Congratulations to the 2021 FLATE Awardees. This is the fourteenth year FLATE has recognized educators at the secondary and postsecondary level and an industry partner for their outstanding contributions to promote manufacturing/technical education and training across Florida. The Awards also represents FLATE’s effort to showcase and recognize the contributions of educators and industries in advancing technician education and training on a regional and statewide level. 

This year’s FLATE awardees and award categories include:

·       2021 FLATE Distinguished Manufacturing Secondary Educator-of-the-Year Award

·       2021 FLATE Distinguished Manufacturing Post-Secondary Educator-of-the-Year Award

·       2021 FLATE Distinguished Manufacturing Partner Service Award

·       2021 FLATE Distinguished Manufacturing Organizational Partner Service Award


This year FLATE added the “Distinguished Manufacturing Organizational Partner Service” Award as a new category to its annual recognition program. President & Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of AmSkills, Inc., Thomas A. Mudano will be the first recipient of the FLATE Distinguished Manufacturing Organizational Partner Service Award. Nominees for the Awards were selected from a pool of nominations submitted from across the state. Nominees were judged by an Awards Committee made up of industry representative(s), FAITE board member(s), past awardee(s), and member(s) of the FloridaMakes Workforce Leadership Committee.



Born and raised in Florida, Mudano holds an Associate’s degree from St. Petersburg College (formerly known as St. Petersburg Junior College) and a bachelor’s degree from Western Carolina University. Mudano has been at the helm of leading several multi-million-dollar projects that were targeted to develop workforce training and apprentice programs for the manufacturing industry. He points to prevailing negative public perceptions of manufacturing and a lack of effective recruiting strategy as some of the gridlocks the manufacturing industry faces in addressing shortage in finding skilled workers. He says industry and education cannot operate in silos. In that they should work cohesively to incorporate hands-on learning in everyday curriculum and identify creative strategies to attract fresh talent and/or individuals who may not have considered manufacturing as a career.


As a leading voice for manufacturing, in 2014 Mudano used his skills/experience in business, nonprofits and government to lead the effort in establishing AmSkills which is an Economic Development Initiative for the Tampa Bay Region with a mission to transform lives & build communities through workforce training and apprenticeships. He also created the AmSkills Mobile Workshop and Career Discovery Bootcamp, which is a fast-track, pipeline building program designed to recruit, and train vetted candidates into entry level positions for Industry. He converted AmSkills Apprenticeships to a competency-based model and helped save the only Manufacturing Academy in Pinellas County at Northeast High School. 

In addition to AmSkills, Mudano established the first Florida Department of Education (FL DOE) Registered Manufacturing Pre-Apprenticeship Program in the State. He served as the Director of a $2.3 million nonprofit organization, was an owner’s representative managing $55 million construction/technology projects and owned a marketing company working with several manufacturers and the south Florida chapter of the German American Chamber of Commerce. On a local/regional level, Mudano is a member of the Bay Area Manufacturing Association, Nature Coast Manufacturing Association and the Florida Suncoast Manufacturing Association. In 2018, he served as a Workgroup Member for Career Source Florida and as part of this effort, he was tasked to research and present a report on how to improve apprenticeships across Florida. In 2020, Mudano launched the first Manufacturing Academy at Anclote High School in Pasco and has secured more than $7 million in grants for AmSkills. 

Looking to the future, Mudano’s next project includes launching the AmSkills Workforce Training Innovation Center in Holiday, FL. The 14,000 square feet facility will be the first neighborhood training center targeted to help low to mid income families explore careers through innovative ways including the virtual reality VR Bar, outdoor Makerspace areas, advanced manufacturing training workshops and a startup entrepreneurs co-working space.

For more information about the FLATE Awards Program visit, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, Executive Director at




The recipient for the 2021 FLATE Distinguished Manufacturing Partner Service Award needs no introduction. Peter Cirak, Quality Assurance Director at Seal Dynamics in Tampa, has been a longtime leading advocate for manufacturing. Cirak’s distinguished career is marked by many “firsts”. He was among the first cohort of honors students, the founder and first president of the Arete Honors Student Society at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) in Tampa. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Boston university where he was one of four transfer students in the nation to receive Boston University’s Trustee full academic scholarship. While at BU, Cirak accepted an offer into GE Aviation’s Edison Engineering Leadership program that kickstarted his career in aerospace manufacturing. 

Cirak has worked on an eclectic range of aerospace platforms and applications in different capacities, quality being his primary expertise. A cornerstone of Cirak’s STEM career pathway has been an active and intentional effort to build crosswalks between education and industry, and his altruistic intention to give back. Cirak places the onus of defining the importance of manufacturing education and/or sparking students’ interest in manufacturing on educators and industry. Students, he believes, are more likely to show interest in pursuing educational and/or career pathways that they know about or are exposed to at primary/secondary schools. To that effect, if a community wants to support high-tech manufacturing, Cirak believes it has to build the infrastructure to provide the breadth of educational experiences that not only opens the doors for students, but raises awareness about opportunities that exist beyond those “doors.” 

