This is how we do Data: Collect, Unravel, Summarize!

At this time of year, FLATE stops to review, tally, analyze and aggregate our collected data from the
previous calendar year. We look for new comparative data sets of other organizations as an indicator of how “we are doing” in specific activities, or groups of activities related to FLATE’s outreach, curriculum reform and professional development efforts. We look for ways to refine our data collection by identifying unclear survey questions, or gaps in information we retrieve from various surveys. Here’s “how we do it” and how it all comes together.

We start a good review and scrub off raw data that has been collected and recorded.  Although we regularly review data and trends during the year to prepare for our year-end summaries, we take a final look to be sure all the data we use is “good data”.  Once this somewhat tedious stage is complete, the treasure hunt for “hidden data nuggets” begins. 

Many times we are just looking for summary data that we have to report and trends, hopefully positive trends, in the impact of our activities, resources, and events. Beyond just reporting, this kind of information tells us if we are still reaching the same kinds of participants and same numbers of stakeholders for different kinds of events, resources and activities. Reviewing this information carefully helps us target specific “missed” audiences in the coming year at various events.

After we complete reviewing, cleaning, organizing and summarizing our annual reporting data, we continue to probe and assess what else we can learn from it. In various stages of data review and summarizing, we often find ourselves asking: “I wonder if .. ?” ; “how could I know if this is connected to that?” or “wouldn't it be great if we also could know …”.  These are questions we revisit by bringing data together from different sources, looking at the data from different perspectives, etc. The exercise becomes a game of puzzling together different results, trying to reveal more impact.

We move from the observations “wows,” “oh my’s”, and “ah-ha’s!” to filtering which of the ideas, or questions will give us the most “bang for our buck,” as well as help us better answer the questions that NSF and our valued stakeholders ask. The cycle of continuous improvement underlies this whole process. How can we do what we do better by being more strategic in our activities, events and resources; can we ask better survey questions that will reveal more and better information; can we totally change our approach to get more impactful data?

As 2014 begins, we are starting some new strategies to dig a bit deeper into our data.  Therefore, the data we collect will be changing slightly. It will change enough to provide more impactful information (we hope), but not so much that we loose the connection to our historic data and trends. Changing some of the basic assumptions of our work requires us to rephrase some questions and to ask new ones. Stay tuned to see how we do during the coming year. 

Enjoy the great stories in the February edition of the FLATE Focus where we focus on a brand new series spotlighting new ET faculty, and highlight reflections from a current ET faculty as she prepared for the Professional Engineering exam. We also bring you a story about an NSF ATE project that is poised to bolster STEM and Problem-based learning in rural communities of Kentucky and Tennessee, and discuss outreach to high school students this spring to stimulate interest in STEM/manufacturing. Answer to last month’s sTEm puzzle is here; be sure to tally your answers and get up to speed on the year’s first energy workshop for educators and industry professionals. 

New ET Faculty Spotlight!

The engineering technology network and number of colleges offering the statewide A.S. degree in engineering has greatly expanded over the years. Since the implementation of the program in 2007, the degree has been lauded as a model program by the manufacturing institute and has been a winner of several state and national awards. A core part of the program and its success hinges not only on the framework, but also rests on faculty who ensure it is relevant and aligned with local industry needs. The consortium of colleges offering the A.S.E.T degree in 14 state and community colleges across Florida boasts of a distinguished panel of qualified educators.

Joining these ranks is Aubri Hanson, Ph.D., assistant professor of engineering technology at Gulf Coast State
College (GCSC). Hanson has a B.S. and an M.S. degree in Physics with a minor in electronics engineering and mathematics from the University of Southern Mississippi. Prior to joining GCSC, Hanson worked for  Radiance Technologies doing research on radiation detection and for NASA Stennis Space Center working on rocket engine testing, vacuum systems, integrated system health management, and the return to flight efforts after the space shuttle Columbia accident. She has also worked on projects at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and NASA Kennedy Space Center as a contractor including the Mars Simulation Chamber.

