From the Executive Director’s Desk: A Focus on Work-Based Learning

On Wednesday, February 25, FLATE participated in a half day forum focused on Work-Based Learning hosted by Johnson & Johnson Vision Care (Jacksonville) and sponsored by the National Association of Manufacturers Manufacturing Institute. More than 60 people attended including representatives from the Florida TRADE consortium, state and community colleges, regional industry workforce development and others. The Manufacturing Institute provided some national data about the current and future skills gap for manufacturing. This information underscored the huge need for educated and trained professionals to service the manufacturing workforce in the next decade. CareerSource Florida provided similar information about this skills gap in Florida. Following those brief introductory remarks to set the stage, the audience heard from small and large manufacturers about their needs and work-based learning programs. Allowing that many manufacturers have college programs for engineering and science interns, the conversation quickly turned to the technical workforce below the four-year professionals.

In Florida, the growing complexity of the manufacturing workforce is constantly lowering the technical employment opportunities for unskilled workers.(Opportunities manufacturers relied on for decades.) The focus of the next panels was how to get a simple message to young people that “there are great and exciting skills-focused jobs and careers in manufacturing waiting for you after a couple years of post-secondary education and/or training.” We just have to get students to buy into this fact. Johnson and Johnson Vision Care, a large multi-national company and Metal Essence, a small Florida-based company, related their new experiences with partnering with schools and colleges to provide on-the-job experiences as well as  lessons learned and plans for the future. Most importantly, Al Stimac from Metal Essence summarized the Florida statute that deals with high school students as related to work they can do and the limitations on the number of hours worked without added company investment and liability.

A panel of educators closed this Work-Based Learning Forum with details on specific case
studies across the Florida workforce spectra that included high school, dislocated and incumbent worker training, and traditional A.S. technical programs. From these studies and other efforts from FLATE, it is clear that Florida has a continuum of work-based learning activities from early exposure through company tours, classroom speakers, job shadowing through technical workplace experience as manifested with some kind and level of internships, to registered apprenticeships. Along this continuum there is always a requirement for commitment, context, and contracts. As more and more companies (as documented in Florida with the annual increase of participants on Manufacturing Day)  open their doors to tours, they are becoming more open to taking the next step of hosting college and high school interns.

In 2013, FLATE Focus ran a series of articles about work-place learning, digging into the details of the very formal registered apprenticeships, the variety of internships, and internship-like programs, and the more informal part-time jobs.  You can view the Work-Based Learning Forum Agenda here: You can also find out more about Florida Child Labor Laws in this easy to read ‘Question and Answer’ format: Child Labor Laws Frequently Asked Questions by Educators   

Please take a little additional time and check out the rest of the stories in this month's FLATE Focus including the answer to last month's sTEm-at-work puzzle. Of course, if you are in Florida, don't forget to put a bit of spring training baseball into your "Things to do in March" bucket list. 

Robots are Coming to Brandon!

Summer is sure to be fun with FLATE offering several robotics and engineering camps this
summer. Middle and high school students here in the Tampa bay area and throughout Florida have the option to choose from various options to whet their STEM appetite, with a special “Girls Only” camp to kick off the season. The five day camps have always been a challenging, yet fun way for campers to learn the applications of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics through hands-on activities that focus on real-world skills in programming robots, learning about cutting edge technologies like 3D printing and how these concepts are integrated and applied in high-tech manufacturing operations across the state.

Since the advent of FLATE robotics camps in 2007, the program, both in terms of the number of camp offerings locally and regionally, and the curriculum, has greatly evolved. For the past two years, FLATE has started using the Lego® Mindstorms® EV3 robots, where campers have the opportunity to build and program an EV3 robot to further augment and enhance their understanding of STEM and robotics. Camps for the Tampa Bay area will be held at Hillsborough Community College in Brandon. Cost for the intro and intermediate camp is $175 per week; cost for the high school engineering and technology camp is $200 a week.

