Around the Country in 30 Days: Updates from the Executive Director on STEM Events

There is no shortage of focus on Workforce Education around the country and within the NSF ATE community. Not only have we been busy here in Florida attending and presenting at the ET Forum, the grand opening of the Manufacturing Alliance of Hillsborough County, regional scholarship golf tournaments and meetings hosted by Regional Manufacturers Associations, SkillsUSA Florida (see article) and the Florida Engineering Education Conference, but we have been busy across the country. Take a walk through my April out-of-state events where I found some best practices to bring home to Florida and shared many of our own best practices with others.

MODEX EXPO 4/7-8 Atlanta

FLATE visited MODEX, referred to as “"the Greatest Supply Chain Show on Earth" held at the 

Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. MODEX Student Days is hosted by several well-known supply chain, material movement associations and their foundations to expose students to the careers and opportunities in this growing field that is increasingly using more mechatronics systems like we have already seen growing in manufacturing and production companies. After one day in the massive exhibit hall and listening to speakers, the students toured several nearby facilities to see implementations first-hand. 

Educators were bused to tour of the Norfolk Southern Training Center on the outskirts of the Atlanta metro area. The training center was amazing in size and scope. Training programs (apprentice like) for various railroad technical employees takes place at the facility from engineers, conductors, mechanics, and more. All office personnel and administrators also learn how to put the giant train engines together and make minor repairs. It was a fascinating experience as we learned a lot about running a railroad, the job opportunities, and training programs, as well as the company’s philosophy and investment in its future workforce.

Early in April, FLATE partners participated in a panel discussion at the American Association of

Community Colleges (AACC) in Chicago, IL. The conference is “the go-to place” for college administrators and educators at all levels involved in all aspects of community colleges, including workforce education. Dr. Barger, FLATE Executive Director and P.I was joined by Dr. Nancee Sorenson, President of the HCC Brandon Campus (host of FLATE Center), Terry Iverson, President of Iverson & Company, FLATE’s National Visiting Committee (NVC) chairperson and Dr. Celeste Carter, Program Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technological Education program.

The Panel “NSF Support for Community Colleges - Community College Leaders Address the Benefits and Challenges of Leading STEM Technician Efforts” focused on some tough questions on: the value to colleges for hosting national and regional efforts when their missions are more local; funding high cost technical programs; engaging students in high-technology technician career pathways, and building and sustaining partnership with industry.

AMTEC and CARCAM NVC meetings 4/13-15 Hammond, IN; Lincoln, AL
AACC was followed by participation in two National Visiting Committee meeting. The AMTEC 
NVC meeting was hosted by the Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation (CIVS) at Purdue Northwest. CIVS is developing a training simulation for AMTEC that aligns to their automotive manufacturing curriculum modules and equipment. We got to explore the many worlds of virtual and augmented reality and its uses for education and training as well as research. 

Just a day later during the CARCAM NVC, we toured the new Honda Engine plant in Lincoln, AL. This amazing place is filled wall to wall with nearly 100 robots building and assembling Honda engines. The bright, clean and new facility is now producing all the engines for the vehicles produced there in Lincoln, AL. Along with the review meeting at both NVC’s these visits with partners help tell the stories of the NSF ATE Centers in ways words cannot. I wish I could share a photo of the Honda Engine Plant.

NWFMC member meeting 4/20 Pensacola
FLATE presented an overview of FLATE center activities and project at the Northwest Florida 

Manufacturing Council (NWFMC) member meeting on April 20 at Pensacola State College. Also presenting at this meeting were FLATE education and outreach partners: Leo Reddy, Chairman and CEO of MSSC, Kevin Carr, President of FloridaMakes, and Ted Norman, State Supervisor for Engineering & Technology Education. Over fifty attendees also heard from the Japanese Consulate, regional updates of educational activities and met students in the new manufacturing high school programs. The highlight of the meeting was the tour of Pensacola State College’s machining labs where the high school students were introduced to the amazing capabilities of multi-axis CNC machines, by Mike Cannon, Machining instructor at Pensacola State.

CCTA Webinar 4/28 “Highlights of Resources of NSF ATE Manufacturing Centers”
On April 28, as the host/organizer of a CCTA (Collaborative Centers for Technical Assistance) webinar, FLATE assembled six manufacturing focused ATE regional and support centers to participate in this lightning round presentation about our leading resources. It was fun to collaborate on this fast-paced, and well-received webinar. You can access the slide deck and recording on the ATE Centers website and at

Manufacturing Summit 3.0 at Virginia Western Community College 4/29 Roanoke
I closed the month with the Mechatronics program at VWCC, participating in a career coach

workshop and their growing annual Manufacturing Summit 3.0. This annual event is the brainstorm of Dan Horine, mechatronics faculty at VWCC and P.I. of an NSF ATE grant to grow that program by building strong connections with industry and the regional high schools. Approximately 75 attendees heard updates about the VWCC program, engaged in shared discussions and toured both the mechatronics lab and program’s new FabLab that are used to engage students before, during and after they technical degrees. Find out more about this state-of-the-art program at

A busy Spring has heralded another challenging and fun summer for us at FLATE. I invite you to read the rest the May edition of the FLATE Focus which highlights additional stories about events that are coming up later this summer. Our summer camp season is already upon us. For those of you in the Tampa Bay area and in Florida who have middle and high school students in your family, sign them up for one of our camps! April was also that time of the year when the Manufacturing Institute recognizes women in STEM across the country. Skim through this year's list of awardees in Florida and stay tuned for follow-up stories on these amazing women who continue to make their mark in STEM education and training. We also have several updates from SkillsUSA Conference, the STEM professional event at Middleton High School in Tampa and a summary of insightful recommendations from Leo Reddy, Chairman and CEO of the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council, for Florida manufacturers.

We also want to extend warm congratulations to all the engineering technology graduates across Florida. As you step our into the world, may you twirl up to the stars on the wings of success. This and many more stories in this edition of the FLATE Focus. Send us your thoughts and comments via email (, or connect with us socially on Facebook, Linkedin, or Tweet us @Made_InFlorida using the hastag of the month #ETGrads. 

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