Having transitioned into academia after 12 years in industry, Hanson has a good understanding of what is required of students to be successful and help connect what they are doing in the classroom to real jobs. “The foremost way our courses prepare students for the workforce is by providing hands-on learning experiences in addition to the traditional classroom lectures and textbook learning” Hanson said. To keep content current and relevant, she maintains contacts with industry and professional organizations like the International Society for Automation (ISA) where Hanson currently serving as the Technical Program Chair for the International Instrumentation Symposium and on the Scholarship Committee. “Our industrial advisory committee keeps us in touch with the needs of local industry and we have made several changes/additions in our programs to accommodate their requests.”

At GCSC she currently teaches Data Acquisition & Control Systems; LabVIEW Instrumentation;
Control Systems Technology; Programmable Logic Controllers; Process Control & Instrumentation; Introduction to Electronics; Digital Electronics; Electronic Devices & Circuits, and several special projects courses. Every single course has a lab associated with it where students utilize hardware the same way they will see being used by industry. Hanson makes every effort to ensure curriculum design is never stagnant and students get to hear the voice of industry experts. “It is very important for me to learn from the students, as well as teach them, in an effort to improve my methods of instruction.”

Hanson firmly believes any hard-working student can be successful in the ET program as long as they have the “desire to learn and the willingness to apply themselves in and out of the classroom.” She believes there are a variety of paths to choose from in the A.S program and many certificate programs available to customize the educational experience for each student based on their strengths, needs, and interests.

For more information on the engineering program at GCSC contact Aubri Hanson at, or at 850.769.1551. For information on the statewide A.S.E.T degree visit, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at Stay tuned also next month for an update on yet another ET faculty member at Tallahassee Community College.

Persistence Pays!

In keeping with our series highlighting ET faculty and their accolades, this month we bring you a story
highlighting the dedication and perseverance of a faculty member at State College of Florida (SCF). Over the years, Adrienne Gould Choquette, program manager for the engineering technology program at SCF has been working closely with FLATE in positioning the ET degree as a relevant and exciting program for students. Below are some thoughts outlining her efforts to successfully pass the rigorous Professional Engineering (P.E.) Exam.

In 1993, after graduating from the University of Rhode Island with a B.S. Engineering technology, I sat for the E.I.T. (Engineering in Training) exam.  This was a comprehensive exam encompassing information from all four years as an engineering student. This was a difficult exam, but the scope was defined. It was closed book meaning if a reference was needed, they had to provide it. 

The rumor was that they alerted the people who failed first; the longer it took to receive your results, the better.  Months and months went by and I did not receive any notification from the Board.  When I called to inquire they apologized for the delay and told me that I did indeed pass, but they didn’t have any certificates. They were waiting until they received the correct certificates to notify me.  

After my bachelor’s degree I went on to earn an M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering and then into the workforce.  In 2003 I sat for the P.E. Exam for the first time. Six months later, I sat for the P.E. exam for the second time.  Both times I received the disappointing news that I failed; both times with the same score. This rattled my confidence. How could I have made no progress?

Several months ago I decided to attempt this elusive designation one more time.  And on December 5, 2013 I received the news that I passed. 

The P.E. exam had a lot of similarities to the E.I.T. exam, but even more dissimilarities.  It is an open book exam.  The first 4 hours covers the breadth of the chosen engineering field, the second 4 hours covers the depth of the chosen specialization.  The exam is 80 problems which equates to six minutes per problem.  That is six minutes to read the problem, figure out what they are looking for, find the related information in one of the references (hopefully chose the right reference to bring), and finally solve the problem. Hours melt away.  There is no time for contemplation. 

