Executive Director's Desk: A New Years Resolution, Time for the Persistence Pill!

A key prescription for altering public perception of manufacturing is persistence. The number of
occasions, repetitions, and variations of the statement “Manufacturing is dirty” in addition to the public’s memory of the factory closures and subsequent unemployment in the late 20th century are constant rebuffs to occasional positive proclamations about manufacturing careers. Thus, our new year's resolution should be clear: It's time to reinforce our persistence.

Manufacturing is one of the common denominators among FLATE Focus readers. This reader knowledge and/or direct involvement in manufacturing also means the reader appreciates that persistence is always part of manufacturing. The design, production and assembly of a reliable product requires the attention to detail that only comes from the persistent, if not relentless, attention to all of the details needed to make that product a success. 

Recruiting and producing the technicians for the 21st century workforce also requires persistence. FLATE is always striving to find ways to create the culture and curriculum that will shape students into effective open-ended problem solvers for Florida's manufacturing sector, however, nationally we all have to recognize that public perception of manufacturing has significant influence on the number of students that pursue manufacturing-related technology programs.  Naturally, other factors, including aptitude for this type of hands-on work, foundational skills in mathematics, good, work-place interaction skills, and others also define ideal/successful manufacturing workforce candidates. However, not many students will seriously explore career pathways in industry sectors that have a poor image and seem to offer no long-term security.  Unfortunately, this is why manufacturing falls off students’ radars. Fortunately, manufacturing careers are high-tech, high-wage, exciting and have multiple promotion and life-long opportunities. We have great manufacturing “careers” waiting – we just have to persistently get that message out to young people, their parents and our communities.

The good news this New Years is that perceptions are changing. The Manufacturing Institute (MI) 
has conducted annual “Perception” surveys since 2009. Over four years, the survey results indicate that overall public perception about the manufacturing industry is steadily improving. The public strongly acknowledges the importance of manufacturing for our country’s security, economic comfort, and our global position. The survey report is available online

The bad news this New Year is the irony embedded in this good news. Despite knowing that manufacturing is an important industry for our future, the public is still pessimistic about the near future growth of American manufacturing. The respondents also choose the pursuit of manufacturing companies as a popular choice when asked what kind of industries they would prefer to bring to their own communities for economic growth and good jobs. The fact that American manufacturing is expanding and that there are great jobs in manufacturing just waiting for the skilled and educated technician should not continue to be one of America's best kept secrets!

The message this New Year's month is simple. It’s time to persistently reinforce the many positive images of manufacturing as a stable and growing sector with good, high-wage and high-tech jobs anytime and anywhere we can. We can do it alone, or we can do it together. Many more people have to learn and internalize the fact that manufacturing is a safe, exciting high-tech work environment that requires multi-skilled technicians who are trained and educated in the latest technologies.

Finally as a brief breather, take the time to check out the rest of this month's FLATE Focus.  We have stories and updates about upcoming robotics competitions and FLATE’s sustainability-efforts. We also have some stories from our partners at Mentor Connect and Polygon Solutions—a global leader in manufacturing. Oh yes, don't forget to check your answer to last month’s sTEm puzzle. Perhaps Rudolph still has a surprise for you!        

Gearing Up for Upcoming STEM & Robotics Competitions

The advent of a new year is an exciting time especially for students gearing up for various STEM/robotics competitions. Over the years, FLATE has supported various Technology Student Associations (TSA) which serve as launch pads for students looking to get involved in STEM, manufacturing and robotics-related projects and activities. “Many of the students who attend FLATE’s summer robotics camp have gone on to join teams or form teams” says Desh Bagley FLATE’s outreach manager who also serves as a coach for several robotics teams in the Tampa Bay area. Indeed, FLATE’s support has enabled students across Florida to participate in local, regional as well as statewide competitions that propel students to pursue advanced technology careers.

This Spring, FLATE is working with Hillsborough Community College and TechPlayzone to sponsor FIRST Lego League (FLL) competitions in Florida. FLL is a robotics program for 9 to 16 year olds (9 to 14 in US/CAN/MEX), and is designed to get students excited about science and technology, and teach them valuable employment and life skills. FLL can be used in a classroom setting but is not solely designed for this purpose.