Successful recruitment into manufacturing programs and building a pipeline of skilled workers starts with a cohesive partnership between industry and education. Cirak notes that “industry cannot continue to act bewildered, when in fact manufacturing courses have been removed from regular curriculum at schools” and/or “year after year graduating classes fail to produce significant numbers of graduates that pursue manufacturing.” In that regard, Cirak tips the balance in favor of educators not only because he is aware of the constraints that they confront, but because he believes “industry professionals provide a depth and richness to the instruction that enhances the attractiveness of that field.” 

Over the years, Cirak has gone the extra mile in maintaining close ties with his alma maters and the Tampa Bay manufacturing/STEM community-at-large by investing time and financial resources. His rationale is guided by his personal conviction that it is incumbent upon the manufacturing industry to aid educators where and when needed to facilitate quality education to the next generation of manufacturers so that are prepared to meet the demands of a global economy. He currently serves on the academic advising committees for the engineering technology programs at HCC and at St. Petersburg College (SPC) as well as the academic advising committee for the Honors Program at HCC. 

On a local and regional level, Cirak is an active member of the Bay Area Manufacturers Association serving on several of its committees. He also serves on the Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Leadership Council for FloridaMakes and recently joined FloridaMakes’ Adopt-A-School committee. Cirak volunteers his time to STEM/manufacturing education on an annual basis during the Great American Teach-In and regularly serves as a guest instructor for K-12 classes through stemCONNECT in the fields of engineering and science. 

Cirak’s engagement with the manufacturing community also extends into his partnership with the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center. He has been an active member of FLATE’s Industrial Advisory Committee (IAC) since 2011 and served as the Chair of FLATE’s IAC. Recently, Cirak taught the first FLATE Tech Talk in coordination with SPC. The Tech Talks represent FLATE’s endeavor to incorporate industry professional-lead instruction into the two-year A.S. degree in Engineering Technology (ET). He has been working with the A.S. ET program at HCC to resurrect a Zeiss coordinate measuring machine (CMM) by fundraising over $4000 to have it repaired and calibrated. The CMM will provide an additional robotic resource for the program, as well as improve their metrology instruction, a much-needed skill in the area. Cirak is presently working to develop industry partners to provide projects for students that will incorporate the use of the CMM. In 2008, Cirak received the HCC Outstanding Alumni award and in 2009 he received the Boston University Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award. 

The FLATE Awards represent a joint effort between FLATE and FloridaMakes to recognize educators and industry leaders for their support of advanced manufacturing and technical education in Florida. Awardees were selected from a pool of nominations from across the state. Nominees were judged by an Awards Committee comprised of industry representatives, FAITE board members, past awardee(s), and member(s) of the FloridaMakes Workforce Leadership Committee. For more information about the FLATE Awards Program visit, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, Executive Director at 



The A.S. degree in Mechanical Design and Fabrication at Pensacola State College has been earmarked as a state-of-the-art program and the largest automated manufacturing training program in the Southeast. It is considered as the “go to” program for students who want to learn a respected craft with vital technical skills in the trades. A large part of the program’s success can be attributed to the relentless efforts of educators like Mike Cannon.

Mike Cannon currently serves as the program coordinator and lead instructor for the Mechanical Design and Fabrication program at Pensacola State College (PSC). Cannon is considered a subject matter expert in curriculum and program development. He has been working at PSC for the past 29 years and has played a prominent role in building a robust automated manufacturing training program at PSC that is currently considered best in the southeast region.  Given his long-term commitment to excellence in manufacturing, Cannon was recently named the recipient of the 2021 Distinguished Manufacturing Post-Secondary Educator-of-the-Year Award.

A cornerstone of Cannon’s contributions has been his belief in the importance of manufacturing education and training. Cannon recommends “anyone looking for a career in the Engineering Technology to seriously consider PSC to reach that goal.” PSC’s program facility consists of seven HAAS machining centers, along with a CNC router, CNC Plasma and CNC Laser cutter. Cannon describes the A.S. degree in Mechanical Design and Fabrication at PSC as “a highly technical program” that is focused on building “real-world, essential technical skills.” What sets the program apart is the hands-on component in preparing students for careers in CNC (Computer Numerical Control), metal fabrication, welding, CNC plasma and CNC Laser processing.

Besides program development and implementation at PSC, Cannon has been the face behind many successful programs on a regional and statewide level. In 2003, he worked closely with the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center to develop curriculum frameworks for the statewide A.S. degree in Engineering Technology. Within that capacity, Cannon was instrumental in developing four college credit certificates in CNC machining and fabrication, CNC composite fabrication and programming, CNC machinist operator and programmer, and mechanical design and programming. Additionally, Cannon implemented state-of-the- art CAD/CAMM training, AutoCAD, Fusion 360 Design and Manufacturing, MasterCAM and SolidWorks as part of the curriculum for his courses. Cannon also developed coursework in production welding processes, Sheetmetal fabrication and aircraft riveting, metal fabrication, CNC machining operations, setup, programming, CNC router and plasma & laser processing.