So how did I pass the third time?  I attribute it to a few things:
  • I was dedicated to remaining physically strong.  I maintained a rigorous exercise regimen.
  • I took a refresher course.  I don’t believe the material in the refresher course helped me; but rather it was the tips from the instructors and also the time commitment dedicated to preparing for the exam.
  • I worked through problems until I could solve them as easily as I could solve the problem of 2+2.  Some nights I would focus on a few problems and work them over and over again only to wake up the next day and still not be able to solve them without out referencing the solution. But with persistence, eventually everything clicked.  (The books I used: Six-Minute Solutions for Mechanical PE Exam HVAC and Refrigeration Problems - Keith E. Elder PE and NCEES’s PE Mechanical Questions and Solutions)
Working the problems to the point of complete understanding is how I passed the P.E.   During the 4 hour depth section of the exam I had answers for 20 out of the 40 questions with only 45 minutes left of the exam.  Thoughts of “I will fail again” began occupying my mind.  But then some of the tips from my refresher course instructors came back to me. “Don’t panic”, “start with what you know”.  I felt like a machine.  Tackling problems with what I knew and amazingly, one after the other, I came up with answers. 

Preparing for the exam in this manner was a wonderful journey challenging my problem solving strengths to their limits!

To get in touch with Adrienne and get tips on how to prepare for the P.E. exam email her at For information on the ET degree offered at SCF visit

sTEm–at-Work Puzzle #38 (Answer)

The data provided not only opens discussion points about the structure of a Run Chart, it provides opportunities to introduce and peruse the least squares analysis of the summarized data chart data provided in the graph's plots.  Since simple linear least squares analysis is available in many data analysis software packages, having students explore this technique is easy.   In many cases, as is in this example, an "eye-ball" linear least squares analysis will do.  The driving criteria for such least squares efforts is to try to construct a line that places the sum of all individual data point distances from the line equal to zero.  This exact task is hard for the eye to accomplish but most people can draw a line that meets this general requirement.  For this example, it should be clear that the least squares line for System 638 is increasing in a steady fashion and indicates  that ( if it has not already done so) the system will produce shear pins that exceed the radius tolerance limit for that part.  Thus, the equipment will need maintenance attention as soon as possible.

The technician decided that system # 638 was not operating as expected. YES


NSF ATE Project Set to Bolster STEM Education & PBL in Rural Communities

As the focus on next generation jobs becomes rooted in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) one question remains: are all students on the same page in terms of STEM proficiency? Do minorities, economically disadvantaged, or students from rural communities have access to same resources as their peers who hail from communities with better graded schools? To level the playing field, the Technological Education for the Rural Community (TERC) project is addressing the need to improve STEM education in rural communities.

Similar to FLATE, TERC is a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Advanced Technological
Education (ATE) project that advances innovative pathways for technical education at the community college level. Its emphasis, however, lies in serving rural communities. Working with Hopkinsville Community College (HCC), which is part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, TERC currently serves Christian, Todd, Trigg, and Caldwell counties in southern Kentucky including Ft. Campbell and Montgomery counties in Tennessee. The region is home to over 70 manufacturing entities that consistently face difficulty hiring qualified employees to fill technical positions.

Contingent on securing funding from NSF, TERC is set to begin working on targeted objectives by summer
2014. Access to school for the rural students, poor academic preparation primarily in mathematics, and awareness of STEM fields open to minorities and women are three identified hindrances to higher education. Of the three, access and low mathematics comprehension are two educational barriers that will primarily be addressed by TERC.

Sherry McCormack, assistant professor at HCC says the TERC will develop and implement conduits for rural students and traditionally 
underrepresented groups to enter technical fields. This will be accomplished by utilizing portable, personalized instructional methods to facilitate remedial coursework success with contextualization of materials. Hybridization will incorporate problem based learning scenarios based on industry-centric curriculum relevant to highly technical workplaces. Didactic content will be delivered via the Internet and preloaded on portable media, while lab work will be facilitated through one-on-one instruction in an open lab environment.

To incorporate real-world applications and minimize rote learning, the project is contextualizing mathematics
content with application-related content of technology courses. “We plan to include ‘messy problems’ that assist students to think critically through mathematical problems that do not have one clear method for solving when multiple variables are present” said McCormick. Using this method, students can recognize real-world difficulties that are not easily solved, but can be addressed through ingenuity and creativity.