This year’s schedule and list of camp offerings include:

June 20-24:                  Introductory EV3 Robotics Camp for Middle School GIRLS ONLY!
June 27-July 1:            Introductory EV3 Robotics Camp for ALL Middle School students
July 11-15:                  Intermediate EV3 Robotics Camp for ALL Middle School students
July 25-29:                  Engineering Technology Camp for High School Students

The camps have historically been a fun, educational way to “hook” students and get them excited
about STEM and manufacturing with each camp offering different level of challenges. Enrollment into the   introductory camp requires no prior knowledge, or experience in robotics, or programming. The intermediate camp however, requires some basic knowledge on how to program robots. Both the intro and intermediate camp are geared to teach students the basics of EV3 robots and how to program them. During the camp, students will learn how to build the LEGO® Mindstorms® EV3 robots and program them to follow specific commands. They will be part of several ‘robotic team challenges,’ learn design techniques using software programs, see demonstrations of a 3D printer, and write programs to operate the NAO robot.

Scholarships are available for Girl campers with preference given to girls enrolled in the All Girls camp. The Suncoast Credit Union Foundation is once again partnering with FLATE to provide scholarships for girls from low-income families to attend the All Girls camp. To qualify for the scholarship as well as apply for any of the camps throughout this summer, please fill out the registration forms that are currently posted on the FLATE Camps page.

The high school camp offers an invigorating STEM-ultimate experience and offers different level
of challenges to campers compared to the intro and intermediate camps. During the camp, students will use Solidworks and CAD to design a functional robotic arm. They will engage in 3D printing process using additive manufacturing techniques, and learn to program an Arduino microprocessor to operate servo motors. Students will gain an understanding about electronics and precision needed for building robots, learn entrepreneurial skills used by successful business owners and tour a local advanced manufacturing facility.   This year, Hillsborough County is providing scholarships for the High School camps for low income high school students. 

Thanks to a grant from Hillsborough County, scholarships are also available for students interested in enrolling in the high school camp. Students from low income families, and/or those participating in a free and reduced lunch program are eligible to apply for the high school camp scholarship. A camp T-shirt, supplies and curriculum will be provided for all students and is included in the registration fee. More information on the high school camps, applications and scholarship are posted online on the FLATE Camps website.

In addition to the robotics camp in the greater Tampa Bay area, FLATE will also be offering camps at
St. Petersburg College in St. Petersburg, FL, at Marion Technical Institute in Ocala, Peterson Academy in Jacksonville, North Florida Community College in Madison and other locations as well. Information on the camps at St. Petersburg College in Pinellas County and Marion Technical Institute are posted on the FLATE website under “Other Robotics Camps,” scroll to the bottom of the page to get more information about the application process and dates of the camp. We will post more information about the other camps across the state as dates get finalized. Additionally, FLATE worked with contractors to develop a comprehensive summer camp curriculum. The curriculum package for the intro and intermediate camps includes all challenges, lessons, and PowerPoints needed to run a five day camp, and is now available free of charge on FLATE’s Wiki

For more information on FLATE’s 2016 Robotics and High School Technology camps visit, and For camp registration and general inquiries contact Janice Mukhia at and Dr. Marilyn Barger at

Engineering Technology Experience Tours Set To Spark Students’ Interest in Engineering & Manufacturing

Every year, FLATE invites Hillsborough County middle and high Schools with Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, to visit the Hillsborough Community College (HCC) Engineering Technology program and labs, housed on the college’s Brandon Campus.

The tour experiences are hosted by FLATE staff and HCC faculty and usually last 1.5 - 2 hours. After a
Sligh Middle Magnet ET Experience Tour, 2015
tour of the ET labs, including “hands-on” activities and equipment demonstrations (e.g. robotic arm, 3-D printing NAO robots), the experience wraps up with a discussion about manufacturing careers, educational pathways and credentials. The School District of Hillsborough County is providing transportation for the students to and from HCC. All other costs will be covered by a grant from Hillsborough County.

So far, three schools (Middleton Magnet High School and Greco, Buchanan and Marshall Middle Schools), are scheduled for ET Experience tours in March and April. Please contact Nina Stokes, FLATE Project Manager at, or (813) 259-6587, if you are interested in scheduling a tour for your students.

