resources will be directed to undergraduate STEM teaching and learning as driven by evidence-based reform approaches. This effort will include programs aimed at improving retention within undergraduate STEM fields, expansion and enhancement of graduate fellowship programs, and the creation of a National Graduate Research Fellowship program.

In addition, the Smithsonian Institution will receive funds to focus on improving its informal STEM education efforts. This includes partnering with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to reach more teachers and students both inside and outside the classroom. The distribution of these funds and extent of these partnerships were not outlined. 

Tthe bottom line at this point is simple. There is more funding for STEM education in the pipeline with a bit more focus on the "E" part of "sTEm"  but not much evidence of any serious additional support for the "T". Thus, it may be up to the ATE community to alter this current path.

Action suggestions?

FLATE’s Robotics Camps Offer a STEM-ultimate Experience for Future Engineers

Middle and high school students attending FLATE’s robotics camp got a full serving of
robotics and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) to whet their appetite. “Science is basically logic and reasoning, it’s what the universe is about” said Christopher Browy, a 5th grader at Christ the King Catholic school in Tampa.  “We love mathematics, robotics, science and technology” said Luca Valenti and Brennan Gill, 5th graders at the same school. Christopher, Luca and Brennan were among 141 students who enrolled in FLATE’s robotics camps this summer.

This year FLATE offered six (three intro level; 2 intermediate and one high school) robotics
camps. Curriculum for all the camps comprised of a mixture of LEGO educational materials that were integrated with STEM subjects. Each camp offered different level of challenges. During the introductory camp students learned how to reconfigure Lego® Mindstorms® robots and programmed them to follow specific commands. “The exercises were fun as they challenged your ability to really think” said Brennan.

The intermediate camps presented students with more complex challenges. Campers designed, built and programmed a robot, learned about 3D printers and gained hands-on knowledge about CAD.  “I love when a robot breaks. If your robot works all the time you don’t get to be challenged” said Karina Barcenas, an 8th grader at St. Lawrence Catholic School in Tampa. Barcenas found the challenges harder in the intermediate camp, but said she learned a lot.

The pinnacle for every camper as they progress through each level is the advanced
engineering camp for high school students. At the camp, students not only solved challenges using Lego® Mindstorms® robots, but learned different topics each day and wrote programs to operate the NAO humanoid robot. The high school campers also learned how to use Arduino Uno Microprocessors. “The Arduino taught me how to do more of circuitry and actually write programs on the computer, so it taught me a lot more” said Jefferson Vance, a 9th grader at Middleton High School in Tampa.

As part of the high school challenge, campers were presented with the “cable tram challenge.” Campers had to design, build and program a robot to crawl across a make-believe canyon to pick up buckets and transport them back to a drop-off location. For Randy, a 9th grader at Wesley Chapel High School in Tampa and his team (named Hyperion Inc.) one of the basic concepts that they had to understand about the robot was the drive train. Once they got that figured out everything was smooth sailing, in that theirs was the only robot that never slipped off the wire.

The camps were not all work and no play. The “fun part” for most high school campers was programming the NXT robot and also working with the NAO robot. The best part of the camp for Brennan, who was in the intro camp, was the challenges as it gave him a better understanding about programming and building a robot. “It’s a really fun way to release your creativity, show who you are and how you like things done” Brennan said.   

Common takeaways for all campers regardless of which camp they attended were teamwork,
developing problem-solving and critical thinking skills. “I like that the challenges made us work together as a team” said Luca. Christopher Browy also liked the competitive aspect of the challenges as it gave him a fresh perspective on how to operate robots. “This is like one of the best camps I’ve ever been to and probably the best place to start if you want to become an engineer” said Nick Burke, a high school camp attendee from Wharton High School in Tampa. Randy also enjoyed working in small groups and easy access to instructors who helped with programing and giving ideas for improvement.

