From the Executive Director’s Desk: Taking Care of Business

Last year, FLATE hosted its 11th annual National Visiting Committee (NVC) in Miramar, FL. Usually these meetings are held at an industry location somewhere in the state. This year, however, we  met at FLATE’s host institution and campus, Hillsborough Community College Brandon campus. The FLATE NVC provides advice, advocacy, assessment and assistance not just at this one strategic meeting each year, but also more informally, during the months in between. We are proud of not only the size of our committee, but also its composition of 12 dedicated individuals with interest in the state of manufacturing technician education in Florida and across the country. A typical one-and-half  to two-day meeting agenda includes a number of standard “sessions” including:
  • Reporting and updating on activities and programs during the past year 
  • Evaluation report from an external evaluator
  • Overview of a local technician program and its students
  • Visit to a local industry
  • Discussions with the Center’s NSF ATE program officer (typically this is done remotely)
  • Closed session for the NVC to discuss concerns, recommendations and plaudits
  • NVC report out to the Center Leadership and NSF program officer

This year we showcased the HCC Engineering Technology program and some of the students currently enrolled in the two year A.S. in engineering technology degree. We also visited Timbar, a local box-making facility which houses a fascinating high-tech, high-speed production facility near our campus. FLATE also invited our Tampa Bay area stakeholders to meet and interact with our NVC members on Thursday evening to share their stories of working with FLATE. Leo Reddy, Chair and CEO of MSSC addressed this mixed group and gave his view of manufacturing industry credentials and its importance in addressing current skills gap.

Every year this annual NVC meeting provides a great opportunity for us at FLATE to look back retrospectively and assess what we have accomplished in the previous year. We look for previously unidentified synergies, make improvements in processes, projects, etc., and plan for the upcoming year by identifying opportunities to scale and leverage projects, activities and partners. Of course this summing of our year’s work also lets us follow our Sterling Quality plan by providing us time to focus on things we can improve and tweak in various aspects of our work including evaluation, processes, communications, and operations. Our evaluator, Phil Centonze would say this is part of the ongoing improvement process that helps us evaluate the ideas we are considering implementing for additional impact.

We are very proud of our long-term partnership and friendship with each member of our NVC and of the committee as a whole. Several of the 12-member committee have served on FLATE’s NVC for over 10 years. The longevity of most members adds to the richness and frankness of the discussions and conversations because they are comfortable with each other, the FLATE leadership and the FLATE staff.  

The meeting is now over, but the NVC is still preparing their annual report that is directly submitted to our NSF program officer. The NVC report is one of several reporting requirements for NSF ATE Centers that together weave a picture of our progress, successes, intellectual merit and broader impacts. Next month, we will share the NVC’s recommendations and concerns, so stay tuned for additional updates.

Our work for 2016 and beyond has just begun. We start this endeavor by highlighting some of our current and ongoing projects, partnerships and events. In this edition get up-to-speed with updates from the recent Florida Career Pathways Symposium where educational leaders and practitioners discussed initiatives impacting career & technical education in Florida. We also have two stories about our new partnerships: one with FloridaMakes; the other Duoc UC in Santiago, Chile, both of which solidifies FLATE’s strategic mission to support growth of Florida manufacturing and technician education and training through exchange programs with some of our international partners.

As we draw closer to Spring we encourage you to support local robotics events. Read the article about the 2016 National Robotics week to see how you can locally participate in this national event, or tune into the piece about the Engineering Academy at Greco Middle School and learn how local schools are educating the next generation of engineers. We have a new sTEm puzzle to challenge your STEM skills this month, and a short round up on Suncoast Technical College students as they surge ahead in getting NIMS certified.

This and much more in this edition of the FLATE Focus. We love hearing from you so send us your thoughts by scribbling a few lines below each blog post. You can also connect with us socially on LinkedIn, Facebook, or tweet us @Made_InFlorida.