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

Yet another puzzle with the same math theme:  The straight line and its slope .  However, this time the technician is working with a graphic that provides slopes that are the inverse of the way high school typically presents that information.  This is not an uncommon situation, so it is important that when dealing with slopes students have an understanding of what the slope is saying and what the inverse of the slope is saying.   In this puzzle, high resistance (impedance) means more heat. The resistance is determined by Voltage/Current calculations.  The graphic presents the results from Current/Voltage calculations.  Thus, high magnitude values for slopes on the I/V plots below classify wires with low resistance.  This means that if the same voltage is applied across Heating Element HE-5-1 and Heating Element HE5-2, filament HE5-1 will give off less heat.  This is not the optimal selection if you want the most heat possible from the filament selection.

Question: The technician should select heating element HE5-1.  YES or NO       

Answer: NO 

Mechatronics Moments & Roadmap to Building a Community of Practice

In the fall of 2015, FLATE started an informal monthly Mechatronics Community Exchange
(MCE) as monthly conference calls for a few mechatronics focused faculty across the country. Growing out of the FLATE sponsored annual HI-TEC conference “Mechatronics Moments” reception the regular exchange is becoming a real Community of Practice with participants sharing questions about curriculum, equipment, applications, certification, alignment with Fab Lab activities and many other related topics. The MCE can potentially help new programs in their start-up phases, existing programs upgrade equipment and curriculum as well share tips about how best to help students meet their learning objectives.

Although in its infancy, the MCE is planning its future in hopes to:
  • Identify critical topics or issues important to Mechatronics program practitioners
  • Provide inbound delivery of Mechatronics resources, techniques and expertise to enrich program startups and major enhancements to improve practitioner productivity
  • Integrate MCE with other FLATE Mechatronics offerings
  • Become a facilitated forum to identify related needs and the means to fulfill them
  • Provide a portal for selected resources and curriculum for program practitioners using concierge support model
  • Be a vehicle for program practitioners to share their programs, resources and ideas via a central repository and regular communication
Last month’s call, for example, highlighted the new Mechatronics Program at Gateway
Technical College (WI). Greg Chapman shared photos of his PLC and electronics workstations as well as his other laboratories. Engaged discussions ensued about how and what is available from various vendors and how equipment is set up, integrated, and organized for student use and learning. Next month we anticipate an overview of the South Central College (MN) program’s portable “kits” developed by their NSF ATE iMEC project. In the months ahead, FLATE hopes to transform the MCE learning pilot into: an ongoing sponsored program; refine the MCE model and best practices; selectively add new MCE partners; document the monthly MCE teleconferences, and evaluate the project’s impact.

Learn more about this MCE Community of Practice, and if you are interested in joining the MCE contact Jim Janisse, project coordinator  at, or FLATE, Executive Director, Dr. Marilyn Barger  

FLATE Awardee Soars Ahead in Affecting Positive Changes in Manufacturing Education

The spotlight this month is back on FLATE Awardees. Back in 2015 we started an effort to bring updates on past FLATE awardees and highlight some of the work that they continue to do to impact technician education and training regionally and on a statewide level. As FLATE’s Awards program, the Distinguished Manufacturing Service and Recognition program has transitioned and FLATE has moved to a new system for nominating awardees, this month we are highlighting another FLATE awardee who was named the Manufacturing Secondary Educator of the Year in 2011.

Back in 2011, Greg McGrew stood as “A Testament to Florida’s High-Tech Future” with more
than 25 years of experience teaching engineering technology related courses. “It’s a win, win in education” said McGrew who believes “if we train our students to go out, be productive in our community, and prepare them as the future workforce of our county, the student, the community and the economy everyone stands to benefit from it.” Back in 2011, McGrew was a teacher at Lakewood Ranch High School in Bradenton, FL, and had been teaching at the school since it opened in 1998. Under his leadership and direction, Lakewood Ranch High School was among the leading schools in Florida with one of the highest rate of students taking and passing the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) certification.