This summer FLATE’s robotics attendance was excellent, said Desh Bagley, FLATE’s outreach manager and camp director. The “all girls” camp had its highest enrollment at 21, and the high school camp had 28 campers.  The Intermediate camps saw an increase in the number of girls who decided to return after having participated in the intro camp.  In addition to the camps offered at Hillsborough Community College in Brandon, FLATE also partnered with the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Ocala and Pineview Charter School in Sarasota to offer camps at the respective locations. 

For more information on FLATE’s STEM and robotics based curriculum and projects for middle and high school students visit www.fl-ate.org/projects/camps.html, and www.madeinflorida.org. You can also contact Desh Bagley, outreach manager at camps@fl-ate.org, and Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director at barger@fl-ate.org. 

sTEm–at-Work Puzzle #35 Answer

There are a variety of reinforcement conversations that spring from this puzzle. The gasket leaks under high pressure, is evident from the height of the second pulse pattern response curve.  An important lesson is to make sure students understand that the exponential rise and decay of the response pressure is an expected behavior and not an indication of a gasket leak. These conversations can include, when grade level appropriate, the exponential nature of this portion of the response curve, the time constant concept and the analogous connection that the exponential portion of the data has to the resistor in series with a capacitor circuit response when an applied voltage (the RC series circuit model) with the same step function pattern is applied. The math explanation of this exponential response to students ranges from simple time constant calculation, time constant connection to the 1/e response value, to the 1st order differential equation for the RC series circuit model. Student Google searches on these topics will provide a plethora of extra information.

The actuator should be shipped to the customer. Answer: NO

Letter from Camp: Having a FLATE Time

Kids aren’t the only ones having fun at summer camp this year. Thanks to the generosity of Bluegrass Educational Technologies, LLC, FLATE’s 4th annual Summer Camp for teachers was green! Bluegrass supplied GREENtech renewable energy kits and expert instruction for an entire day of hands on fun, and one lucky teacher went home with a kit for her classroom. These turnkey Kits are exceptional in that they are ready to use as soon as they are unpacked. Within minutes, teachers were immersed in the world of clean, renewable alternative energy: water, wind and sun.

A brief sample of the energy efficiency and renewable energy topics included: renewable
energy monitoring (REM) exercises, powering motors with solar panels, assembling and testing wind turbines, hydro fuel cells, and battery powered water electrolysis. Teachers were busy in teams of two building, testing, and optimizing performance of solar panels, windmills, and hydro cars.  Teachers commented throughout the day that it was very useful to be able to touch the materials and build for themselves the same items that students using the Kit would be learning about, “being able to use the GREENtech Kit was very valuable [since] I was able to see the extension of activities.”  STEM teachers (and those who wanted to integrate STEM into mainstream curriculum) ranged from elementary to high school levels, but all (100%) of teachers attending the camp agreed that the GREENtech Kit was a highlight for this year’s camp and that they learned something new in the area of green technologies that they would be able to use in the classroom.

Hands on activities are unbeatable as follow up to theory, and the GREENtech Kit features
both. The GREENtech Kit  can be used as standalone modules or as a complete course.  As they use the Kit and perform the activities, students will perform a variety of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and electricity exercises. As they learn the concepts behind each new theory, students have the ability to experience the theory first-hand through hands-on exercises through the Kit contents.  The instructor’s guide comes complete with powerpoint presentations, knowledge and skill objectives with thought questions, reproducible worksheets, tips, illustrations, tables, “test” questions, answer keys, and much more.  The Kit is versatile too, and includes the Renewable Fuels DVD which can be segmented and shown with each unit.  After completing all units contained in the GREENtech Kit, the intention is that students will have an entry level knowledge working with basic electrical circuits, solar energy products, wind energy equipment, and fuel cells. The Kit helps prepare students to start thinking about green jobs as well as providing new skills, and the opportunity to practice those skills in a hands-on, high tech, fun and engaging learning environment.

