FLATE’s Student Outreach - Supporting STEM Education Mentoring Engineering Capstone Projects for Middle School’s 8th Grade

 Every year, the Florida Advanced Technological Center-FLATE, helps middle school students by mentoring in their Engineering Capstone projects. The 8th grade STEM students are tasked to exhibit technical expertise to solve challenging problems by producing ideas and products that have the potential to be marketed in the real world.
Among some of the schools that FLATE serves as mentor is the James Madison Middle School (MMS) in Tampa, FL. MMS opened in 1952 and is recognized as a leader in STEM education in Hillsborough County. The school prides itself in designing enriching and engaging curriculum that takes students on a “learning adventure” focused on applying key engineering skills that are critical to problem-solving and developing higher order thinking skills. During 2008 J. Madison Middle school was selected to host, on behalf of Hillsborough County Schools, the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math - STEM Aerospace Engineering Academy with a strong focus on leadership skills.  Part of J. Madison Middle School’s success can be attributed to its successful strategy in formulating key mentorships/partnership with industry and education institution like FLATE (the Florida-based National Science Foundation Regional Center of Excellence for technological education). This strategic mentorship offers real educational opportunities for students to interact with top professionals in different STEM fields.
To support some of its STEM based initiatives, J. Madison Middle School also created the “Ghost Riders STEM Institute”, now referred to as the “STEM Aerospace Engineering Academy”, and has recently started the 8th grade capstone project which involves the development and creation of an innovative product over the period of the whole year. Each student group is mentored by an "expert professional" in the field. These professionals, or experts, would help them complete their projects with their guidance.  Meetings with mentors are performed via phone, emails, and video provide each group with the proper direction for the creation of their product.
Each group is to develop a company and create a plan to introduce a product to the market. A product that will be presented to a panel of judges, like the TV show Shark Tank. Products are to address current environmental issues, solve problems with waste and inefficiency, meet the increasing demand for power, make lives safer and healthier, etc.

Dr. Marilyn Barger and Danielly Orozco, Principal Investigator and Associate Director of FLATE, are currently part of the mentor/expert professionals program for the 8th grade capstone project. Daniel Mills is the lead instructor of Madison Middle's STEM Aerospace Engineering Academy. For more information on the list of the 2018 8th Grade students’ Capstone project please visit http://tinyurl.com/madisoncapstone17 or contact Daniel Mills at daniel.mills@sdhc.k12.fl.us.

Middleton HS Engineering Capstone Final Projects: “Project Lead the Way” - Pathways to Engineering

Engineering Capstone Project- Lead The Way (PLTW), another project supported by FLATE, provides a comprehensive approach to STEM Education. Through activity, projects, and problem-based curriculum, PLTW gives students in high school a chance to apply what they know, identify problems, find unique solutions, and lead their own learning. The implementation of this program provides tools to empower students and transform the classroom into a collaboration space where content comes to life.
Currently Middleton HS is recruiting judges of this pre-engineering design event, the objective is to constructively critique and evaluate the projects. This type of event is a great opportunity to promote STEM and Engineering Technology targeting high school students.

When: May 4th, 2018 - 8 am—11am morning session, 1:30—3:00 afternoon session
What: Morning—Gallery Walk of all Senior Capstone Projects
Where: Morning session Cafeteria, Afternoon session auditorium

For more information contact Elizabeth Simpson @ Elizabethe.simpson@sdhc.k12.fl.us by April 20th if you are able to attend. 


2018 Synapse Innovation Summit

The 2018 Synapse Innovation Summit, designed to bring together organizations, innovating ideas and advanced hi-technologies from a wide range of industries and organizations to connect regionally-based innovation technology, education, and entrepreneurial ecosystems throughout Florida, was held at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. Created by the nonprofit Synapse, named for the link between nerve cells in the body, the second annual Innovation Summit included 15 hours of programs and 10 hours of learning, exploring and celebrating the possibilities in advanced hi-technology and innovation, to help connect and establish relationships among those who can contribute to the growth of the Tampa Bay entrepreneurial ecosystem.
There were 250 exhibitors, more than 60 showcases, 56 breakout sessions, 200 speakers, and 2,500 attendees who flooded into downtown Tampa’s Amalie Arena March 28 and 29.
Highlights included “spotlight” sessions devoted to Augmented and Virtual Reality, robotics with the latest on humanoid robots, health and wellness with medical advances that restored freedom of movement to an amputee, transportation technologies, top STEM high- technology education programs that are transforming our world and more. In addition ConnectWise and Synapse have teamed up to provide $50,000 worth of scholarships for college students who attended.