After approximately 18 years at Lakewood Ranch High School, McGrew transitioned and has now moved into a new role that is more administrative in nature. He is currently the program supervisor at Manatee Technical College (MTC) in Bradenton, FL, and has served in that capacity since summer of 2015. “With my background in vocational, and career and technical education, it was a stepping stone for me to take on this position” said McGrew. From dealing with students, faculty, or classes, his responsibilities include overseeing the entire operations at MTC.

McGrew works closely with MTC’s Assistant Director, Dr. Vines, and Director, Doug Wagner to offer several manufacturing related courses at MTC. “Anyone be at an educator, or an industry professional would tell you that the MSSC is highly valued in various aspects” said McGrew. As a strong advocate for hands-on education and training he firmly believes an industry certification like the MSSC gives students a competitive edge. McGrew believes ability to read blue print, use SolidWorks, CAD and drafting, and implementing safety standards, all of which are part of the MSSC certification “affords students with additional skillset that are important in manufacturing operations.”

In addition to professional changes, McGrew has secured additional accolades. “I was really excited to be involved with FLATE’s initiatives, and to be recognized on a statewide level” said McGrew of his Award in 2011. Since then he has continued to be involved in Career and Technical education on a broader level. In 2012 he invited one of his students from Lakewood Ranch to serve as a panelist to give a first-hand account about the MSSC certification at the National Career Pathways Network conference in Orlando. He was and continues to be highly involved with the Technology Student Association (TSA). In 2013 he was named “Advisor of the Year for Florida.” He received the award at the 36th Annual TSA National Conference in Washington, DC. “It was a great honor to be recognized at that level for something that teachers all across Florida are already doing in their schools and classrooms” McGrew said. 

Looking to the future, retirement is certainly not in the forecast as McGrew is aiming high in
continuing to affect positive changes in manufacturing education. He says manufacturers across the country are looking for workers with the right skills set, and for technicians who have hands-on experience combined with at least two year degree and industry certifications. McGrew views this as an area where FLATE and the local/statewide manufacturers can work together. “FLATE is headed in the right direction in leading key manufacturing initiatives across the state.” He pointed to FLATE’s stakeholders’ dinner that he recently attended as an example of an opportunity that helped him reconnect and network with professionals. These industry connections and partnerships are the kind of opportunities that McGrew states are valuable to his students at MTC to tap into to network with industry professionals. “Only time will tell what the future holds” says McGrew as he looks to explore his entrepreneurial side to open a manufacturing business that is focused on 3D printing, or laser technology.

For more information on Greg McGrew and manufacturing/Career and Technical Programs at Manatee Technical College visit, or email For information on the FLATE awards, and to submit a nomination FLATE’s read the January edition of the FLATE Focus, or visit

Engineering Expo Brings Engineers and STEM Ideas Alive

The engineering expo at the University of South Florida is a yearly event that seeks to educate K12
students about the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM. The Expo is a free two-day event and features hands-on exhibits and shows that encourage students to explore STEM-based fields. The event offers a fun and unique opportunity for students across Tampa Bay and the central Florida to interact with local engineers and engineering student organizations at USF. FLATE has always participated at the Expo as it serves as an effective outreach mechanism to reach out to local students and educators, and inform them about FLATE’s STEM programs for middle and high school students as well as manufacturing jobs and career paths.

This year the Engineering Expo hosted approximately 14,000 students, youth groups and families. There
were large demos and shows presented by local engineering firms. FLATE was there at the expo, and featured a gamut of displays that piqued many a students’ interest. The FLATE team included Dr. Marilyn Barger, Dr. Richard Gilbert and Danielly Orozco. It was a learning experience for FLATE student assistants Alejandro Rojas and Elizabeth Duran who were also on site to promote FLATE’s STEM programs. Rojas who is currently pursuing an A. S degree at Hillsborough Community College and intends to major in mechanical engineering stated the Expo helped sharpen his communication skills as he helped students design buttons while answering questions about the applications of STEM concepts in each of the activities. Visitors to the FLATE booth also learned about manufacturing careers, free online lesson plans, manufacturing video and curriculum.