Teachers from Hillsborough, Polk, Sarasota, Seminole counties, Spain and Ipswich, England
enjoyed the GREENtech Kit during FLATE’s unique “Summer Camp Style” professional development workshop developed by FLATE’s associate director, Dr. Marie Boyette: “Remember how much fun you had at camp as a kid? Our hands-on, high interactivity activities bring that back for teachers, and provide fun that is ready to travel back to the classroom to hook kids on STEM.” According to surveys of the camp, the contacts, networking, and interactivity were reported to be of high importance to participants. “Campers” also enjoyed one of FLATE’s complete lessons in Metrology taught by Danielly Orozco-Cole, FLATE’s curriculum coordinator, packed their folders full of resources from FLATE’s wiki www.flate.pbwiki.com and finished off the camp with a lively competition using robot arms made from “found” objects.

To learn more about FLATE’s Summer Camp for Teachers, or the Bluegrass GREENtech Renewable Energy Kit, contact Dr. Marie Boyette at mboyette3@hccfl.edu or 813.259.6579.

Research Methodologies & Findings Examining Educational and Professional Trajectories of Engineering Technology Students

Last month we brought you a story about the PathTECH grant and its role in examining career pathways of students in engineering technology. This month we will take a step further in the same direction and take a closer look at some of the research methodologies and findings of the PathTECH team. As a recap, 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.

In keeping with the project goals, the PathTech initiative entails a qualitative and
quantitative research component. The qualitative research represents an inductive approach whereby researchers are trying to build an understanding of a particular social experience. Lakshmi Jayaram, lead qualitative investigator for the PathTech grant and Sociology research assistant professor at USF, describes the qualitative component “as an attempt to gain an in-depth understanding of what the pathways (into engineering technology) are, and social experiences connected to each of those pathways.” The PathTech team is currently conducting a series of interviews with high school and community college students, faculty and administrators at HCC, SPC, PSC and SCF as well as industry personnel and employers from Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota-Manatee counties who are involved in engineering technology related career academies/CTE programs. Through the interviews, “we hope to construct a rich and in-depth understanding of what these pathways from education to occupation in the engineering technology field look like” Jayaram said.

The quantitative part of the project is an attempt to understand and develop a profile of students who enroll into A.S. degree programs in Florida. Quantitative research is heavily based on data from the Florida Department of Education data warehouse, and is targeted to gauge how students meet that profile in terms of the courses they take, location of the schools they attend, and compare how students who enter into the A.S. E.T degree programs fare in comparison to students who choose other pathways. The team also looked at factors that determine whether a student completes an A.S. degree, and whether a degree in these fields promote career in high-tech fields.  “The future of our economy, workforce, students and their educational trajectories are all intertwined. The issues we are researching are relevant in terms of uncovering everyday struggles experienced by our target audience” Jayaram said.

Pilot data has uncovered an interesting mix of educational and career plans among
interviewees. In terms of high school students, it shows they are either interested in pursuing a four year college degree, or contemplating on attending community colleges that offer co-op programs with local industries, or are interested in directly entering the workforce. Preliminary data from interviewing community college students suggests most are older students in their 30s, 40s, or 50s, are already working in ET related fields, and are either taking courses to add to their skills set, expand their responsibilities at work, or gain higher wages.

Then too, despite differences in their pathways, all students regardless of their age “articulated their enjoyment in working with their hands, repairing things, taking things apart and putting them together” as factors propelling their career interest in engineering technology. Empirical data also supported the theory that the higher the socio economic status, the greater the likelihood for an individual to go to college. “It is a really promising avenue of research,” Jayaram said. “We’re looking at a very big picture and examining the transformative nature of these degree programs.”

