From the Executive Director's Desk: Get Ready for Robots!

This time of the year we are preparing for summer robotics programs for students, summer training for
educators including programming languages that provide fundamental communications for any robotic system. Many students around the state are preparing for national competitions in FIRST Robotics, BEST, VEX and many other competitions that require designing, building, and programming an autonomous robot to perform certain tasks within given constraints which could include time, materials, cost, size, and functionality. With mentoring from employees in the manufacturing industry, we hope these outreach initiatives enable team members/participants to gain increased awareness of technical careers involving robotics as well as the skills needed to become successful in those careers.

Indeed, robots have become ubiquitous in our society and an integral part of manufacturing. Robotics researchers around the country are pushing their robotic capabilities to the edge every day. Typically, researchers compete for funds by writing grant proposals to a government agency, foundation, or other organization. A long technical document defining previous successes, accomplishments, a research plan and anticipated results are funded based on the organization’s criteria.

In recent years, funding agencies have turned to research level competitions as a way to award funding.  This strategy focuses researchers on specific outcomes – just like student robotics competitions. There are distinct advantages for an organization to fund such a competition. All “proposals” focus on particular outcomes which drive innovation and bring together multiple approaches to the same problem. 

Currently DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) is running a Robotics Challenge (DRC)
for researchers. The competition recently held a semi-finalist round in south Florida where 17 teams from around the world competed. The top eight competitors received funding to continue to prepare for the final competition in December. The 25 member Florida based IHMC (Institute for Human Machine Cognition) placed second overall and first among the teams that elected to use the Atlas robot as a platform. The DRC design challenge is focused on developing robots capable of assisting humans in responding to natural and man-made disasters and meant to be extremely challenging. The first phase teams guided their robots through eight individual, physical tasks that tested mobility, manipulation, dexterity, perception, and operator control mechanisms. The 2015 final will involve a set sequence of tasks and de-graded communications between the operators and the robots. We might say that DARPA is focusing research teams to “push the same envelope” with these competitions. 

The moral of the story is that robots are not just toys for the young, but important parts of our evolving
society now infiltrating our daily lives. Students who get interested in robotics can apply their interest to a large number of applications and find themselves employed in applied technologies, or manufacturing. There are related high wage and high skill technical jobs at many levels requiring technical degrees, associate and/or bachelor degrees. For those students who love student competitions, they might be able to continue to compete at these higher levels.

FLATE is proud to partner with IHMC, Ocala to offer summer robotics camps for students in that area. Campers also compete in four different challenges during the week-long camps. They too are driving innovation and “pushing their own envelopes” to make their Lego® based bots do the impossible. At the same time, students are building strong foundations for many life skills including creativity, teamwork, decision-making, and perseverance and troubleshooting skills. 

Continuing on this path, I encourage you to read more about our upcoming summer robotics camps for students and workshops for educators in this issue of the FLATE Focus. This being a special robotics edition, we also highlight our involvement in national robotics week that FLATE is hosting, and our extended Spring robotics outreach initiatives to local schools and students. We hope you enjoy the stories. As always send us your comments, questions and thoughts at Also check your answers to last month’s sTEm puzzle AND if you haven’t already, connect with us on LinkedIn!  

Robots Transport Students to a World Beyond The Classroom

Students across the nation, be it at the secondary, or post-secondary level, are confronted with career
decisions and choices that are sometimes difficult to make, or even fathom. Regardless of the direction they venture into, exposing students to opportunities that lie outside the parameters of their immediate vicinity is an important aspect in helping them expand the range of education and career possibilities. “It is important for educators to make students aware of the world beyond the classroom and connect whatever they learn to the outside world” said Juanita Bingham, science teacher for the Polk County Pace Program. Bingham was one of the teachers who accompanied 13 girls from the Pace Center for Girls, Inc. for Polk County in Florida to attend a robotics workshop hosted by FLATE.  This was one of two hands-on robotics and manufacturing career workshops for middle and high school girls last month.

One workshop hosted high school girls for the PACE Center for Girls, Inc. from both  Hillsborough and Polk counties.  The second workshop had 19 Promise Scholars, all girls, from Van Buren Middle School in Tampa. The workshops are part of FLATE’s outreach initiative to reach out to middle and high school students, especially girls, and kindle their interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) based educational and career pathways using a robotics platform.

