Have a Holly Jolly Christmas in a Fab Lab Near You!

A number of years ago Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Center for Bits and Atoms launched the first “Fab Lab” or fabrication laboratory. A worldwide network of “Fab Labs are connected with each other and the MIT Center by having a defined set of tools and equipment, shared resources for training, managing, organizing, and projects. Envisioned as a place to seed and expand product-based, small businesses across the U.S., Fab Labs began to grow in numbers across the country in libraries, community organizations, museums, and educational institutions.
Typically, a Fab Lab has a large (4'x8') numerically-controlled milling machine, a precision (micron
resolution) milling machine, modeling software with stations for product design, a 3D printer, laser etcher, a computer controlled laser cutter, and a sign cutter. Many have added additional (optional) tools. A generic business model suggests charging a user fee for use of the lab and its equipment, that there is a full time lab tech/manager, and offer a number of services to the community of users (some for pay, others for free). They attract the independent inventor, craft makers, educators, students and the curious. Furthermore, the very “21st century, digitally-connected community” relies on modern social media tools and the individuals in the connected network to keep it going.   

Many anticipated that Fab Labs would be one vehicle to help pull us out of the recession, invigorate STEM learning in schools, catalyze innovation, and seed the personal digital fabrication movement. I am not sure if anyone knows yet what contribution Fab Labs individually, or collectively have made to any, or all of these. They have spawned other more grassroots “maker movements” in communities across the country. Typically these organizations support various community events to share technology-supported “crafts” and homemade products.  At maker events, everyone who wants to share, teach, sell, or learn gathers at the maker events for a small fee.  Certainly, these organizations provide similar opportunities to network. 

You can learn about Fab Labs, in a couple of upcoming events. On Dec 13, 2013 at 1 p.m. EST, MATEC, the Maricopa Advanced Technological Education Center of Excellence, will host a free webinar “Collab and Fab” sponsored by the Digital Fabrication Learning Community (www.dflc.org). The webinar’s theme highlights the collaborative nature of the Fab Lab network for product design and prototyping. This digital collaboration approach is already an industry standard for companies that have engineering, design and production facilities around the globe. You can register for the webinar at www.matecnetworks.org, or directly here.  

Locally in Florida, from January 8-10, 2014, FLATE and Collaborative Center for Emerging Technologies
(CCET) at St. Petersburg College together with the DFLC are hosting a workshop that will delve into product design and prototyping with a hands-on approach. Community college educators from around the county will be gathering at the CCET at SPC’s Clearwater campus to engage not only in the technologies, but also in their place in community college technical programs like our Engineering Technology A.S. Degree, Electronics Engineering Technology, Drafting and Design, etc. If you live and work in Florida, you can find out more and register by contacting me at barger@fl-ate.org. If you do not live in Florida you can contact Jim Jannise at janisse@fvtc.edu.  

We wrap-up our last edition of the 2013 newsletter with many exciting stories that highlight our curriculum, professional development and outreach initiatives. Continuing our line-up of reports on engaging women in STEM we underline key themes that emerged from the recruiting girls in STEM workshop. Given the surge in demand for skilled machinists we step aside to define the nuts & bolts of machining education in Florida. Venturing out west, we take you to Nevada where a nascent NSF project is working on cultivating problem-based learning. Last but not the least, as you wind down for the holidays check your answer to last month’s sTEm puzzle, and don’t forget to sign up for the 2014 FESC Community College Workshop coming up in January.

I am sending warmest wishes for a safe holiday to all of our FLATE stakeholders, partners, families and friends from the FLATE staff and working team. Have a holly, jolly Christmas and a very happy new year ahead!

Nevada-based NSF Project Focuses on Cultivating Problem Based Learning

Education and the way we learn is rapidly changing. Today the emphasis is not so much on “bookish knowledge” rather the emphasis lies in innovative/creative thinking that leads to problem solving. Against this backdrop, problem-based learning (PBL) is soon emerging as the preferred path, and is in many ways what defines a scholar in the 21st century.

So what is Problem-based learning? Jane Ostrander, principal investigator and project director for the
National Science Foundation funded project Destination: Problem-Based Learning (DPBL) says, PBL is about creating self-directed, self-managing, adaptive learners who will be successful in the ever-changing, globally competitive workplace. PBL challenges students to solve real-world problems, create deliverables, and present reports, or results that match what they will face in their professional careers. “The world of work--the pace of technical change, relationship of employers and employees, the very jobs that are out there now and will be out there 10 years from now are different. The competition is global” says Ostrander.  PBL arms students with capabilities/soft skills needed to succeed in the rapidly changing workplace.