Florida Career Pathways Symposium Opens Dialogue on Career & Technical Education

Florida Career Pathways Network serves as a platform for educational practitioners and
leaders to collaborate on initiatives that are targeted to prepare students at the secondary and postsecondary level for the 21st century high-tech, high-skill and high-paying jobs. FCPN is considered a Principal in planning, implementing, evaluating and improving advancement of career pathways, career and technical education, and related education reform initiatives across Florida. Its cohort of members and partners that include educators, administrators, and employers have been effective in pooling extensive array of information aimed at providing a network of communication and resources for new and existing programs.

Given the scope and reach of FCPN’s outreach initiatives, FLATE is closely involved and has been a longtime member of the organization. As part of its ongoing involvement with statewide Career & Technical (CTE) programs, every year FLATE attends the FCPN symposium to share ideas and best practices, and provide professional development sessions for stakeholders and conference attendees across Florida who are involved in various aspects of CTE. This year FLATE facilitated three “best practice” sessions at the FCPN Symposium held last month in Jupiter Beach, FL.

Each of the Best Practice sessions were well attended, and evoked pertinent discussions about
the state of career and technical education in Florida and related issues. The Hillsborough County Manufacturing Academy was led by Ginger Clark, Vice President for Workforce Training at Hillsborough Community College; Roy Sweatman, Chief Executive Officer of Tampa-based Southern Manufacturing Technologies; Lauren Walden, Director for CTE program for Hillsborough County School District, and Ken Jones, Manager for Industry Strategic Initiatives for Hillsborough County. The session focused on strategic partnerships built between industry, education and workforce development agencies in Hillsborough County and how it could support strategies to increase the pipeline of talented workers for manufacturers with special emphasis in recruiting women, minorities and veterans. Attendees also learned about the award-winning statewide A.S degree in engineering technology with 10 specialization tracks developed by FLATE and offered in 19 state and community colleges across Florida, and got an overview about FLATE’s curriculum/credit credentialing activities, numerous outreach/recruitment and professional development resources geared to support and strengthen the future manufacturing workforce across the state.

The “What’s Made in Your Backyard?” breakout session featured STEM-centered, industry-

connected lesson plans for K-12 educators and included support materials for tours to high-tech industries, and resources to support technology career pathways and engage/recruit girls to STEM. FLATE provided several free giveaways intended to help raise educators’ and students’ awareness and interest in STEM. It Participants received samples of the latest “What’s Made in Your Backyard?” curriculum which is part of FLATE’s Made in Florida lesson plans for middle and high school students and educators. These FREE instructional resources provide students with real-world scenarios of high-tech manufacturing operations and manufacturers throughout Florida.

The Recruiting & Retaining Females in Engineering and Engineering Technology Programs was another panel presentation facilitated by FLATE. Panelists for this Best Practices presentation were representative of women in STEM, and included Dr. Maria Mercedes Larrondo Petrie, Associate Dean of International Affairs and Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL; Roxana Melendez, Professor of Engineering Technology at Palm Beach State College in Palm Beach, FL, and Danielly Orozco, Curriculum Manager for FLATE. The panel also included Jessica Nachtman, a female student enrolled in the AutoCAD class at PBSC.

Presentations focused on strategies, resources, successful modules, and first-hand accounts of
successful strategies used to recruit women and girls in STEM. This best practice panel considered the unique perspective of a group of female students, educators who could serve as role models for current/future women engineers. The session was punctuated by animated discussions and perspectives that extended even after the conclusion of the panel presentation. Notable remarks and feedback from the session included: “Image of STEM/engineering and engineering technician programs must change; Continue and increase resources to promote and engage females in these areas with images that attract females, even if this means using pink color or pink set of tools; help female students by creating more support organizations, tours, scholarships, mentors and child support.”

During the Awards Luncheon, Danielly Orozco, FLATE curriculum manager and each of the panelists received an Award for the Best Practices presentation. The best practice presentations are now available for download on FLATE’s Wiki. You can also access FLATE’s award-winning STEM resources on the Made in Florida website at, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, Executive Director of FLATE at

FLATE & FloridaMakes Collaborate to Advance Education & Workforce Development to Support Growth of Florida’s Manufacturing Sector

FLATE and FloridaMakes, two nationally recognized Florida organizations – one that works
directly with manufacturers and one that develops manufacturing and advanced technical education frameworks and curricula -- are developing a concerted partnership to help support the current and next generation of skilled workers for the state’s growing high-tech manufacturing sector. In a signed Memorandum of Understanding, FloridaMakes, part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center (FLATE) outlined actions aimed at furthering the market knowledge of current and future skills needed by Florida manufacturers, and using that knowledge to enhance educational curricula, as well as further the understanding by educators, students and parents of the career opportunities provided by the manufacturing sector.

