Partnerships and Mentoring Lead to Cutting-Edge, Award Winning Ideas

FLATE’s multi-pronged approach to stimulate interest in manufacturing and STEM, lies in its exemplary partnerships. The Center prides itself as a leading resource for excellence in manufacturing education and training, and leverages expertise to incumbent workers, educators and students alike. These efforts have not only created a synergy between industry and education, but have culminated in generating positive learning outcomes that impact undergraduate and graduate students alike.

Most recently Dr. Alessandro Anzalone, director of the A.S. degree in engineering technology at
Hillsborough Community College in Brandon and winner of the 2013 FLATE Post-Secondary Educator Award, served as a mentor for a Capstone student design project at the University of South Florida (USF). Capstone courses provide students with an educational experience that integrates multiple areas of knowledge and dimensions. These courses, by definition, lead to a summative product, or culminate into a course, or a field-appropriate experience created by the student and the instructor. (Source: USF General Education Council).

Working under these guidelines, Anzalone provided overall insight into the details of an award-winning Capstone project, designed by Rafael Perez and Jorge Sayed, seniors pursuing an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at USF. Anzalone helped come up with new ideas, troubleshoot any challenges, and opened up the manufacturing lab at HCC for the students to work and fine tune their project.

Perez and Sayed toyed with many ideas, but their winning idea was inspired by a woman they stumbled upon, albeit online, while conducting research and looking for a breakthrough idea. The woman was growing tomatoes in a greenhouse which burned up because the temperature in the greenhouse was too high. Against that backdrop, Perez and Sayed built a smart greenhouse using PLCs, with an in-built weather controller station to monitor the temperature and humidity levels.

A key element of their design lay in “controlling the temperature inside the greenhouse.” To comply, they
used two sensors: one that controlled the temperature; the other that’d control the humidity with respect to the inside temperature of the greenhouse. For the PLC, they chose a Siemens PLC which was connected to a web server making it easier to interface with web and/or mobile devices.

“The greatest thing I got out of this project is the overall satisfaction gained from winning the competition” said Perez. Upon completion of their term and final project assessments, Perez and Sayed plan to donate their model/prototype to the HCC engineering technology program so it can be used as a PLC training station for current and/or future students enrolled in the program.

You can learn more about Perez and Sayed’s smart greenhouse project below, or at For information on FLATE and its STEM based initiatives contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at, or visit and

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