The NSF ATE program is shining bright in Florida

Are you thinking of a “belated” New Year’s resolution?  Want to: improve one of your advanced technology associate degrees; start a new technical program; provide needed faculty professional development; add new courses; or recruit more women into your program?  If so, you should consider submitting a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education (NSF ATE) program! The next submission date is OCTOBER 5, 2018.  Right now, in early January, as the new year begins and many of us start a new semester on campus is the perfect time to start working on a proposal idea.

Typically, NSF ATE proposals are developed to address one or more of the needs a technical college program might have.  Over the past decade, the number of active NSF ATE awards at Florida state and community colleges has grown significantly.  Currently 21 projects and centers are funded at 13 of our 28 state and community colleges.  There are also four ATE grants housed at our state universities but each of these grants involve a number of state and community college partners.  Not included in this “count” are several other Florida college that have recently completed a NSF ATE grant project.

 Perhaps the most important ingredient for NSF ATE's  success, is the fact that NSF ATE program officers, principal investigators, project partners, and stakeholders represent a real and effective Community of Practice. This community is built on trust, helping, and sharing.   One of my personal goals since FLATE was initially funded has been to help all our colleges develop, write, submit, and be awarded a grant from NSF ATE.  If you have an idea for a proposal FLATE will work with you.  You can find out more about what these (and other) projects are doing on the NSF ATE website.

 Highlighted below are some key interest areas of the ATE program, directly from the program synopsis posted on Please consider joining the faculty from many other Florida state and community colleges who now enjoy funding from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program.  You are guaranteed a personally and professionally invigorating experience.  NSF ATE Centers, including FLATE, are here to help; so contact me, or any other ATE Center.
With an emphasis on two-year colleges, the Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program focuses on the education of technicians for the high-technology fields that drive our nation's economy. The program involves partnerships between academic institutions and industry to promote improvement in the education of science and engineering technicians at the undergraduate and secondary school levels. The ATE program supports curriculum development; professional development of college faculty and secondary school teachers; career pathways; and other activities. The program invites research proposals that advance the knowledge base related to technician education. It is expected that projects be faculty driven and that courses and programs are credit bearing although materials developed may also be used for incumbent worker education.
The ATE program encourages proposals from Minority Serving Institutions and other institutions that support the recruitment, retention, and completion of students underrepresented in STEM in technician education programs that award associate degrees. NSF is particularly interested in proposals from all types of Minority Serving Institutions (including Hispanic Serving Institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions) where the proportion of underrepresented students interested in advanced technology careers is growing."

Despite having been an active NSF ATE Center for over 13 years, we at FLATE are always looking for ways to increase the impact of our programs and activities.
Technical program face new challenges and mandates all the time but our ATE community works together, even across disciplines, to get whatever job done, done well with each of us contributing what we do best and always looking for improvements.  We celebrate our individual and group successes together. We mentor and nurture each other and newcomers to the community. All of this provides fertile ground for personal growth and seeds for innovation. It is truly an honor and privilege to be part of such a warm and generous community.

  So, back to the "belated" resolution list.  Start your new year off right and think about an ATE project proposal for your program and: keep up to date with the rest of our FLATE FOCUS stories on recent and upcoming events, points to ponder, and news from across our network and across the country.  And, of course, check out the sTEm puzzle answer to see if the Grinch's lawsuit was dismissed.  

Douglas L. Jamerson Elementary School: An Example of Excellence

FLATE's focus on manufacturing excellence is fueled by its NSF ATE funding support to build two-year degree advanced technical education programs that effectively contribute to Florida's advanced manufacturing workforce.  The FLATE partnership and merger with FloridaMakes represents a mechanism to expand this advanced manufacturing workforce creation to impact all of the pathways to workforce excellence. D.L. Jamerson Elementary School, a full-service school in St. Petersburg Florida, demonstrates our model curriculum that foreshadows this continuum of workforce development efforts.

A detailed examination of their website,, is recommended however, their Vision and Mission statements will provide a quick peek.   

Coincident with FLATE's foundation in 2003, the Pinellas County School District was faced with a poor performance elementary school that needed immediate and drastic attention.  Together with the school district, a proposal to create a completely new curriculum that used mathematics and engineering principles as instructional components in every topic in every class room was funded by the Department of Education Magnet Schools of America program. Our work in that curriculum began then and its impact is demonstrated now.

The Jamerson education platform is interwoven into all of their lessons and activities. Over this coming year we will highlight some of their work. However, for today, the following string of visual salutes provide reminders of their excellence and set the stage for future FLATE FOCUS submissions. 

The U.S. Department of Education Magnet Schools of America program provides support to hundreds of school districts across the country. The program supports capacity development–the ability of a school to help all its students meet more challenging standards–through professional development and other activities that will enable the continued operation of the magnet schools at a high-performance level after funding ends. Finally, the program supports the implementation of courses of instruction in magnet schools that strengthen students’ knowledge of academic subjects and their grasp of tangible and marketable vocational skills. The program also supports a competitive and rigorous award system that recognizes excellence within its supported school districts. As indicated within their Mission statement summary, D.L. Jamerson continues to receive the Magnet School Excellence Award, however, Jamerson is also the first school in Pinellas County School District, one of the 10 largest school districts in the country, to receive the distinction of a Certified National Magnet School.