If funding is secured, TERC will be writing and programming specific problems into an online course shell to assist students with actual math based concepts they see in the workplace. “The fusion of math content contextualized for the specific program will make a smoother transition for students to go from low level developmental math through more advanced math and trigonometry concepts that will be required in the workplace” McCormick said. TERC’s findings and research will not only help define its targeted goals, but can assist FLATE kick start similar effort to introduce high-tech manufacturing to rural counties in Florida.

For more information on TERC contact Sherry McCormack at and 270.701.3930. To learn about NSF ATE projects contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at 813.259.6578 and, or visit and

Energy Education Forum Provides a Platform for Educators to Share ideas and expertise

The 3rd Annual Florida Colleges Energy Education Forum was hosted by Palm Beach State College’s Institute for Energy and Environmental Sustainability (IEES) on January 31. Forty participants from the energy education and industry realms were treated to exciting presentations covering a range of energy-related topics. This is the third workshop offered by FLATE-FESC 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.

The morning session included presentations about electric vehicles, algal biofuel and marine renewable
energy, as well as a Florida Department of Education update from Kathryn Frederick Wheeler, supervisor of Energy and Architecture and Construction Career Clusters. Florida Power and Light Company brought a selection of electric cars/truck for participants to explore up-close, during the lunch hour. The afternoon session included a panel discussion on turbines and advanced fuels followed by a power analytics professional development activity held in IEES’, state-of-the art power analytics lab.

Thanks to Palm Beach State College’s media technology and instructional services, the meeting was also broadcast live via the Internet, so that folks that wanted to attend, but couldn’t travel could participate “remotely”. Feedback received was overwhelmingly positive. Comments received from workshop attendees included: “innovative and current ideas to encourage students” and “general interaction was great” among others. Majority of respondents said that they had planned to modify or try new pedagogical methods as well as updating /adding new technology topics to their current curriculum. Ninety-two percent of respondents reported that they got new ideas on energy that will be valuable to their students and/or colleagues, local industry and communities. A fourth workshop is planned for January 201

For more information on the Forum and to download presentations visit to download forum presentations. For information on FLATE-FESC partnership and/or future workshops contact Nina Stokes, project manager at

Local Students Visit to ET Lab stimulates interest in STEM & Manufacturing

FLATE’s efforts to stimulate interest in STEM and manufacturing-related careers have culminated in various outreach initiatives. These targeted programs have impacted middle and high school students, secondary/post-secondary educators as well as industry professionals throughout Florida, and repositioned their opinion of manufacturing. As part of these efforts, FLATE has facilitated several onsite visits for students and educators to tour the engineering technology lab at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) and get a first-hand view of technologies used in real-world settings.

Most recently, FLATE sponsored a day trip and opened its doors for students from Marion Technical
Institute (MTI) in Ocala to visit its facilities and learn about the engineering technology program that is currently offered at HCC and 13 other colleges across Florida. “I wanted the students to see what we are doing in the high school is rigorous and relevant to career and college preparedness” said Dale Toney, robotics and automation teacher at MTI. Toney who was the recipient of the 20134 FLATE secondary educator of the year award said the tour provided students with a realistic view of STEM related careers and options available to them once they graduated from high school. Given the integration of robotics in high-tech operations, students also interacted with Brandon—a NAO humanoid robot which served as a highlight of their trip.

In an ongoing bid to encourage minorities and underrepresented students to pursue STEM based careers, FLATE also partnered with Hillsborough Community College, the School District of Hillsborough County’s
Career & Technical Education Department and the Florida High-Tech Corridor (FHTC)—an economic development initiative of the University of Central Florida, University of South Florida and University of Florida—to give 27 students enrolled in the aerospace technology program at Robinson High School (RHS) a tour of the ET lab at HCC. Jeffrey Bindell, Ph.D. who was a speaker and organizer said the tour was made possible via the techCAMP program, a subsidiary of FHTC’s techPATH initiative geared to educate/expose students to technology-related degrees offered at community colleges in Florida. The initiative has been highly successful, in that, more than 3700 students and teachers have toured high tech facilities via this program to date, and learned how an interest in STEM would translate to lucrative opportunities in future.