Now that we’ve addressed the definition, the debate over PBL as an in-born, or a skill that can be learned
and cultivated remains. For the naysayers, this is probably where the DPBL project takes over. The Destination: Problem-Based Learning (DPBL) project is a large-scale materials development project funded by the NSF ATE program and located at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, NV. The Destination PBL project advocates for the scaling up of PBL though (a) deepening its understanding of PBL in practice through faculty action research; (b) sustaining work by building a knowledge network that supports efforts to expand the adoption of PBL in workforce education and builds a shared knowledge base, and (c) spreading research-based knowledge of how to create PBL materials, facilitate PBL workshops, guide PBL classrooms, and build PBL community. “These actions support our goals to develop resources, knowledge, and processes to support faculty in their efforts to change their professional practices, and to develop and implement PBL that aligns with industry requirements for technicians and increases student engagement and learning” Ostrander said.

To set its goals and vision into motion, DPBL has engineered several tools and resources. The DPBL project
has created an online Scenario Building model, process, and tool based on Google Sites. The companion Assessment Builder and Assessment Guide lead faculty through the process of creating an authentic assessment plan and items for their classes. Scenarios and Tasks created with the scenario builder by project faculty and workshop participants are available online at learnpbl.com.

The DPBL project has fostered four knowledge building communities supporting faculty and administrators adopting PBL. These include: PBL-Bio/Biotech that grew out of the online Faculty Action Research workshops; PBL-Hawaii, led by faculty and administrators within the University of Hawaii system to create a knowledge building community for PBL in Hawaii; PBL-West includes faculty from Colorado to California to deliver workshops and conference session in implementing and developing PBL, managing students teams, and facilitating PBL workshops for faculty, and PBL-East which includes faculty east of Colorado to the Carolinas. This community, co-created with the SC ATE Center at Florence-Darlington Tech, hosts the Roots and Wings (RnW) Instructional Leadership Institute.

Indeed these tools have a wide scope and offer vast resources, but how are they being applied, or more
importantly how are educators using DPBL’s resources to integrate PBL into every day curriculum? Co-PI and Training Director, Judy Fredrickson, Ph.D.’s intro to programming course is entirely PBL. Students are new programmer trainees in an alternative energy company. The first day students are handed documentation like new employees in a company would get, assigned to a team, and asked to install and test a compiler. As the term progresses, the students produce programs, test cases, documentation, presentations, and other products common to the professional world of programming. Likewise instructors at other partner colleges have collaborated on scenarios and tasks whereby students can develop and analyze products or software.

Being NSF ATE funded, partnerships with other NSF ATE Centers becomes a part of its operational
structure. DPBL hopes to offer workshops with new partners in May/June 2014. The goal of the workshop is for faculty to create a scenario, tasks, and assessments they will use in their classrooms, and have the skills to successfully implement the tasks in their classrooms when they leave the workshop. DPBL is also currently working with AMTEC in Kentucky to support their efforts to convert the curriculum they’ve developed for advanced manufacturing technicians into PBL. DPBL also looks forward to working with FLATE in offering similar workshops in the future, or collaborating with FLATE to add PBL to the Center’s toolkit.

For more information on the DPBL project and upcoming PBL based workshops contact Dr. Jane Ostrander at jostrander@tmcc.edu, or visit http://www.learnpbl.com. For information on FLATE and its STEM based resources contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org, or visit www.madeinflorida.org and www.fl-ate.org.

Key Themes Emerge from Recruiting Girls Post Workshop Survey

Back in the July edition of the Focus, we brought you a synopsis of FLATE’s STEM workshop for educators. Fast forward five months, and FLATE has compiled analysis/feedback from the workshop that sheds light on strategies educators can/have employed in engaging girls in STEM. An impressive 57% of educators that included elementary, secondary and post-secondary educators/administrators from 13 counties responded to the survey. Outlined below are a few themes that emerged from the workshop.

Starting with areas of interest, survey data identified engineering and any mathematics/science degrees,
environmental/agricultural science, clinical laboratory technology, healthcare, information technology, engineering, robotics and computer science as targeted fields for educators to increase female participation in STEM. Given the importance of role models in shaping career choices, survey respondents considered showcasing women in STEM as an effective mechanism in drawing female students. “I would approach female professors from USF who teach biology or earth sciences to serve as speakers” noted one of the participants. Another attendee pointed to the Great American Teach-In as a useful resource “I will involve them by having them come in and speak to my class, model lessons, and share careers that use their skills set.”

Another dominant theme that emerged from the workshop was incorporating teaching strategies targeted at
encouraging, challenging and empowering girls. To that end, educators suggested offering on-site training for educators, starting an “all girls” STEM club, offering professional development workshops as helpful resources in staying current and ahead of the game. “I think having a club that gives girls one-on-one time to explore STEM careers will serve as an encouragement” noted an educator. Another said “having a poster of male and female students as scientists” has helped students identify themselves with their role models.

Collaborating with stakeholders was also one of the strategies identified as a useful. Potential stakeholders included parents and family members who are already engineers, engineering students and educators, mentors, guest speakers, media, and industry leaders/experts. “We will be inviting environmentalists from TECO & Mosaic and agriculturalists from hydroponics gardens to speak to our science classes” said a respondent. Another respondent hoped to invite female science teachers and community women to serve as guest speakers and possibly mentors for students.