As part of PathTech’s dissemination strategy to inform its stakeholders, PathTech leadership team will publish results and reports of the study in professional and peer reviewed journals. The team will also publish briefs on its website. “This research is a much needed compliment to the other aspects of studying engineering technology. Whatever we find through our research is a contribution towards knowledge in this field” Jayaram said.
For more information on PathTech visit http://sociology.usf.edu/pathtech, or contact Will Tyson, P.I. & associate professor of sociology at USF at wtyson@usf.edu, and Lakshmi Jayaram at ljayaram@usf.edu. For information on FLATE’s K-14 STEM based curriculum and professional development programs, visit www.madeinflorida.org and www.fl-ate.org, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org

A Behind-The-Scenes Look at FLATE’s Robotics Camps

FLATE’s robotics camps are deemed highly popular. Campers are undoubtedly the stars of the show, but there is much more to the camps and many individuals who contribute to its success. In this edition of the camp, we take a look at some of the instructors, robotics camp assistants, and examine the role of our partners in making FLATE’s robotics camp a top-of-the-line offering.

We begin this “behind-the-scenes” look with our new camp director, Desh Bagley, who is also
FLATE’s outreach manager. Desh brought a fresh dimension by injecting her passion/knowledge for computers and robotics into this year’s camp/challenges. Bagley also developed a new format for the high school camp that was very well received by instructors, campers, and parents alike. “Coordinating the FLATE robotics camps is always a rewarding experience” said Bagley. “Seeing campers grasp new concepts and then apply those concepts to solve real-world problems is very satisfying for me.” 

Instructors, Ken Fiallos and Dr. Alessandro Anzalone, also augmented the overall camp experience. Fiallos wears many hats. He is the president of the Florida Robotics Alliance and
heads the Florida West Coast (FWC) BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology) initiative at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) in Brandon. As part of this partnership with FLATE, Ken served as the instructor and content developer for one of the high school camp challenge that was focused on learning how to use Arduino Uno Microprocessors and building digital systems. To help with teaching the curriculum, Fiallos also brought volunteers from IEEE. Dr. Alessandro Anzalone, program manager and instructor for the engineering technology program at HCC-Brandon was also another key player. Dr. Anzalone, trained Bagley on the 3D printer software, and trained Mercedes Heredia, 2013 camp assistant on the chemical bath for support removal. Anzalone also helped set-up the 3D printers, and gave a presentation to high school students highlighting the two year A.S. degree in engineering technology currently offered at HCC and 14 state and community colleges across Florida.

In addition to Fiallos and Anzalone, Elizabeth Heli and Allan Dyer have enjoyed a long-
standing relationship with FLATE as lead instructors. Dyer has been the instructor since the inception of the camps in 2006, while Heli has primarily served as the instructor for the All Girls robotics camp since 2010. “Technology affords teachers a more hands-off approach, and makes way for greater self-exploration and problem-based learning for students” says Dyer. Heli and Dyer both agree their engagement with the camp has given them a chance to exercise a more “advisory role” in guiding campers and sharpening their problem-solving skills.

Involving research students like Johann Villasmil brought fresh perspective to the table.
Vilasmil’s expertise working with NAO humanoid robots gave him an edge in developing curriculum and challenges for three NAO-related lessons for the high school robotics camp. Vilasmil, a Ph.D. student at the University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa, was also involved in FLATE’s robotics open house in May 2013 where he gave a demonstrations of the NAO robot to students and parents. Vilasmil’s ivolvement with the camp not only benefitted students, but expanded his own understanding of NAO robots and configuring algorithms and timelines.

Outside the camp curriculum, camp assistant, Mercedes Heredia were vital in keeping a tab on daily administrative tasks. Heredia worked closely with all instructors and helped campers work through daily challenges. Heredia who is currently pursuing an A.S. degree in engineering technology at HCC says working closely with the campers not only gave her a better understanding of robotics, but bolstered her own interest in the field.

In all of this, industry partners bear special mention. This year’s industry hosts: Southern Manufacturing Technologies (SMT), Chromalloy, LEDnovation played an integral role by hosting industry tours. Outside its involvement with the camp, SMT has participated in a number of industry tours, workshops, and hosted the FLATE Industrial Advisory Committee meeting. On the same token, Publix Supermarket has sponsored bottled water since the inception of the camp in 2007, and hosted student tours throughout the academic year. Other partners who contributed to overall camp success include Bay Area Manufacturers Association, SME Chapter 159, Technical Training Aids, Team Associates & HCC.