During the visit students toured the HCC/FLATE engineering technology lab and learned about tinkerCAD, a design program that introduced students to 3D modeling and printing. Students verified the relevance of metrology, tolerances & specifications while designing their own key-chain with their names in 3-D. “I knew there were rapid advances in technology, but I did not know how fast it was growing until I saw this” said Nicole Foy, a senior at RHS. Students also got a brief overview of the A.S. degree in engineering with special emphasis on manufacturing. “I did not realize HCC had a robust ET program. It opened my mind into considering community college as an option” said Foy.

In addition to hand-on exercises, students also toured the 3D-printing laboratory, scanning laboratory and
the final products & samples station at EMS Technologies in Tampa. At the 3D-station laboratory students saw 3D printers in action, and got a brief explanation of printer set up and how the software works. At the scanning laboratory students saw different types of 3-D scanner, surface scanner for larger object, comet scanner for smaller objects and a metro scanner that could be manually operated. Students also got a demo of how to scan and 3D model an object. “There are no limits to what you can do with technology and if there are any limits those are just relegated to your imagination” said Sean McGlone, a junior at RHS.

Feedback to the tour was highly positive from teachers too. “The most immediate impact will be seeing what they learned about CAD/SolidWORKS is being applied and used in manufacturing settings” said Jeff
Kaloostian, aerospace technology instructor at RHS who also attended FLATE’s STEM workshop for educators in 2011. Kaloostian says most people envision engineering jobs as someone sitting on a desk and designing products, and a technician as someone with a wrench in their hands, but they do not think about the high-skilled, high-paying jobs an individual can make working as an engineering technology specialist. To that end, he hopes the tours will inspire and help students to think outside the box and explore technologies that might stimulate their interest in high-tech manufacturing and/or STEM.

The “Made in Florida” industry tours are designed to fuel students’ interest in modern manufacturing careers, and encourage enrollment in technology programs available throughout Florida. Since the inception of the tours, 4,472 students from 64 middle and high schools and 533 teachers and parents have toured 87 high-tech manufacturing sites in Florida. Ninety six percent of over 3,000 surveyed students since 2005 have agreed the tours were critical in informing about careers in advanced manufacturing.

To coordinate a tour of the engineering technology lab at HCC, a MIF tour, or for information on the statewide ET degree contact Dr. Marilyn Barger executive director of FLATE at, or visit and For information on the engineering program at MTI and aerospace technology program at RHS contact Dale Toney at and Jeff Kaloostian at 813.272.3006 ext 271. For information on FHTC’s techPATH program contact Jeffrey Bindell, Ph.D. at

19 Women from Florida to Receive Women in Manufacturing STEP Award

FLATE the National Science Foundation Center of Excellence in Manufacturing at Hillsborough Community
College in Brandon congratulates 160 women who will be receiving the Women in Manufacturing STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Award presented by the Manufacturing Institute in Washington, DC. Of note are the number of Florida based companies and individuals who have been nominated for the awards this year. Nineteen of the 160 honorees are from Florida several of whom represent FLATE’s statewide industry partners. The awards will be presented in Washington, D.C on Feb. 6, 2014.

The STEP Ahead initiative was conceived to promote and recognize the role women have demonstrated in Science, Technology, Engineering and Production excellence in the manufacturing industry through Recognition, Research, and Education/Leadership. In addition to recognizing women in manufacturing, the STEP Ahead initiative also empowers woman in manufacturing to continue to develop their own leadership and that of the next generation.

According to Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE, the first recognition of 122 women included 10 from Florida, and FLATE worked with industry partners across the state to get many Florida manufacturing women nominated for the award. “FLATE adds its voice to congratulate the 160 women receiving this award and others like them, and will continue to promote the STEP Ahead award program in Florida” Barger said. This year’s awardees include:

click to enlarge the document and view the list
For more information on the STEP Ahead for women in manufacturing visit, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at