The robotics workshops served as an educationally enriching experience for both students as well as
teachers from both the PACE and PROMISE program. “It is nice to expose students to the college campus” said Jesilynn Drake, transitions counselor for PACE center for Girls Inc. in Lakeland, FL. Drake pointed the workshop and the curriculum was relevant and gender responsive to girls which further helped students think outside the box and connect/apply what they saw in the Made in Florida video with the outside world. During the workshop students learned how to reconfigure Lego® Mindstorms® robots and program them to follow specific commands, be part of robotic team challenges and witnessed the operation of a 3D printer. “I had seen robots only on TV; today I learned how to program one” said Marissa PACE student from Hillsborough County. “This has got me thinking about robotics” said Karla a student from Polk County PACE program who was earlier considering becoming a tattoo artist. In addition to the challenges the students also learned about lucrative STEM related careers and jobs that are available to them in Florida. “What they saw today opened their minds to a new dimension in what they can do in the future and the jobs they can pursue” said Tiffany Thomas, PACE program specialist for Hillsborough County.

Following the workshops, approximately 54% of PACE students and 84.2% of PROMISE scholars agreed
that the engineering technology experience at the workshop would help them with STEM based courses in school. “Robots are only as smart as the person who made them” stated one of the Promise scholars in the post visit survey. Another added she “learned a lot about what the technology and computer science related courses offered at Hillsborough Community College.” Approximately 85% of PACE students and 89.5% of PROMISE scholars said they would recommend the engineering technology experience to other students. “I had a great time and it would really inspire others too” said one of the PROMISE scholar from Van Buren Middle School in Tampa.

Indeed, “the general consensus among our students is an ‘ah-ha!’ moment whereby students gained a deeper perspective of the things they have yet to explore, or are worth exploring” said Bingham who brought her students for the FLATE robotics workshop for a second time.  Tiffany Thomas, PACE program specialist for Hillsborough agrees. She hopes to bring a new batch of students every semester. “It gets the students talking and thinking about their careers and the options available to them in the future” Thomas said.

For more information on FLATE’s robotics program visit and For information on the upcoming summer robotics camps and/or enrollment into the camps contact Desh Bagley, outreach manager and robotics camp director for FLATE at

sTEm–at-Work Puzzle #39 (Answer)

The Problem: sTEm puzzle #39

sTEm puzzle #39 provides an opportunity to present the characteristics of single and double stage pumps. Two stage pumps will bring the pressure to a lower value than a single stage pump. The data below provides the summary of each pump's performance. The graphic indicates that the two stage pump does not "pump" a vacuum as low as the single stage pump can accomplish. One reason for this inconsistency is that the plots are indeed mislabeled.  
Does the technician suspect that the performance data recorded below is missed labeled. YES    


National Robotics Week Open House to Spark Community Interest in STEM

As robots becomes intertwined in everyday life,  it is becoming increasingly important to have knowledge and exposure to robotics and programming. Given this emphasis on automation, robotics and programming, FLATEthe National Science Foundation regional center of excellence in Manufacturing in Tampa, is taking a leading role in hosting a region wide event to celebrate national robotics week in Tampa. As part of this effort, FLATE is partnering with local engineering and robotics clubs throughout Tampa bay to showcase applications of robotics technology in industrial and everyday settings. Educators, students, industry professionals, and anyone interested in STEM and robotics are invited to participate in this interactive event on April 11 from 3-6 p.m.. The open house will be held in the student services building of Hillsborough Community College in Brandon.

During the open house visitors will tour FLATE’s state-of-the-art high-tech manufacturing labs. Walking
through different stations, they will witness demo of electric cars built by members of Electrathon Tampa Bay. They will also get an overview of various robotics software currently used by local/regional robotics teams that compete in VEX, FLL, FTC and FRC.  Robotics team members from Middleton and King high schools are set to bring their FTC and FRC robots to showcase some “safe” and “fun” robotics action. Visitors will get the opportunity to work through mini LEGO® Mindstorms® NXT challenges involving motors and ultrasonic sensors. The challenges are coordinated by FTC teams. In addition to the tours and challenges attendees will get a first-hand look at an industrial robotic arm that are used in high-tech manufacturing settings, and get a chance to enter a sweepstakes to win a free week of FLATE’s locally/regionally acclaimed summer robotics camps.