Notable speakers included: IBM Chief Innovation Officer Bernard Meyerson, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinil, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James “Hondo” Geurts, and many others.
Synapse STEM Pavilion
The Florida Advanced Technological Center-FLATE and at least 20 educational programs and non-profit organization participated in this great event with booths located in the Synapse STEM Pavilion. Some of the booths’ participants included Foundation for Community Drive, Electrathon of Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg College, ARM Institute, Pasco counties public library, Hillsborough Public Schools.
FLATE Continuous Support with the Tampa Bay STEM Network
Through a strong network of academic, business, and community partnerships, FLATE continues supporting the Tampa Bay STEM Network which goal is to provide time, talent, and treasure to create a well-connected portfolio of experiences that result in the academic success of and multiple opportunities for citizens of all ages to explore and enjoy STEM, thus strengthening our talent base and STEM pipeline, contributing to the vitality of our community.
STEM Ecosystem - Building a Better Tampa Bay
The STEM Ecosystems Initiative is built on over a decade of research into successful STEM collaborations, and seeks to nurture and scale effective science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning opportunities for all young people. The 56 communities selected from across the United States compose a national Community of Practice and have demonstrated cross-sector collaborations to deliver rigorous, effective preK-16 instruction in STEM learning. These collaborations happen in schools and beyond the classroom—in afterschool and summer programs, at home, in science centers, libraries and other places both virtual and physical. Strong STEM Learning Ecosystems feature dynamic collaborations among schools, out-of-school time programs, STEM expert institutions (such as museums, science centers, and institutions of higher education and STEM professional associations), the private sector, community-based organizations, youth and families.
The Tampa Bay STEM Network was created in January 2016 and is funded through a generous grant from the STEM Funders Network and Samueli Foundation, with local support from Mr. Jeff Vinik, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Moffitt Cancer Center. Partners of the Tampa Bay STEM Network include Hillsborough County Public Schools, Museum of Science and Industry-MOSI, The Florida Aquarium, Glazer Children’s Museum, The Florida Advanced Technological Education Center-FLATE, Lowry Park Zoo, University of South Florida, Alliance for Public Schools, Hillsborough Education foundation. Strengthening our local talent base and STEM pipeline, will contribute to the vitality of our community and Building a Better Tampa Bay.

For more information contact Larry R. Plank (larry.plank@sdh.k12.fl.us), Director, K-12 STEM Education, Hillsborough County Public Schools, Tampa Bay STEM Network.


FLATE Supporting Code.org® Computer Science Fundamentals
Code.org is a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities. Every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn for FREE computer science. Code.org organizes the annual Hour of Code campaign which has engaged 10% of all students in the world and provides the leading curriculum for K-12 computer science in the largest school districts in the United States.

Some FREE Courses from Code.org

Elementary School – Computer Science Fundamentals 
Courses from Code.org for students in grades K-12 and professional learning for teacher. Designed to be fun and engaging, Code.org’s progression of CS Fundamentals courses blend online and "unplugged" non-computer activities to teach students computational thinking, problem solving, programming concepts and digital citizenship.

Middle School – Computer Science Discoveries 
Broader introduction to computer science topics, appropriate for 6-10th grade students. The course takes a wide lens on computer science by covering topics such as programming, physical computing, HTML/CSS, and data. The course inspires students as they build their own websites, apps, games, and physical computing devices.

High Scholl - Computer Science Principles 
Designed to prepare students, appropriate for 9-12 grade students (and teachers) who are new to computer science for the AP CS Principles exam. The course covers many topics including the Internet, Big Data and Privacy, and Programming and Algorithms.

For more information visit https://studio.code.org/courses

Its Job Fair Season!

