2024 Spring Forum on Engineering Technology

The 52nd state-wide Forum on Engineering Technology was held on April 4-5, 2024.  Thank you to the State College of Florida (SCF) in Bradenton, FL for hosting! The forum was well attended with 66 participants, including 36 from 17 Florida state and community colleges and two universities as well as representatives from Florida manufacturers and other partner organizations.

The Forum on Engineering Technology (ET Forum) has served as an important vehicle for bringing together Florida’s diverse and geographically dispersed community with common issues and challenges. With the support of the Florida Department of Education (FDOE), FLATE works with the ET Forum network to strengthen the consortium, share its administrative activities and projects, provide professional development, bring industry and academia together, and engage in statewide FDOE curriculum frameworks review and reform. Over the years, it has become a true community of practice.

The Forum meets twice a year and has convened fifty-two times, at 25 different Florida colleges. The ET Forum, with FLATE guidance and leadership, continues to grow strong by recruiting interested colleges, hosting industry professionals from companies near the host institution, providing professional development for emerging and relevant technologies, participating in FDOE statewide curriculum frameworks reform and change related to ET disciplines, and providing extensive networking and opportunities for sharing and collaboration amongst colleges.

The Spring ET Forum included two days filled with key topics, discussions, and updates. At SCF, the participants were greeted by  Pepper, the SCF Coding Robot.  On the first day, topics included:
  • Roundtable discussion on recruiting faculty, adjuncts, and students, best practices for advisory committees, and faculty loads
  • Update on SETIAB – the State Engineering Technology Industry Advisory Board
  • Education vendor Roundtable discussion on current technical education trends
  • Engineering Technology college program updates
  • Industry/Economic/Workforce Panel on work-based learning, industry certification and connecting with educators
  • Tour of the SCF Engineering Technology facilities and labs
  • Update on FloridaMakes and the State of Manufacturing in Florida
  • FDOE reported on new program developments including the updated CPalms.org site - the State of Florida's official online toolbox source for standards information, curriculum modules, and course descriptions
  • Associate of Science in Engineering Technology core standards - suggestions and potential revisions were reviewed/discussed.
The SETIAB (Statewide Engineering Technology Industry Advisory Board) met following the ET Forum.  Attendance included 15 industry voting members and 16 educational partner non-voting members. The Board discussed and approved the new ASET "Advanced Automation" Specialization standards.  A full report will be included in the May FLATE Focus.

The 2nd day of the forum continued with the discussion of classroom technology, followed by NSF Grant updates (including a discussion on updating Florida’s ET pathways), and college program updates.  Also on day 2, distinguished guest speakers and key relevant topics included:
  • Operation K-12 Cyber Florida, University of South Florida
  • University of North Florida’s BS in Advanced Manufacturing
  • AmSkills Articulations
The Florida Engineering Technology Forum serves as a model organization for other disciplines and career clusters in Florida as well as technical disciplines in other states. Presentation and recordings are available at ET Forum Google Drive and FLATE.PBWorks/Presentations.

Of the 16 evaluation survey responses received (13 in-person and 3 virtual attendees), nearly 80% (13) of respondents agreed that the Forum offered excellent overall professional development and networking value and 100% of the survey responders (16) would recommend the Forum to others.

Special thanks to our Sponsors!  The ET Forum could not happen without our educational vendors: 
  • Technical Training Aids
  • SMC International Training
  • Bluegrass Educational Technologies, LLC
  • D.C. Jaeger Corporation
  • Southern Educational Systems
  • Learning Labs
For more information on the Forum and/or ASET degree visit https://fl-ate.org/programs/e-t-forum/

The Fall 2024 ET Forum will be held September 26-27, 2024 at Palm Beach State College.