Continuous education/training for teachers to stay abreast of new technologies was deemed highly important
in the educator STEM puzzle. “I will continue to remain abreast of the current research being conducted by scientists, particularly females, which will help me to encourage girls to pursue STEM careers” noted a respondent. Some educators were inspired by the workshop to present their findings about attracting girls to STEM at the Florida Association of Science Teachers (FAST) conference which was held in October 2013. Additionally, respondents also saw the need to highlight the array of STEM based career opportunities that are available locally and regionally.

Check back with us in Spring 2014 to get updates on some of the STEM educators efforts in their local schools. To learn about FLATE’s award winning STEM curriculum and professional development resources visit the FLATE Wiki page where you will find a wealth of resources. To attend, or host an educator workshop contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org, or visit www.fl-ate.org and www.madeinflorida.org.

Answer to sTEm–at-Work Puzzle #37: Machine System Performance

The Problem
A Certified Process Technician, CPT, has reviewed the data taken from Run Charts for two Machine Systems, System #425 and System # 638, to assess their performance and determine if either, or both system’s preventive maintenance schedules should be interrupted with an unscheduled maintenance check. The plots summarize system performance by presenting daily average radius measurements performed by the Tech. After studying this information the Tech has made a decision. This puzzle is an open-ended opportunity to present, discuss, and manipulate Run Charts. 

 The graph presents agglomerate measurement data, but does not include any performance limit expectations. A discussion of a more formal presentation of Run Chart information is certainly an easy next step for this puzzle. However, even with the graphic limitations in the plots provided it is clear that one of the systems is not performing as expected.

The technician decided that both systems are operating as expected. NO                      

Workshop Defines the Nuts & Bolts of Machining Education in Florida

Machinists are in high demand. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that job opportunities for machinists are “excellent as employers continue to value wide-ranging skills of these workers.” This data directly correlates to what industry experts and educators are saying about machinists and need for skilled technicians in factory floors across the nation. To meet the demand for skilled machinists, many manufacturers are increasingly turning to educators to train the next generation of machinists.

So what are some of the skills set and educational credentials for a machinist? Ted Norman, state supervisor
for manufacturing, transportation, distribution & logistics, and engineering & technology education at the Florida Department of Education says machinists need a strong foundation of knowledge in mathematics, 3D modeling, metallurgy, and computer programming. To get a deeper look into the issue, one has to look at the courses and curriculum framework that forms the foundations in building these skills set. As in most cases, “any good occupational technical curriculum should start with a well thought out functional job analysis that matches industry needs” said Jerry Lancio. Both Lancio and Norman were presenters at the one day machining workshop hosted by FLATE.

During the workshop, participants were given an overview of the curriculum frameworks for the machining
program in Florida, and learned about new requirements/changes for the 2014-15 school year. “My aim is to provide a good understanding of the frameworks” that will enable educators to create a solid curriculum pathway for students who are graduating from high school and going to college said Norman. Workshop participants also learned about the DACUM (Developing a Curriculum) process that starts with a functional job analysis, crosses over to mapping learning outcomes of courses and course sequence, and finally building a master curriculum outline. “I hope business and industry can see how curriculum framework process works, and educators can also see how curriculum can be built to meet industry needs” Norman said.

Indeed, feedback from workshop participants was highly favorable. “I learned a lot, and found some terrific resources at the workshop” said Dr. Jill Flansburg, program coordinator for the Florida TRADE grant. Flansburg said she enjoyed hearing experts talk about the continuum of education and training opportunities in the state, learning about skills and knowledge that can be built upon to create a career ladder in machining, and how educators and industry can work together to make a statewide articulation plan. Dennis Battistella, director of workforce development for the South Florida Manufacturers Association said the workshop served as an opportunity for technical, high school and post-secondary educators to review requirements of the current technical/machining curriculum for high school and adult education programs. It also gave educators an opportunity to draft a proposal for new high school machining curriculum to be submitted to the Florida Department of Education for review.

In addition to curriculum frameworks, the workshop focused on defining stackable academic credentials
aligned to national standards and an overview of the NIMS certification which is a nationally recognized, portable, NAM-endorsed certification which works and plays well with other industry certifications in creating a logical path. “What I learned at the workshop will help in my current job because it has given me a better idea of how to align curriculum with credential requirements, and what resources are available to me” said Flansburg.

For more information on the machining workshop visit www.fl-ate.org and www.madeinflorida.org, or email Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org

Save the Date! 2014 FESC Community College Workshop

Following the success of the 2011 and 2012 Florida Energy Systems Consortium Community College
Energy workshops held in Gainesville and Cocoa, FL, respectively, next year’s workshop will be hosted by Palm Beach State College on January 31, 2014. Participants will be treated to a range of presentations by a diverse selection of speakers. The afternoon session will include an energy-themed professional development activity designed to bring to life some of the content being talked about during the presentations as well as exposing attendees to technology they may not have had the opportunity to get up close and personal with before.

These workshops are intended to bring educators and industry people from all over Florida together to learn and share ideas and knowledge about energy education and energy industry workforce needs. Please visit www.fl-ate.org to learn more about the workshop and to register online.