In the months immediately before April and May graduations every year, colleges host targeted job fairs for programs.  This article covers two such events. The first was early in March at Lake Sumter State College (LSSC) where 12 companies gathered to meet with students enrolled in the LSSC Engineering Technology Protection and Control Technology Associate Degree.   This degree program prepares students to be Relay Technicians for public and private energy utilities and energy technicians for companies that support and supply the energy production and transmission industry.  The job fair attracted 33 students from both the first and second year of the program.  They saw this opportunity to find out about more about their career options in the field both for internships (the first year students) and jobs (the second year students).  Some parents also attended.  A lot of information was traded and learned, the attendees also took a tour of the awesome ET lab facilities at LSSC Sumterville’s campus, and a lot of fun was had by all.  Kudos go to Kairise Cornwell of LSSC’s Career Development Services for organizing this event and to Robert Seigiworth, Program Manager of the Protection and Controls Technology Program for recruiting attendees.  Some of the industry partners that attended include those in the table below. We look forward to hearing what this year’s program graduates choose for their future.

On Saturday, March 24, PMMI hosted a similar Job Fair with their Tampa Bay region partners at a centrally located hotel in the Bay area.  PMMI is an industry association whose members are primarily in the packaging industry.  That means that member companies make various packaging materials or machines like cardboard boxes, jars, wrappings, etc.  Core skill sets for technicians in this industry are mechatronics, so graduates of Florida’s A.S. Engineering Technology degree are great potential employees for them.   PMMI has many members in Florida including PharmaWorks, Mamata Enterprises, Inc, Performance Feeders and Polypack in the bay area.  Like LSSC’s fair, it was a great opportunity for local and regional students from technical colleges, state and community college to talk with industry representatives about their companies, what they make, how they make their products, and internship and careers opportunities.  PMMI will be back next month to represent regional companies at a Job Fair on the HCC Dale Mabry campus.

No matter who organizes a job fair, they are great places for students to practice “talking with industry” before a first interview for their first real job after graduation. They are also great places to learn more about the world of work.  Most job fairs like the 2 described here that were focused on specific industry sectors provide many opportunities for students to meet potential employers or summer internships.

LAST CALL: FLATE Educator and Partner Award Nominations!

2018 FLATE Awards deadline for nominations is coming soon April 13, 2018! Send in your Nominations

FLATE's Distinguished Manufacturing Service Recognition Program, hosted by the Florida Association for Career and Technical Education-FACTE, brings recognition to both secondary and post-secondary educators as well as recognizes key personnel for outstanding contributions to promote technology education and career awareness in support of manufacturing.

Awards Timeline – see Flyer 

  •     April 13, 2018 – Online Nomination form I . To be completed by nominators
  •     May 1, 2018: Online Nomination Form II. To be completed by nominee. (Nominations close.)
·      May 31, 2018 – Award selections.
·      June 4, 2017 – Award recipients and principal nominators are notified of their selection. 
·     July 17, 2017 – Awards presented during The Annual FACTE Conference & Trade Show held at ChampionsGate, FL 33896.

For more information about FLATE Awards visit fl-ate.org/programs/flate-awards, FAITE.us, and FACTE.org

Mechatronics Community Exchange Showcases TAMU Project

The Mechatronics Community Exchange (MCE) is a group of   mechatronics educators in 2-year programs that meet virtually most months during the academic year.  On March 22, the MCE meeting showcased the an NSF ATE Mechatronics project at Texas A&M, College Station, Texas.  Dr. Tony Hsieh, Director of the Rockwell Automation Lab and member of the graduate faculty is the P.I. of the “Innovative Curriculum for Industrial Automation” or “ICIA” project (NSF DUE 1304843). This project is supporting and creating innovative curriculum, lab exercises and pathways to increase the number of qualified technicians and engineers in the areas of operation, troubleshooting, design and integration of automated manufacturing systems (industrial automation). The curriculum pathways developed include a series of courses, lab exercises (hands-on, remote and virtual formats) and learning experiences that equip students for a successful career in automated systems and industrial automation. Dr. Hsieh is working with three Texas Community Colleges for this project. 

The March Mechatronics Community Exchange session was broadcast from San Antonio College, one of the ICIA partner 2-year partners where the Advanced Manufacturing Technology (AMT) program is housed in their Workforce Excellence Center. Dr. Juan Song is the San Antonio College (SAC) and co-P.I. of the project who worked directly with AMT Instructor, Daniel Sherry and Curriculum Designer, Edgar Perez to develop the curriculum pieces needed.