FLATE values support and contribution of all its partners and stakeholders. Local, regional
and state-wide businesses, industries and professional organizations are encouraged to take an active role in assisting FLATE in a variety of ways. To that end, FLATE has a compiled a list of resources and best practice guides for partners who wish to undertake outreach to students in their local/regional communities. You can access these resources at the Made in Florida website, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org

Local Manufacturer Helps Underprivileged Students Achieve Educational and Career Goals

Manufacturers occupy a central role in strengthening the economy of Florida as the state is
home to some of the most trusted names in the manufacturing industry. Leaders like Tropicana play an important role in enhancing the fabric of local communities. Tropicana, owned by PepsiCo Inc., is an American multinational company and considered a global leader in the production and marketing of branded fruit juices (Source: www.tropicana.com). As part of this commitment, the company owns several initiatives reinforcing its role as a responsible corporate citizen.

The Bradenton Mosaic Academy at Palmetto High School in Palmetto, FL is one such
initiative established in 2011 by the PepsiCo Mosaic Employee Resource Group (ERG), a predominantly African-American ERG at Tropicana’s Bradenton, Florida site. Lillian Elliott, director for Supply Chain Quality & Organization Capability, says “the ERG group represents PepsiCo’s strategic initiative to foster growth and development of the local community.” Over the course of two years, the Academy has made significant strides in impacting high school students in the community. Each year 12 sophomore students are enrolled in the Academy and in May 2013 the first class of ten juniors completed their first year.  The second class of 12 was inducted in April 2013.

Mentors, comprising of six PepsiCo/Tropicana ERG members coach and council students
throughout the academic year helping students prepare for graduation and continuing their education. From basic social skills such as shaking hands and introductions to writing college application essays, setting goals, imbibing professional etiquette, developing presentation skills and applying for scholarships, students develop a better understanding of what’s required to be successful. In addition to its partnership with Palmetto High School, the PepsiCo Mosaic ERG also provides a six-week summer mentorship program for students ages 11-15 at the 13th Avenue Community Center in Bradenton. The program has been in effect for the past 14 years.  

Mentors include senior executives as well as employees from finance, manufacturing, quality, logistics, sales and human resources. Subject matter varies each year and can range from
entrepreneurship to roles in manufacturing, health and wellness and financial responsibility. Senior executives provide coaching in project management, strategic planning and presentation skills. During the program, students are given the opportunity to compete in an environment reflective of a realistic business. At the conclusion, students present business results to mentors, senior leadership and ERG Leaders. A winning team is selected based on product sales, weekly presentations and adherence to program requirements. 

The 13th Ave Community Center director has identified this program as a best practice.  “We will continue to do what we are doing, to meet the need of the students” Elliott said. The student’s return rate for participation is 70% with some students enrolled in the program for as long as five years. For more information on Tropicana’s Mosaic Academy visit www.tropicana.com or contact Lillian Elliot, Director Supply Chain Quality at Tropicana at lillian.j.elliott@pepsico.com.

Summer Energy Camp Excites Students about STEM and Renewable Energy

The third year of FLATE’s summer energy camp was a huge success with the highest attendance ever and feedback from both teachers and students overwhelmingly positive! Thirty 7th and 8th grade students from Beth Shields and Pierce middle schools were treated to four days of exciting, hands-on activities centered on capturing and keeping their interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects – specifically renewable energy. By participating in the camp, students also learned about the diverse and exciting careers available in the field of clean energy.