The “FLATE Wheel of Fortune” was once a hit as students and visitors to the booth attempted to answer
trivia questions on Florida manufacturing. The hands-on button making activity facilitated by FLATE student assistants was hugely popular as students formed a constant line to try their hand in button making while applying manufacturing concepts. A total of 200 badges were made during the Expo! FLATE staff also shared information with teachers about the engineering technology program at Hillsborough Community College and at 18 state and community colleges across Florida. The Expo’s mission to “provide safe, entertaining, and educational exhibits to visitors so that they become more passionate and more involved in engineering, and show them how STEM affects the world around them” was fully accomplished as groups of excited and engaged students asked lots of questions, while touring exhibits and taking part in interactive activities and contests.

For more information on the engineering expo visit For information on local engineering technology programs at Florida high school and two/four year colleges visit, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at

Local Students Score Big Wins at Regional & Statewide Robotics Competitions

The Tampa Bay area just keeps producing some excellent robotic programs. Earlier last month, the Tampa Bay area played host to three championship robotics tournaments. Over 300 students from Central West Florida and the Grand Cayman Islands competed at Hillsborough Community College’s inaugural FIRST LEGO League Regional Robotics Championship last month. Winning teams qualify for the State Championship to be held May 7.

The VEX Statewide Championship was held at the Florida fairgrounds. Congratulations to our area VEX winners moving on to VEX Worlds. They include students at Coleman Middle School in Tampa who took home the VEX IQ Teamwork Champion's Award and a homeschool team from Pasco County, Trinity Robotics, which advanced to Worlds as part of the Winning Alliance as well as receiving the Skills Award in both categories. If you haven't checked out the new VEX platform, put that on your off season list this summer!

On the same day, the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics program held its Florida State
Championship at St. Leo University in Pasco County. Congratulations to FTC Masquerade from Middleton High School for once again winning the Florida State Championship and setting a new World Record Score. In addition to proving to be the best performing team in the state, the Middleton High School teams also mentored other teams by making an early season video about their robot build, literally helping many rookie teams get a robot on the field this season. FIRST prides itself on having teams that not only strive for success, but also inspire other teams to be successful as well. FTC Masquerade as well as FTC Maelstrom, from Middleton High School, both qualified to compete at the FIRST World Championship in St. Louis, MO in April.

Additionally, the Central West Florida FIRST LEGO League region held its championship robotics tournament at Hillsborough Community College, Plant City campus.  The winning team, LEGO Masterz, a community team from Tampa, will represent the Central West Florida region at the International FIRST LEGO League Invitational in Carlsbad, California at Lego Land.

A regional qualifier for FIRST Robotics Challenge was held in Myrtle Beach Florida on February 27-28th
for FRC teams hoping to qualify for the World Championship!  FRC Team 1369 from Middleton High School was captain of the winning alliance qualifying their team to compete in St. Louis, MO at the FIRST World Festival.  If you are reading closely, you understand that three robotics teams from Middleton High School will be traveling to the largest robotics championship in the world in April. Middleton Magnet High School is also now the first public high school in Hillsborough County, FL, to offer its students the opportunity to earn a Varsity Letter in Robotics. Congratulations to Principal, Kim Moore and her outstanding staff for providing quality mentoring and robotics engineering education to students at Middleton.

Robotics season is not quite over in the Tampa Bay Area. Thanks to sponsors like the Suncoast Credit Union Foundation and the Florida High Tech Corridor, the FIRST LEGO League Statewide Championship will be held on May 7, 2016 at HCC’s Dale Mabry Campus.  Statewide teams will compete for the State Championship title.

“Robotics is a sport for the 21st century. The skills students can learn, including teamwork, collaboration
and problem solving, are the same as those learned in other sports, but unlike most sports, robotics provides all students – no matter their background, or physical ability – the opportunity to become a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) professional,” said FIRST President Donald E. Bossi. “That’s why FIRST believes all states should recognize the hard work of students, coaches and mentors with statewide support.” For more information about robotics in education and the FIRST robotics programs, contact Desh Bagley, FLL Affiliate Partner at HCC at For information on FLATE’s local and statewide robotics camps this summer visit, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at

(This article was contributed by Desh Bagley, FLL Affiliate Partner at HCC)