“FloridaMakes is a very important partner for FLATE,” said Richard Gilbert, Principal Investigator of FLATE and Professor at the College of Engineering at the University of South Florida. “Their network of business advisors are working directly with manufacturers and the regional manufacturing associations throughout Florida. This unique insight into the current and future skills needed by Florida manufacturers will help FLATE bring the Florida College System’s manufacturing curriculum more closely aligned with manufacturers’ needs.”

As part of the Memorandum of Understanding, FloridaMakes and FLATE will also work together
to design and deliver informational webinars for manufacturers and the educational community statewide, support student opportunities to connect with and learn about manufacturing through plant tours and other events during MFG Day and month, provide access to FLATE’s Advanced Manufacturing Production e-book, an interactive tool with videos and hyperlinks designed for students, and collaborate on bringing additional resources to Florida’s State and Community College network statewide.

Florida ranks 5th in the nation for high-tech employment and is home to close to 19,000 manufacturers developing products ranging from aerospace products to semiconductors, boats and more. “In order for our manufacturing sector to prosper, it is critical to cultivate and engage a technically skilled workforce for Florida’s present and future,” said Kevin Carr, FloridaMakes CEO. “As a National Science Foundation Center of Excellence, FLATE is a nationally recognized leader in technical education. This collaboration between FLATE and FloridaMakes will support individual manufacturers, lead to high paying careers for students, and contribute to the state’s overall manufacturing and economic ecosystem.”

FLATE and FloridaMakes expect to launch their first collaborative webinars later this year. For information about FloridaMakes visit or call (407) 450-7206. For information on FLATE visit or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, Principal Investigator and Executive Director of FLATE at, (813) 259-6578 or Dr. Richard Gilbert, Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering at the University of South Florida at, (813) 974-2139.

Engineering Academy at Greco Middle School Educates Next Generation of Engineers & Problem Solvers

The Engineering STEM Academy at Greco Middle School in Tampa serves as a pillar and
platform for students to engage and explore careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM. The Academy is a “True Academic Academy” modeled after the National Career Academy Coalition standards of practice. The Academy’s predominantly engineering/career and technical education-themed curriculum promotes hands-on learning and integration of real-world experiences into the classroom.

A streamlined curriculum is part of what continues to define students’ success at Greco’s STEM Academy

where 60% of the students in 6th and 8th grade are boys; however 80% of 7th grade students are girls. “Girls bring great energy and creativity into everything they do,” and are “equal to boys” said Elizabeth Simpson, lead teacher for technology education at the Academy. “Any girl who likes math and science would be a perfect candidate for a STEM Academy like ours.” Simpson who has also served as a technology instructor for FLATE’s All Girls camp says sometimes there is a stigma about engineering programs not being a logical choice for girls. In reality female students she says bring organization to projects and focus on the criterion.

Curriculum at the Greco STEM Academy is geared for both girls and boys to excel and cultivate

an interest in STEM. It covers a wide range of engineering-themed concepts from civil engineering to robotics, each tying to mathematics, science, social studies, or language arts in some way, or other. In each of these, teachers play an integral role in formulating integrated lesson plans that enable students to make connections between various courses and their applicability in real-world settings. For example teaching at FLATE’s robotics camps enabled Simpson to design exciting challenges that are injected into in-class projects to help student think outside the box.

The 7th grade course is another great example of integrated lessons wherein students learn
about the force of water, gravitational potential, energy and water pressure in science and build a working model of a water tower during a technology class. The best towers from the school are displayed during a yearly competition hosted by the American Water Works Association. “It’s a great project that students get very excited about” Simpson said. Another favorite project-based learning is the 6th grade activity that entails learning about simple and complex machines by building catapults, or the 8th grade project that is all about robots and learning about hydraulic robotic arms, underwater robots, and LEGO MINDSTORM EV3 system. “Learning in a STEM environment is very engaging for students, and enhances students’ excitement for learning” Simpson said.