National Robotics Week recognizes robotics technology as a pillar of 21st century American innovation, highlights its growing importance in a wide variety of application areas, and emphasizes its ability to inspire technology education. The purpose of national robotics week is to: celebrate and position the United States as a leader in robotics technology development; educate the public about how robotics technology impacts society, both now and in the future; advocate for increased funding for robotics technology research and development, and inspire students of all ages to pursue careers in robotics and other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics-related fields.

For more information, or to participate visit You can also contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at, and Desh Bagley, outreach manager for FLATE at

Turn Up the Heat & Tune into the ALL NEW and IMPROVED FLATE’s Robotics Camps

With the summer heat turning up and schools midway through the spring semester, all eyes are now turning to summer camps. Florida Advanced Technological Education (FLATE) Center, the National Science Foundation Center of Excellence for high-tech manufacturing in Tampa, will offer several robotics camps this summer. The camps, which have been offered since 2006, will feature, for the FIRST time, the all NEW Lego® Mindstorms® EV3 Robot system which combines the “versatility of the LEGO building system with the most advanced technology” that allows users to “create and command robots that walk, talk, think and program to do anything one can imagine.” (Source: LEGO®). The camps will be held in the student services building at Hillsborough Community College in Brandon, and are designed to enhance campers’ skills needed to succeed in high-tech, STEM-related careers using a modern manufacturing setting.

Cost for each, week-long camp is $175. Schedule and list of camp offerings include:
  • June 16- 20:     Introductory EV3 Robotics Camp for Middle School GIRLS ONLY!
  • June 23-27:      Introductory EV3 Robotics Camp for ALL Middle School students
  • July 7-11:         Introductory EV3 Robotics Camp for ALL Middle School students
  • July 14-18:       Intermediate EV3 Robotics Camp (A) for middle school students
  • July 21-25:       Intermediate EV3 Robotics Camp (B) for middle school students
  • July 28-Aug.1:  Robotics & Engineering Camp for ALL High School students

Each camp offers different level of challenges. During the introductory and intermediate camp, students will learn how to build and program EV3 robots and program them to follow specific commands. The high school camp provides students with higher level STEM and robotics related challenges. Campers will Solve LEGO® Mindstorms® EV3 robotics challenges through original robot design, construction and programming. Campers will also learn about additive manufacturing and see demonstrations of 3D printing. Additionally, high school campers will use CAD software to design models for 3D printing and write programs to operate the NAO humanoid robot.

Curriculum for all the camps comprises of a mixture of LEGO® educational materials that are integrated with STEM subjects and modern manufacturing, and are conducted in a competitive problem solving environment. Campers will tour various local high-tech manufacturing facilities, and develop increased critical thinking, teamwork, and communications skills. To register for the camps visit, and You can also contact Desh Bagley at

FLATE’s Executive Director to Receive SME Education Award

Dr. Marilyn Barger, principal investigator and executive director of FLATE, was recently named recipient of
the 2014 SME Education Award. The Award falls under one of the seven SME International Honor Awards that recognizes significant contributions to the field of manufacturing engineering in the areas of manufacturing technologies, processes, technical writing, education, research, management and service to SME. The SME Education Award honors the educator most respected for the development of manufacturing-related curricula, fostering sound training methods, or inspiring students to enter the profession of manufacturing

Dr. Barger has been a long standing member of SME, and serves on several national panels/advisory boards
for technical programs, cur­riculum and workforce initiatives, including the National Association of Manufacturers Educators’ Council.  As a firm advocate and leader in engineering technology education, she has more than 20 years of experience developing curricula. Most recently, Barger was instrumental in establishing the statewide A.S degree in Engineering Technology in Florida. She is a licensed engineer, a Fellow of the American Society of Engineering Education, and a charter member of the National Academy and USF’s Academy of Inventors.

Barger has been at the helm of many successes. Under her leadership, FLATE was awarded the ePIE Business/Education Partnership Award, Education Chancellor and FACC Workforce Award for innovative education programs, and three Best Practice Awards for the Engineering Technology Degree program, sTEm-at-Work puzzles and the Toothpick Factory. She has served as the Chair of the NSF ATE Centers, HI-TECH Committee, and awarded the 2010 HI-TECH Innovative Program Award.

Barger will be joining a joining a distinguished panel of honorees and will receive the Award at the SME International Awards Gala on Monday, June 9 in Detroit, Michigan.  For more information on SME visit For information on Dr. Marilyn Barger and her contributions to the engineering education community in Florida visit and