Mechatronics 101 Workshop

On March 1, 2024, thirteen (13) high school and community college educators attended the all-day FLATE Mechatronics 101 workshop at St. Petersburg College Clearwater Campus.  This workshop uses the Independent Mechatronics Education Curriculum (iMEC)2.0 and the Independent Remote Experiment Automation Lab (iREAL) trainers designed and developed over ten years ago by Mr. Doug Laven of the Mechatronics Department of South Central College (SSC) in Mankato, MN. The Florida educators assembled their own trainer from the ground up, assembling and wiring components to demonstrate simple logic circuits with several input and output devices. At the end of the day, all attendees took home their built iREAL trainers, small assembly tools, and the various input and output devices. Many of the attendees had never wired electronic components and were excited to have the well guided instruction. In a post-workshop survey, attendees gave the workshop high praise for the all-day hands-on, step by step instruction.

This was the second Mechatronics 101 workshop supported by FLATE and its NSF award, 2148138, which is enhancing the state’s AS Engineering Technology degree with industry 4.0 skills. Dr. Barger says, “it’s very important to provide rigorous, hands-on educator professional development in conjunction with curriculum changes so they can, in turn, share the new technologies with students in their classrooms. The next steps for the attendees of this workshop will be at least two (2) virtual sessions with more advanced challenges and a shared folder with the advanced activities and videos.

Mr. Laven developed the iMEC2 and iREAL trainers originally to meet the needs of industry in his region with a small, compact, affordable, and flexible training platform that students could borrow from the college to do the required hands-on labs for the mechatronics courses. This effort was funded by the National Science Foundation through grant 1304835. A more recent NSF SSC award, 2037491, expanded the use of the iREAL electronic trainers and added three additional mechatronics-related trainers, Programable Logic Controllers (PLC), Sensors, and Process Control to support dual enrollment programs in Minnesota and Nebraska.

Florida Manufacturing Days in Tallahassee

Florida Manufacturing Days in Tallahassee took place on February 13-14, 2024. Coordinated by the Florida Manufacturing & Supply Chain Advocacy Council, this annual event brings together manufacturing champions from across the state. The Council, composed of representatives from various associations, including FLATE and the regional manufacturers associations from across the state, works to strengthen local relationships and implement grassroots campaigns.

Florida Manufacturing Days is a time for manufacturers and other industry stakeholders to meet with legislators and statewide partners to discuss and advocate for manufacturing-related issues and to learn more about the legislative process. The events and meetings hosted during Florida Manufacturing Days allow participants to network and lend their voice in shaping Florida's manufacturing business environment. This year, more than 45 attendees actively engaged in over 50 meetings with legislative offices.

FLATE was represented at Florida Manufacturing Days by Ernie Friend, Executive Director of FLATE, along with educational partners Shera Gill from Northwest Florida State College, and Alan Harris and Stephen Stagon from the University of North Florida's School of Engineering. All ET Forum schools were represented in an exhibit with college posters around the rotunda of the Capital, allowing all state representatives to see manufacturing education programs in their districts.

Updating Florida's Engineering Technology Career Pathways

Florida’s Statewide Course Numbering (SCNS) is a key component of Florida’s K-20 seamless system of articulation. The system provides an online database of postsecondary courses at public vocational-technical centers, community and state colleges, universities and participating nonpublic institutions. The assigned numbers describe course content to improve research, assist program planning, and facilitate the transfer of students.

For several years, FLATE, a National Science Foundation Center and part of the FloridaMakes network, has been working on updating the AS degree in Engineering Technology (ASET) pathways. Working collaboratively with the Florida Department of Education and state/community colleges across Florida, FLATE has now developed a comprehensive ET Course Database that provides a list of all eleven ASET degree specializations and the courses currently offered at 23 colleges for those specializations. At this time, the database focuses on the technical specialization tracks only which include computer-aided design, introduction to electronics, manufacturing material and process, mechanical measurements & instrumentation, quality and safety. The technical ASET core courses will be added in 2024. 