In addition to its "A" Florida School grade, the Florida Department of Education also recognizes D.L. Jamerson with a Five Star School Award.  This award was created by the Commissioner's Community Involvement Council and is presented annually to those schools that have shown evidence of exemplary community involvement. Total school commitment to student, parent, and community is also reflected in Jamerson's PTA awards.   These awards now include the National PTA School of Excellence award since 2016.

An additional sign of excellence is recognition by professional organizations within your peer group. For decades the Future of Education Technology Conference gathers creative education professions from around the world for an intense and collaborative exploration of new technologies, best practices, and education pressing issues.  This conference also supports a national STEM Excellence award to recognize excellence and innovation in STEM education at the primary, middle, and high school levels, with winners selected from each level. D.L. Jamerson is a recipient of one of these awards.

In summary, D.J. Jamerson Elementary School is a vigorous supporter and conveyer of engineering based instruction. The premise that this approach as a systemic school curriculum platform will produce a school environment that academically benefits its students has been demonstrated. However, this is a rigorous and long term academic pathway that has a strong "all or nothing" commitment requirement. If we have sparked your interest check out future FLATE FOCUS issues. If we have triggered your impatience at that information transfer pace, just e-mail for immediate response to your queries.

Manufacturing Excellence in Florida (part 1)

Florida’s manufacturing future is bright if we can get all of the puzzle pieces to fit!  Perhaps the easiest part of the picture is the upgrade of manufacturing facilities to meet today's advanced manufacturing mission. Of course, "easy" is a relative term and this time the word reflects the component of manufacturing excellence that the manufactures actually have a "handle" on. They know the technologies that they want to insert into their manufacturing processes. They know the advantages and challenges that advanced manufacturing creates and they know why it is crucial to push their processes to new technologies and procedures. The "hard" part is reflected in the reality that the manufacturers alone cannot create the workforce that optimally complements the advanced technologies being inserted into the manufacturing environment. This reality plus the fact that the workforce talent pool they will draw from must have candidates that demonstrate a depth and breadth of knowledge and skills defined by the demands of various advanced manufacturing equipment technologies.   
FLATE is using NSF awarded Advanced Technological Education program funds to shift its core mission functions into FloridaMakes to address the challenges generated by the need to have a highly talented manufacturing workforce pool. At this point, four target mechanisms have been identified as key elements in creating this talent resource:

·      Work-based Learning
·      Internship & Apprenticeships
·      Skill Certification
·      Talent Pipeline Development.

It is also clear that emphasis on the first three, Work-based Learning, Internships & Apprenticeships, and Skill Certification, is not within the typical view of an education institution perspective. Instead, most institutions focus their talent pipeline development activities on four-year degree career paths.
Historically, manufacturing skills and knowledge education has been separated if not insulated from the academic programs found in today's high schools and colleges. Perhaps that approach was effective before this millennium but technology and its rapid integration into manufacturing now makes that approach inefficient if not inappropriate. The tendency to put "shop classes" off in their own world with completers destined for clearly defined tasks and jobs cannot be the modus operandi today.

 Perhaps, it is a good idea to remove "shop class" from our vocabulary because of the mistaken message burden it seems to bear. However, an expansion of skills, knowledge, and expectations from this "hands on" education process contributes a critical component to Florida's new manufacturing workforce. This component should not be isolated or insulated from "main stream" educational programs. Nor is it a component that can be effectively accomplished by traditional education programs.  Both have to alter their instructional pedagogy. That is to say both the "hands on" and "traditional" classroom lecture based faculty have to alter the art, science, and teaching practices presently resident within their comfort zones.

The driving force for this pedagogy alteration is the realization that an advanced manufacturing workforce requires knowledge and skills that support the development of extensive troubleshooting skills. The days of reading a manual on the job to fix a specific and clearly identified broken part are all but over. Technicians and advanced equipment operators are now faced with much more complex situations.  These commonly include lower than optimal production rates; finished parts or products that challenge quality control expectations; and process failures that are not directly connected to a single piece of 
equipment. Creating workers that can address these complicated manufacturing situations requires interaction among a variety of stakeholders that contribute to advanced manufacturing workforce development.
For Florida, four of these contributing stakeholders are easy to envision. Each (community and state colleges; CareerSource Florida, FloridaMakes, and the University of Florida Innovation Stations) already has a vested interest in building and strengthening Florida's manufacturing workforce pool. Each of these build from an initial high school workforce talent pool. Each has resident expertise that contributes to that task. Each has an organizational structure that fosters their expertise but cannot simultaneously develop extensive expertise in the other three stakeholders' space. Manufacturing workforce excellence will happen when all of these stakeholders effectively blend their expertise on the task at hand without altering their primary designated missions.    

FLATE FOCUS will continue with its Manufacturing Excellence in Florida theme as this new year matures. The aim is to elaborate on the components stakeholders have that can directly contribute to creating a world class manufacturing workforce in Florida. Part 2 of this series will report on an important first step: combining FLATE and FloridaMakes. This process will create a clear mechanism for maximizing the impact of our four target mechanisms. It will also pave the way to include Florida School Districts as significant contributing stakeholders. FLATE has been working with elementary, secondary, post secondary adult education, and school districts individually across the state for many years, but not as an organized stakeholder group. There are many individual examples, but one exciting effort was the development of an elementary school curriculum that is math and engineering focused and embedded in a school in Pinellas county. A summary of that effort is included in this edition of the FLATE FOCUS. Check it out!