After a brief overview of the project, the presentation focused on the system being developed to remotely access the integrated mechatronics system that the AMT program uses for  instruction. The goal of this part of the project is to provide remote access of the robotic system at SAC for students in the AMT Associate Degree program.  Remote access to the robotic system was demonstrated after Dr. Hsieh’s presentation during the MCE meeting.  The system is now working well internally at SAC, but there are more details to work out including bypassing the college’s security systems, student scheduling, being sure that the system is “on” and configured for startup, and assessment.  However, the system is now in place with the interface and simulated control panel for the robot.  The SAC educators are extremely grateful for the partnership with TAMU on this project that will provide an additional resource for their students that they could not easily have provided without the funding from NSF  ATE and the expertise of Dr. Hsieh and his graduate students at Texas A&M University.

The March 22 MCE Conversation continued with announcement of the Hagersown CC Dissemination Conference for its Mechatronics project (NSF DUE (NSF DUE 1601172)) at Hagerstown CC (PA) and more comments from Stevens College about building the Low Cost Mechatronics Trainer developed by the CollaborATE grant (NSF DUE 1601172) for use in high schools. The next MCE will focus on the "ins and outs" of industry partnerships and will be held on April 27 @11 am EDT.  If you are interested in joining, please contact us at flate@fl-ate.org and we will add you to the MCE contact list. You can access the recording of the March meeting on our MCE website.

Manufacturing Excellence in Florida (part 4)

  Our focus on creating technicians that can support world class manufacturing in Florida continues.  FLATE, in partnership with FloridaMakes has initially identified four target mechanisms as key elements in creating the talent resource manufacturers’ need:

  1. ·         Work-based Learning
  2. ·         Internship & Apprenticeships
  3. ·         Skill Certification
  4. ·         Talent Pipeline Development.

Skill Certification was reviewed in the previous (Part 3) contribution in this Manufacturing Excellence in Florida series.  Also we indicated that these four key elements are foundation pillars for manufacturing excellence but they are not addressed within a unified education strategy.  Industry recognized certifications are new to the education domain while work-based learning, internships, and apprenticeships are viewed as standalone components for workforce training.  The overall talent pipeline development does reside within the K-16 academic structure but it has, at best, a dim focus on manufacturing workforce career options.  Our MEP-ATE partnership in Florida is unique to the nation and it will result in a dramatic difference in the way these four workforce developments elements are addressed in Florida.

Internships and Apprenticeships are valuable but complicated and/or confusing tools for workforce development.  The intern idea and function is well established.  The intent (http://flate-mif.blogspot.com/2013/07/) of an internship is elegantly simple: they put students into viable manufacturing situations where their technical skill and knowledge base can be developed and reinforced by hands-on experience in a workplace environment.  However, internships are not currently structured to make a systemic impact on technician education.

Internships operate at the local level. They are governed by individual school and company agreements.  Often an internship is just created at a single plant location and even isolated department with no interaction with any intern activity elsewhere in the company.  Local demand often lead to an “as needed basis” for using interns.  Although the experience is valuable for both the company and the intern, the company need is often satisfied with only one intern once.  Internships may or may not include school credit and the student may or may not be paid.  The unpaid internship approach is attractive to some business sectors because the compensation exchange involves student acquiring work experience and the employer getting help completing a temporary task.  However, recent U.S. Department of Labor guidelines have decreased the types of situations when students can work without pay and, in the long run, the non-pay experiences have very little positive impact on technician education.     

Apprenticeships operate at the local level, do include hands-on experiences, and have a structure that supports a systemic approach that fosters student skill and knowledge acquisition.  The U.S. Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship programs are housed at the Florida Department of Education.  Extensive and detailed information about these apprenticeships and how they work in Florida is available from
The FLDOE (richard.norman@fldoe.org).   Florida also supports Pre-apprenticeship programs in high schools.  Ted Norman is very knowledgeable of both programs and will help with all aspects of the initiation and operation of either or both.  In addition a series of FLATE FOCUS articles (http://flate-mif.blogspot.com/2013/06/) also provides information about the structure, guidelines, time, content, and expectations of apprenticeships.

The renewed interest in apprenticeships at the national level is exciting but does require a few cautionary remarks.  First, as the 20th century manufacturing workforce retirement numbers increases exponentially, manufacturers may need to replenish that workforce with the some classic apprentice trades (welders, machinists, tool and die makers, etc).  Second, the 21st century manufacturing need many more workers with skills beyond an apprenticeship base.  Third, apprenticeship programs require an employment, financial, and time investment by the employer.  The first and third comments are or will become obvious as the national discussion about apprenticeships continues.  However, the second remark need elaboration.