“FLATE will be conducting a review of the ASET curriculum framework later this year,” said Dr. Marilyn Barger, senior education advisor for FLATE. The state-mandated tri-annual review requires employers and educators to review and update the standards and benchmarks for each technical program in Florida. However, these curriculum frameworks do not provide guidance for which statewide courses should be used to meet the standards and benchmarks. Over the years, colleges have independently developed and adopted courses to fulfill the same standard. The ET Course Database will facilitate the process of the colleges selecting the courses that make up their program/specialization, working with other colleges who offer the same specialization.

For example, the colleges who offer the Advanced Manufacturing Specialization and require the Motors and Controls course could collaborate to better align their courses with the framework. Other examples and opportunities for alignment include the AC/DC circuits courses at Broward College, Northwest Florida State College, Palm Beach State College, and Pensacola State College.

Barger says the SCNS together with the new ET Course Database offers an effective way for colleges to adopt the same courses across the state. The goal is that one or two courses become the preferred courses to meet particular state standards and benchmarks; and that all colleges will adopt these as they go through regularly scheduled curriculum reviews. This alignment will also support students by simplifying transfers between colleges for the ASET degree and its related shorter-term College Credit Certificates (CCC). Transfers to BSET degrees should also be simplified. The ASET degree program has three major components:

  • General Education requirements
  • ET technical core
  • Specialization tracts that address regional industry sector needs
To date 18 of the 23 colleges offering ASET specializations have provided revisions and updates to the ET Course Database. The plan is to add the general education courses (15 credit hours) and the ET Technical core courses (18 credit hours) in 2024. Several opportunities for better alignment are outlined in the ET Course Database.

Click here to review the technical coursework offered under each of the colleges.

The ET Course Database has a separate tab for each specialization of the ASET degree. Each college that offers that specialization is listed alphabetically across the top (each college has its column). Every course that the colleges use in the specialization is listed in a row with prefix, number, and course title. The number of credit hours assigned to courses offered as an elective are in the blue color font. Courses with the number of credits hours in black font are required courses to complete the specialization.

The courses are grouped by topic. For example, there are several courses for teaching about motors and controls and those are grouped for easy comparisons. Faculty will need to review the SCNS descriptions and college syllabi for the details about what and how the topic is covered. Faculty offering these courses might review these together and determine the advantages and disadvantages of the different courses on the same topic and the same course might not be the best choice for all programs.

To send edits reach out to Dr. Marilyn Barger (marilyn.barger@flate.org) and Danielly Orozco-Cole (danielly.orozco-cole@flate.org).

Visit the FLATE ET Career Pathways page for more information.

FLATE Announces the Hiring of Regional Education Ambassadors in Orlando, Sarasota and the Panhandle

FLATE and FloridaMakes have created three new Regional Education Ambassador (REA) positions. These REAs are critical to advancing FLATE's mission throughout regions of Florida. The REAs are manufacturing education champions, knowledge exchange facilitators, and passionate advocates for highlighting careers in manufacturing for students, parents, teachers, and industry. The three positions are located in the Panhandle, Orlando, and Sarasota. Kayla Martin covers the Panhandle, Mariellen Batchelor covers Orlando, and Lordana Guillaume covers the Sarasota region.

The Regional Education Ambassadors will help build awareness of FLATE's and FloridaMakes resources and programs among the region's educators, students, and community stakeholders. They will organize and participate in workshops, conferences, and outreach events to share FLATE's expertise and initiatives. They will develop relationships with key education, industry leaders, and community partners in their region, create Manufacturing Month activities, host Speed Networking events, and organize industry tours. They will also connect students with opportunities to explore their interests in manufacturing through FLATE's programs and resources. Most importantly, they will mentor and encourage students to pursue careers in manufacturing.

If you are in the Panhandle, Orlando, or Sarasota, don't hesitate to contact your Regional Education Ambassador and let me know about existing engagement opportunities or ideas for creating new ones.