FLATE is mentoring an ‘all girls’ FIRST Lego League Robotics team this year. Desh Bagley, will
serve as the lead coach for the Squirtle Squad Scholars, which is an ‘all girls’ team comprising of one third grader, one 4th grader and three 5th graders. “The focus of the Challenge this year is to develop World Class Learning strategies” said Bagley. For this Challenge, the Squirtle Squad Scholars, researched Rip Currents and the number of deaths associated with rip currents around the World. The girls came up with a solution to help improve the way people escape the "grip of a rip current" which they called "Breaking the Grip of the Rip." They spoke with experts at Brandon Sports and Aquatics Center and the Florida Department of Environmental Safety, and even developed a class focused on rip current swimming.

The Squirtle Squad Scholars have won numerous awards, and are among 350 teams competing at various FLL events across Florida. They will compete at a qualifying tournament on January 17 at Rushe Middle School in Pasco County. Sixteen teams from across the Tampa Bay area are scheduled to participate at the FLATE/HCC tournament on January 10 at HCC, Brandon. Following the preliminary tournament, three teams will qualify to compete at the regional tournament at Middleton High School in Tampa on January 31. More information about the teams and tournaments can be found at: http://flrobotics.org/tournaments/TournamentAssignments.htm and

In addition to FLATE’s support of FLL teams in Florida, FLATE is also actively engaged and is a leading sponsor for BizBots competitions. BizBots is a low cost, team-based business and robotics competition designed by the Florida Robotics Alliance. “This program focuses on transferable skills and stresses understanding and demonstration of the science and mathematics knowledge, technological tools, machines, instruments, materials, processes and systems related to robotics” said Ken Fiallos, P.E. & FLATE technical project coordinator.  The purpose of the BizBot program is to provide students with a foundation of knowledge and technically oriented experiences in the study of the principles and applications of robotics engineering and its effect upon our lives and the choosing of an occupation. The content and activities include the study of entrepreneurship, safety, and leadership skills.

This year’s BizBots competition are scheduled for January 17 at Wharton High School in Tampa
where eight teams from surrounding areas that include Plant City, New Tampa and South Tampa will be competing. “The focus is to expose students to what it takes to build and run a  manufacturing business from an Entrepreneurial Perspective” said Fiallos who also oversees the BizBots project in Florida.  The competition emphasizes implementing both business acumen and engineering principles by having students design a robotic ‘Pick & Place’ system to fulfill commercial processing tasks. Stay tuned for updates on these events and competitions.

For More information about BizBots read the June 2014 edition of the FLATE Focus. For information on competitions contact Ken Fiallos at Fiallos@fl-ate.org, or visit www.FloridaRoboticsAlliance.org. For information on other Career & Technical Student organizations across Florida visit http://fl-ate.org/projects/skills-usa.html, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org.

sTEm–at-Work Puzzle #44 Answer: Santa Workshop Special Edition

As a gift from Santa's Workshop there are some surprises. This puzzle is a platform for some STEM
path discussions. The one under consideration this time, is directly connected to the plot provided and the STEM idea deals with light's wave characteristics. (You can always start with light rays as a review and then move on to waves).

The plot shows that the meter responds to the short wavelength light but does not have much (if any) reading in the longer wavelength region of the spectra. The puzzle indicated that the meter is battery powered, is being used in a dark forest, and is supposed to be sensitive to red light. Since Rudolph is in good health, the meter would not be necessary if his nose did not glow at all. (They would see that right away). Thus, the question is not if his nose is "off," but if his nose is bright enough. (Remember "... " then one foggy Christmas eve, Santa came to see...") Since the meter is suggesting that his nose is "off" or almost "off", there is something wrong with the meter. Of course, the meter could just be busted, but a first corrective action, especially since it is almost time to get that sled on its way, is to change the battery. Thus, the puzzle does not have a slam dunk correct answer, but it does allow you to emphases an early, if not the first, step in electronic equipment trouble shooting! "Check power and Ground!"