Cannon is a big proponent in building crosswalks between industry and education to enhance the experience of manufacturing education for students. This not only enables him to stay connected with local industry partners, but is an effective strategy in keeping a tab on workforce needs of local industry and incorporating those elements into everyday curriculum to help students keep their skills up-to-date with current industry standards. Cannon was recently featured in an article published by Autodesk and was a scheduled speaker at last year’s Autodesk Virtual Conference to discuss issues surrounding technology in the classrooms, including his adaptation of online curriculum for his program.

Through advisory committee meetings, Cannon ensures that PSC is providing training that leads to jobs while also incorporating industry-recognized technology and certifications into his manufacturing education programs. Through established relationships with local, state, and national employers, Cannon provides short-term training opportunities that allow employers to hire highly trained students who possess the necessary skills required by the manufacturing industry. 

For information on the FLATE Awards, or submit an award nomination for next year visit, or contact Executive Director of FLATE, Dr. Marilyn Barger at


Educators in Florida play an important role in educating and training the next generation of innovators. Since 2007 FLATE has placed educators at the forefront of its annual awards program and recognizes educators at the secondary and postsecondary level for their commitment to technician education and training. To date 26 educators have been recognized for their outstanding contributions to manufacturing and/or engineering technology education.

This year’s recipient of the FLATE Distinguished Secondary Educator Award is Selena Lewis. 


The 2021 recipient of the Distinguished Manufacturing Secondary Educator-of-the-Year Award is Selena Sharnell Lewis. Lewis currently serves as the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) educator for Project Lead the Way at Young Middle Magnet School in Tampa, FL. Lewis’ journey as an educator started nearly 30 years ago when in 1995, she became heavily involved with STEM-based initiatives.

Lewis has made exceptional contributions to STEM careers and fields as she has worked relentlessly to empower middle and high school girls with experience, knowledge, and resources and is recognized for her exceptional contributions to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) at the secondary education level. Her efforts in leading multiple STEM-related curriculum continues to this day where she teaches courses that are heavily immersed in computer science concepts integrated with robotics, app development, design and modeling, science of technology, entrepreneurship and other cutting-edge course themes/concepts. According to Lewis “a teacher is the facilitator of learning, but students are actually the ones filled with knowledge. They become stewards of their own learning.”

Selena’s genuine love for teaching is reflected in her desire to equip students with knowledge that can be applied to real-world scenarios. Striking a strategic partnership with local organizations such as SOFWERX, Suncoast Credit Union, Hillsborough Community College, Florida Department of Health, City of Tampa and the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center, Selena organized and hosted the FIRST ‘All Girls’ STEM Day featuring STEM-related activities that were presented in an interactive and engaging environment. To date more than 500 middle and high school students from across Hillsborough County have attended the “free” event that is made possible through monetary and non-monetary contributions from local sponsors that are valued over $35,000.

In addition to successfully launching STEM Day, Lewis works with the Verizon Innovative Labs, Project Lead the Way and SOFWERX to provide STEM camps for elementary and middle school students that are completely free.  The camps feature highly engaged lessons and projects that center on topics that range from artificial intelligence, virtual reality, 3D printing, robotics, app development, video game design, coding to Internet of Things, holography, augmented reality, digital photography and other STEM concepts. The summer camps are restricted to 100 participants per session, taught by Hillsborough County school district teachers and include free breakfast and lunch for participants.

On a community level, Selena Lewis has been an active USF Stavros Center BB&T Fellows. The Center is engaged with design thinking and entrepreneurial concepts which are implemented throughout various curriculums. Selena has also been actively involved in various advisory boards such as the NFTE Entrepreneurship Advisory Board, Young Middle Magnet School STEM Advisory Board, Girls STEM Day Advisory Board and the City of Tampa STEM Initiatives Advisory Board. Lewis currently serves as a professional development coach for Hillsborough County Public Schools and Hillsborough Community College Educators through the EET Innovators in Residence Grant Program. The grant program is in direct collaboration with the Hillsborough Community College Entrepreneurship Program and Hillsborough County Public Schools Career and Technical Education to empower educators and students with entrepreneurial skills and concepts that can be applied to real-life situations.

Lewis views success as a thirst and need for lifelong learning. She hopes her efforts “leave a legacy that empowers students to achieve anything they set their minds to.” For more information about Selena Lewis and to learn about the educational initiatives that she spearheads reach out to her at For information on the FLATE Awards, or submit an award nomination for next year visit, or contact Executive Director of FLATE, Dr. Marilyn Barger at