Camp participants were part of Hillsborough County School District’s AVID (Advancement

Via Individual Determination) Excel program, consisting of first generation college-bound, English language learners. This year marked the first year, two schools participated in the camp, with Pierce Middle School bussing in students daily from Tampa to join Beth Shields Elementary students who have been attending since the camp first started in 2011. This year’s camp schedule was abbreviated to avoid issues with bussing and student transportation and to eliminate attendance problems experienced in previous years. Two AVID teachers from each school also attended with the students daily.

This year’s new camp instructor, Kyla DonLevy, (currently an environmental sciences and AP biology teacher at Durant High School), brought her enthusiasm and obvious love for STEM subjects to the camp and had a great rapport with students. Kyla has made a full-circle FLATE journey as she participated in one of FLATE’s professional development workshops focused on renewable energy two years ago at the South Shore Campus and this year returned as a camp instructor!

The amazing activities the students participated in this year included making solar stills and

solar cookers (unfortunately the sun didn’t cooperate but we still managed to make s’mores and some partially cooked pizza rolls!), charging student cell phones with solar panels, mining for fossil fuels, and learning about hydropower and wind power. On the second day of camp TECO hosted students for an incredible tour providing them with the opportunity to get a close-up look at the power plant that is right in their back yard.

On the final day of camp, students raced hydrogen-fueled cars and were given a fabulous “Green” tour by Shiela McCants, student services manager. Hillsborough Community College’s SouthShore campus is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver-certified by the USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council), and boasts an earth-friendly, energy-conscious functionality incorporating a number of sustainable features. These include solar panels, a rainwater recycling process, maximum use of natural light and a raised-floor HVAC system that provides greater efficiencies for cooling. It was great to be able to show students that HCC is practicing what it preaches!

Students’ feedback from the final camp survey illustrated strongly how much they learned

about energy while at the same time having fun. Student comments included, “The experiments we did were a magnificent experience for an 8th grader, ‘We got to be creative and at the same time learn something, ‘The thing I like about energy is we do these awesome projects of energy.” One hundred percent of the students said they learned new things about energy and 95% stated that they felt the camp would help them making future career choices with over half saying that they would consider a career in clean energy.

Teachers’ comments included, “I really liked the hands on activity for each day. It got the kids very involved and kept them interested all the way through,” “I really liked the hands on activity for each day. It got the kids very involved and kept them interested all the way through”. FLATE hopes to offer the energy camp again next summer with the possibility of adding a high school version in Plant City.

For more information on the camp and curriculum, and/or education and training materials related to alternative/renewable energy technologies visit www.fl-ate.org and www.madeinflorida.org. You can also contact Nina Stokes, project manager for FESC at stokes@fl-ate.org

Call for Volunteers For FWC BEST Robotics Competition

We, as Educators and Engineers know STEM Careers are a major driving force in our economy. However
College enrollment trends in the U.S. indicate that there is a significant drop in students enrolling in engineering, science and technology related fields. Research indicates that students perceive these fields as too difficult and involves extensive course studies. In the Greater Tampa Bay Area our RAS Chapter estimates that less than 1% of the High School Students participate in Robotics Education.  

As a result of these trends, the IEEE membership of our RAS Chapter set up a non-profit corporation called the Florida Robotics Alliance (FRA) with our Partners HCC, HCPS, FLATE, the USF Stavros Center, supportive USF Engineering Faculty and the East Lake Community Library    to help foster interest among school aged students in the fields of engineering, business and science. Specifically FRA’s focus is to engage our youth in hands-on Robotics Competitions designed to expose them comprehensively to Robotics and Automated Manufacturing based Business Possibilities.

FRA’s first project: “FWC BEST (Boosting Science Technology and Mathematics) at HCC” needs volunteers in quest to expose to students to the basic aspects of design, engineering, business and manufacturing augmented by other workplace skills such time management, team leadership, problem solving skills, critical thinking and conflict resolution. Won’t you please help us? Volunteer at http://bit.ly/18FPeFk, or contact Ken Fiallos P.E.& Chair IEEE FWCS RAS Chapter at  ken@tampabay.rr.com