The battery in the light meter needs to be changed. YES or NO

Answer: YES (you can also check your answers on www.fl-ate.org)

Evolution and Growth of Sustainability Careers at State and Community Colleges

As an increasing number of state and community colleges have stepped up their efforts to make their
campuses and programs more” green”, the number of staff positions (including coordinators, managers, directors, and chief sustainability officers), dedicated to college sustainability efforts and programs is also growing. Colleges however, do still lag far behind universities in terms of numbers of full-time positions focused on sustainability. Results of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) July 2013 “Salaries & Status of Sustainability Staff in Higher Education” report, shows an increase in University positions from 74% in 2010 to 85% in 2012.

ASHEE’s report also shows that although campus sustainability positions are relatively new within higher education, numbers are rising (this report includes Florida colleges and universities). The newness of sustainability positions can be reflected in the finding that nearly 90% of respondents have been in their current positions for five years or less. Nearly half of all respondents in 2012 were in positions created or upgraded since 2010, indicating significant growth for sustainability positions in recent years. The shift toward sustainability is clear and the increasing number of staff sustainability positions is a powerful visual indicator of this shift.

In October 2014, FLATE conducted an informal survey of college sustainability staffing and sustainability-related programs. According to the survey, of the 28 state and community colleges (with 68 campuses and 178 sites) in Florida, only two (Valencia Community College and Hillsborough Community College) have dedicated, paid sustainability positions (Director of Sustainability and Sustainability Coordinator respectively). VCC’s Office of Sustainability was established in November 2011 within the Facilities department and HCC’s Sustainability Council was established in 2009 with the coordinator position added in 2011. Other colleges have staff that carry out sustainability-related tasks such as recycling and energy efficiency measures, but these individuals are usually facilities/operations maintenance and management staff members. Sustainability-related tasks are only a small part of their positions’ responsibilities.

Without fail, all of Florida’s colleges have active student sustainability, green and/or environmental
Sustainability staff (usually coordinators)
often drive volunteer
clubs and groups dedicated to sustainability causes and educating fellow students, staff and the community about the importance of sustainability. All colleges have recycling programs and many have ridership programs to encourage students to carpool and lessen their impact on the environment, while at the same time saving money. Energy-saving practices and measures are the norm on college campuses. Eight of Florida’s colleges have Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified buildings (which promote energy efficiency, human and environmental health, and sustainable site development, among other features), and many of those that do not are planning new buildings to meet LEED standards. Seven are members of ASHEE and 12 are members of Sustainability Education and Economic Development (SEED). Many colleges have received sustainability-related awards including Hillsborough Community College. HCC was selected as “Overall Winner” of the American Association of Community College’s (AACC) Inaugural Green Genome Awards in 2012. The award is designed to identify and honor community colleges who have taken strong strategic leadership roles promoting sustainability, and green workforce development throughout their institution and community as a whole.

Creation off-campus sustainability offices are becoming increasingly more common in colleges and universities as sustainability careers continue to increase and evolve. In AASHE’s July 2013 report, survey responses showed that 67% of 2012 respondents indicated that their positions were housed in a sustainability office, compared to just 23% in 2010. Higher education sustainability-focused job announcements presented in the AASHE Bulletin in 2013, increased by 34% from 2012, supporting the upward trend in dedicated positions reported in the 2013 report. There are significant opportunities for continued growth in state and community colleges’ sustainability staffing moving into the future, and buy-in and commitment from campus administration is essential for these positions to become a reality. Some sample positions and descriptions include:

For more information on sustainability efforts, programs and staffing at Florida Colleges visit http://fl-ate.org/projects/fesc.html, or contact Nina Stokes, FLATE-FESC project manager at stokes@fl-ate.org/813.259.6587.

Cohort Information: Mentor-Connect Update

Mentor-Connect, the Leadership Development and Outreach initiative for NSF ATE 
(National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education) Centers is in year 3 of a project grant, funded and started in September 2012. To date, Mentor-Connect has formally worked with 186 faculty and administrators (122 faculty; 64 support personnel) from 61 colleges in 24 states across the United States. Nineteen skilled and experienced mentors from the ATE community have served in the one-on-one mentorship program since 2012. As a result of the mentorships and continued efforts, there have been 10 new awards made from cohort 1. We will find out in the spring and summer of 2015, which of the 18 that submitted in October, cohort 2, will receive awards for projects at their colleges. In October 2015, cohort 3 will be submitting competitive proposals to the NSF ATE program track.