Given their exposure to a structured STEM based learning environment, graduates from GMS’s
STEM Academy are poised for success. Each year approximately 25% of students enroll into a STEM high school in Hillsborough County, with several looking to pursue a STEM/Engineering related field. It also shares a close partnership with regional organizations that are committed to students’ success in STEM-related fields. Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE serves in the GMS advisory committee. Every year FLATE also conducts student tours of the engineering technology degree lab for eighth grade students, with FLATE staff serving as judges for GMS-led STEM competitions. “Engineers are problem solvers” says Simpson. She hopes her students will use their knowledge of mathematics and natural sciences to “create and enhance technologies that benefit humanity.”

For more information on the Engineering Academy at Greco Middle School visit, contact Elizabeth Simpson at, or tweet/follow them @GrecoSTEM. For information on FLATE’s summer robotics camps and STEM related curriculum contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at, or visit and

Partnership with Chile Seeks to Expand FLATE’s International Technician Education Program

The Executive Director’s article in last month’s FLATE Focus alluded to starting 2016 with a
focus on partnerships. We are making an early headway in that direcion as FLATE struck a fresh partnership overseas with Duoc UC in Santiago, Chile, to discuss articulation processes among different educational levels, and examine pathways to develop an international internship program with FLATE/Hillsborough Community College. Duoc UC is a professional institute and technical training center, founded by the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile during the 1970's. It is one of the leading Technical & Professional Institute of higher education in Chile. With more than 90,000 undergraduate students, divided into 16 campuses over three regions of the country, Duoc UC has been quality assured for seven years by the National Education Accreditation Council. Similar to the two year, A.S degree programs in the United States, the Institution offers two and a half year technical programs and four-year professional programs in the following areas: Health, Engineering, Information Technology and Telecommunications, Communication, Design, Tourism, Natural Resources, Business Administration and Construction.

The framework for a partnership with FLATE and HCC is part of Duoc UC’s Academic

Innovation Project titled "Strategies of flexibility and curricular harmonization in a competency based education model," and is funded through a grant by the Chilean Ministry of Education and the World Bank. “We came across Florida’s articulation model between secondary, higher and post-secondary education which is of great interest to us” said Claudia Salinas, Coordinadora General de ArticulaciĆ³n/ SCT-Chile, who stated Duoc UC had been reviewing experiences and programs that had been successful in formulating an international internship program. As part of the burgeoning partnership, the Duoc UC delegation visited FLATE and Hillsborough Community College last month where they met with the FLATE and HCC leadership team and staff to discuss various strategies for developing an articulation agreement between the two institutions.

During the visit the delegation got a 360 degree perspective not only about the two year A.S

degree program in Engineering Technology (ET), related articulation agreements, but also highlights on FLATE’s current international technician education and exchange program for students. Dr. Marilyn Barger provided an overview of FLATE and the statewide, A.S. degree in Engineering Technology with a focus on Florida articulations. Dr. Richard Gilbert and Dr. Wilfred Moreno, professors at the University of South Florida and FLATE Co-Principal Investigators provided information on the longstanding FLATE and USF partnership with ISTEC, or the Ibero-American Science and Technology Education Consortium, while Miguel Garcia touched upon workforce development curriculum and programs with reference to HCC/FLATE’s partnership with Florida TRADE. The delegation also got a chance to tour HCC’s state-of-the-art engineering technology lab, the Workforce Training Center which gave them an insight into HCC’s vocational programs, and discussed objectives for developing a student mobility model HCC-FLATE-DuocUC which would ultimately build on developing an international internship program.