The inclusion of robotics, interactive control systems, industry 4.0, and extensive quality control mandates set new benchmarks for the manufacturing worker that far exceed the expectations acquired in a “classic” apprenticeship program.  If the apprenticeship model is to step into the new world of manufacturing, it must keep its traditional employment, financial, and time commitments but also include structured avenues to strengthen student multidimensional thinking and analysis abilities.  Thus, the challenge!  If you are actively involved in the new apprenticeship dialog make sure: (i) the target of those discussions far exceeds the simple support of more existing apprenticeships; and (ii) the expansion of apprenticeships to creating workers with elastic minds to address the operation and troubleshooting of cross skill and knowledge based manufacturing processes requires intense connections to two year college and Career and Technical Education programs. 

In summary, from a manufacturing perspective; everything is “up to date in Kansas City”.  In fact every manufacturing centric community in the country has or is installing 21st century equipment and processes into their manufacturing facilities.  But we have not gone about as far as we can go.  Apprenticeships programs can make a major contribute to the restructure of the workforce but not if they are restricted to their historic role and continue to be isolated from mainstream STEM education.      

Puzzling the Pieces to Create Florida's World Class Manufacturing Workforce

Since its inception, FLATE wanted a technical education system that would lead to the creation of a world class manufacturing supportive workforce.  This lofty target was understood to require many puzzle pieces to fit together.  For FLATE's part, the puzzle pieces focus on providing technician career paths that assure workforce excellences in Florida's manufacturing sectors.  The first phase toward world class status was to establish a structure within the Florida State College system that would be one of the vehicles for change in the way manufacturing supportive technologies were taught in Florida.

That first phase target task is completed.  The A.S. Degree in Engineering Technology (E.T.) developed by FLATE and now supported by the Florida Department of Education and executed within 20 colleges in the Florida State College System is a statewide uniform platform that establishes the core technical skills and knowledge expectations of every E.T. graduate in Florida.  In addition, the degree provides each participating college the ability to focus on E.T. specializations that bring graduates to a higher skill level in specific technical areas that are important to manufacturers within their local college's service region.  This combination of fundamental and advanced specified manufacturing supportive skills and knowledge puts Florida on the path to a world class education system for future technicians in manufacturing that has multiple career path options for all E.T. graduates.    

Careers in manufacturing exist and are a topic for a future FLATE Focus but these options don't guarantee a world class status for Florida manufacturing.  Workforce excellence does generate that assurance.  This puzzle piece has a broader base of responsibility than colleges offering technician creation degrees.  However, colleges still have a significant excellence component contribution to offer.  The E.T. faculty expertise and E.T. curriculum content has to be repeatedly reviewed for manufacturing relevance.  Procedures for both of these tasks are in place and executed.  The E.T. curriculum is reviewed at the Florida Department of Education (FLDoE) level every three years.  The curriculum content review requires a (FLDoE) appointed committee (half from manufacturing and E.T. faculty) with statewide membership to submit recommendations.  The faculty expertise needed as new manufacturing technologies become reality on the manufacturing floor is accomplished through two FLATE facilitated faculty development mechanisms.

The first, the Florida Engineering Technology Forum, is a twice a year gathering of faculty and administrators in two-year manufacturing supportive A.S. programs that provides important updates and changes dictated by Florida legislative actions as well as Forum sessions driven by subject matter experts.  Resources provided by outside funding including the National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education (NSF-ATE) program represents the second mechanism that E.T. faculty expertise is expanded to new technologies.  FLATE provides NSF-ATE based assistance as well as actively supporting college faculty efforts to write proposals to the NSF-ATE program for grant funds that result in faculty involvement in professional development technical courses and conferences.

Now, to borrow and modify a song lyric from a very famous Broadway musical, "FLATE's has gone about as far as it can go" by itself.   Florida has a stable but flexible technical skills and knowledge pathway that leads to careers as technicians and future work in supervision and/or engineering.  Florida has vibrant Career and Technical Education programs.  Florida has mechanisms to keep technical faculty "on top of their game" but that isn't enough to create a world class manufacturing workforce.  There are more parts to the puzzle.  Those parts require partnerships and the key partnership in this case involves FLATE and FloridaMakes.  FloridaMakes brings two important puzzle components, RMA and MEP (both bring their manufacturers and partners) into play.  If these puzzle parts, RMA and MEP, are a puzzle themselves that's another reason to catch the next FLATE Focus where FloridaMakes's role in the quest for work class manufacturing recognition is explored.