In addition, Mentor-Connect is working with other faculty and administrators as well as facilitating additional outreach and technical assistance for the ATE community. Not only is the Project working with those who were accepted into its one-on-one mentorship cohorts, but also tracking and keeping data for: 1) those who applied for Mentor-Connect and were not selected (32 colleges) with approximately half requesting additional assistance from Mentor-Connect; 2) Those who are not funded by the National Science Foundation, but submitted grant proposals; 3) Those who were not funded by the National Science Foundation, but did not submit proposals, and 4) Those who have been awarded by NSF ATE as new awardees of grant funds from this program track.

FLATE is happy to congratulate two Florida colleges that have been selected to participate as
Bill Eustace NFCC APT Program
mentees in the 2015 Mentor Connect cohort. North Florida Community College will be mentored for their proposal which will focus on developing a proposal to work with district high schools to strengthen manufacturing technician training through its TAACCCT-funded Automation and Production Technology PSAV program. This free structured mentoring program’s goal is to build leadership capacity in community college faculty and to help two-year granting institutions with little to no NSF grant experience through the process of writing a competitive proposal for the NSF ATE program. The small grants for “new to NSF” category have an over 50% funding rate, and is a great way for any two-year granting college with limited grant experience to get their feet ‘wet’.  

You can learn more about Mentor Connect at www.mentor-connect.org, or contact Charlotte Forrest, project manager at 843.676.8540/Mentor-connect@fdtc.edu.

Polygon Solutions Presents Engineering Awards at Lee Virtual School

Many wonder how young people today can be positively influenced to pursue engineering careers
and fill the skills gap in manufacturing. One local, small business is not waiting, but proactively bringing middle school and high school students into their rotary broach manufacturing facility to show them the careers that are available, and give them early experiences in the industry. On Wednesday, January 72015, Polygon Solutions will present some of those students with awards from their recent engineering competition.

In October 2014, Polygon Solutions and neighbor Paver Motorcycles hosted a special Manufacturing Day event for students of Lee Virtual School in Fort Myers, FL. Manufacturing Day is a growing grassroots effort by North American manufacturers to introduce students to the new and exciting jobs available in manufacturing. Lee Virtual School hosts an online curriculum for Lee County students that enable them to work from home but still benefit from the many services available locally through the county.

The Manufacturing Day event included a manufacturing presentation, tour of the broach factory
LVIP Students at Paver Motorcycle
on MFG DAY 2014
custom motorcycle shop, and finally a manufacturing and engineering design contest. During the contest, the students were encouraged to use what they had just learned about manufacturing, and apply it the problem. This is the second year Polygon Solutions has hosted the competition, and the third year they have participated in Manufacturing Day. “There’s a tremendous amount of support for manufacturers right now,” says Peter Bagwell, a product engineer at Polygon Solutions. “We usually think of Southwest Florida for its tourism, but there are many manufacturers here. In fact, the State of Florida is one of the biggest supporters of the national Manufacturing Day event. Our local Southwest Regional Manufacturers Association and innovative members like Paver Motorcycles are really interested in helping students see that they can get good, high tech jobs without leaving the region.”

Polygon sponsors gift certificates as prizes for the contest, and most students were given unique
LVIP Students in the Shop
onMFG DAY 2014
pens during the event, which had hidden USB sticks loaded with manufacturing videos and other content. “When I was younger and involved with engineering and drafting contests in school, it really made me think a lot about my career,” says Bagwell. “The Lee Virtual School is an incredibly innovative venture and I’m really hoping that by working together we can bring some of the same inspiration to local students.”

Polygon Solutions Inc. is also a contest winner this past year. The innovative broach manufacturer won the first annual Manufacturing Day Video Contest sponsored by the National Association of Manufacturers, and plans to share the rights to an ‘American Made Movie’ it won at the ‘Made In SWFL’ trade show March 25th, 2015 at Harborside event center. Polygon credits partnership with various trade organizations for helping it to reach the national spotlight and draw attention to manufacturing.

For more information on Polygon Solutions Inc. visit www.polygonsolutions.com, or contact Peter Bagwell, product engineer at peter@polygonsolutions.com. For information on FLATE’s statewide national manufacturing day in Florida initiative visit http://madeinflorida.org/manufacturing-day, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-at.org.  

(Source of Article: Polygon Solutions Inc. official press release)