In the upcoming months, FLATE and HCC will continue working with DuocUC to map pathways for establishing an international internship/exchange program, similar to the one FLATE has already established with other international organizations in Europe. As the partnership develops we will be sure to bring additional updates and stories. For information visit

Side Note

In addition to the partnership with DuocUC, this summer as part of FLATE’s international technician training and education exchange program for students, Ander Goikoetxea Miangolarra, a mechanical technical engineering and industrial engineering major at ETSI University in Bilbao, Spain, will be interning at Mitek USA Inc., one of FLATE’s industry partners in Tampa who also hosted MFG Day tours in 2015. His expected date of arrival to the United States is February 15, 2016. During his six-month internship, Ander will participate in industrial engineering projects to improve plant operations. He will also work closely with Ken Jurgensmeyer, Director of Manufacturing Operations, Keila Loynaz, and Mercedes Heredia (former engineering technology graduate from HCC-Brandon) on material flow and processing of finished goods. In addition to the educational component of his internship, Jurgensmeyer and his team at Mi-Tek have planned a fun stay for Ander that includes among many others, a visit to Kennedy Space Center, Museum of Science and Industry, Everglades National Park, the Frank Loyd Wright Architecture at Florida Southern College, that “would fit an engineering field of study” said Jurgensmeyer.

For more information on FLATE’s international technician education and training programs visit and, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at

sTEm–at-Work Puzzle #51: Heater Filament Replacement

A technician that works with electronics and electric equipment is comfortable with information presented as a "Current-Voltage Curve,” an I-V curve. In this situation, the tech has to select ‘the best’ of two options (heating element HE5-1, or heating element HE5-2) as a replacement for a heating filament that has malfunctioned. The I-V curves for both of these replacement filament options are shown below. The technician also understands that a filament is a better heater when that filament has a higher resistance. Finally all technicians working with electricity in any way know that the resistance value is determined by dividing the voltage by the current.

The technician should select heating element HE5-1. Yes or NO. Submit your answers below this blog post, or on

Suncoast Technical College Surges Ahead in Getting Students NIMS Certified

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NIMS is proud to announce that it awarded a record number of credentials last year to individuals seeking to enter into or advance in manufacturing jobs. In 2015, NIMS issued 21,420 industry-recognized credentials, with 18,901 of them issued in the United States. As a result, NIMS' U.S. credentialing increased by 20% from 2014. The growth in credentialing is in part due to the support and hard work of NIMS' partner schools and businesses promoting NIMS to their students, colleagues and networks. For more information on the national data visit

Of the 440 who earned the NIMS certification in Florida, 106 were Suncoast Technical College students in Sarasota, FL. Congratulations! to all the students at STC for making great strides for being among the highest number of NIMS certificate awardees! For information on Suncoast Technical College’s machining program read their blog, or contact Ed Doherty, precision machining and CNC instructor at STC at

National Data

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Sign up for the 2016 National Robotics Week!

Mark your calendar for the 2016 National Robotics Week in April. National Robotics Week
recognizes “robotics as a pillar of 21st century American innovation” and “highlights its applications in a wide variety of areas, and emphasizes its ability to inspire technology education.” This year National Robotics week has introduced new projects and activities including a new set of the robot trading cards. Events can range from open houses and tours, FIRST Lego team demos, robotics week at schools, at museums etc.

Here in the Tampa Bay area, FLATE is partnering with HCC's Florida TRADE team to host a Manufacturing Expo and Career Fair on Thursday April 7 starting at 3 p.m. at Hillsborough Community College in Brandon. Florida TRADE Director, Miguel Angel Garcia envisions an event that exposes students, existing workers, and unemployed and/or underemployed individuals, parents and all citizens of Hillsborough County to the manufacturing industry and manufacturing careers. The event will showcase robotics as an important and widespread supportive technology in manufacturing, and witness manufacturing as the epitome of integrating STEM concepts in its everyday work. Educators, students, industry professionals, robotics clubs, or anyone interested in robotics and manufacturing is invited to participate in this interactive and informative events. Another highlight of the program on April 7 will feature a talk by Leo Reddy, Chair and CEO of the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council, on the importance of validated industry credentials in closing the skills gap. 

FLATE will be posting more information about National Robotics Week events in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned for more information. For the FLATE-HCC Florida TRADE event contact Miguel Angel Garcia at You can also contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at, or visit, or National Robotics Week