 Contact Information:

  • Panhandle - Kayla Martin- kayla.martin@flate.org
  • Orlando -     Mariellen Batchelor - mariellen.batchelor@flate.org
  • Sarasota -     Lordana Guillaume - lordana.guillaume@flate.org

STEM Fairs in Florida a Way to Support the Next Generation of Skilled Workforce

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education is critical for fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, which are essential for economic growth and prosperity. Providing students with the tools and resources necessary to inspire them to learn STEM-related subjects with real hands-on projects helps create the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs. Every year FLATE supports STEM student competitions throughout Florida. These competitions teach students the real-world application of STEM skills and provide an environment to exercise 21st-century skills – both of which are essential skills in the workforce.

Tampa Bay Area Regional STEM Fairs

The STEM Fair season has begun for 2024 and Danielly Orozco-Cole, Career and Technical Education Program Manager for FLATE, was part of the Bay Area Manufacturers Association (BAMA) team of volunteers who had the opportunity to review, interview, and judge some of the best engineering-manufacturing related K-12 projects. The Pinellas Science and Engineering Fair, held at Countryside High School on February 3rd in Clearwater, and the Hillsborough STEM fair, held at the Tampa Convention Center on February 7th, showcased more than 1,400 elementary, junior, and senior projects. 

During these events, more than 600 STEM professionals around the Tampa Bay area served as regional judges reviewing 1,000+ elementary-senior students’ projects. Winners of these STEM fairs will compete at the State of Florida Science and Engineering Fair of Florida on April 2-4th, 2024 in Lakeland Center, where over $200,000 worth of scholarships and awards will be provided to students.

FLATE thanks the sponsors as well as all judges and volunteers who assisted during the STEM Fair. Winners of the BAMA award will receive a certificate and cash prize at the Annual Awards Banquet on June 20, 2024 at the Bryan Glazier JCC.

Upcoming Events-Become a Subject Matter Expert or Judge

FLATE continues to encourage Florida’s talented students to pursue STEM and manufacturing-related careers. Everyone can help by supporting student STEM events in your area by volunteering as a subject matter expert or mentor and/or as a judge for your county's school district STEM Fair.

FLATE is also recruiting volunteers to serve as subject matter experts and/or mentors in the upcoming statewide student organization events:
  • Technology Student Association (TSA)-State and Competition: February 21-24, 2024
  • SkillsUSA Conference and Competition: April 14-17, 2024

  • FIRST Robotics Orlando Regional, March 20-23, 2024

  • FIRST Robotics Tallahassee Regional at FAMU, March 13-16, 2024

For more information about FLATE and how to become a judge visit FLATE.org/Student-Organziations.

Updates on FLATE’s partnership with Rutgers’ University Education and Employment Research Center (EERC) – Hidden Innovation Infrastructure: Understanding the Economic Development Role of Technician Education in the Changing Future of Work (HII)

Dr. Barger, Senior Educational Advisor for FLATE, has served as a co-principal investigator for an NSF ATE-funded Technician Education Research (NSF 2026262) project since 2020. This project is researching community college technical programs' contributions to and interactions with local and regional economic development organizations. Details about the HII project and other research projects related to community college workforce programs can be found here. (https://sites.rutgers.edu/eerc-hii/).

Over the 2023 Winter break, the HII project released a publication sharing its conceptual model that has evolved during the research phase of this project -- The Community College Role in Economic Development: A Conceptual Model. This new report outlines the role of community colleges in economic development. It defines both model inputs and outputs with examples including inclusive economic development. The report provides some ideas and opportunities for community colleges to begin engaging with their local and regional economic development agencies plus outcomes they can anticipate from these engagements.

Additionally, the Hidden Innovation Infrastructure project has developed 3 interactive data visualization tools that can provide charts or graphs of trends over time of graduates per career and technical education program by name, nationally, by state, or for multiple states. Another of these “data tools” can provide trends over time for jobs by technician occupation. These tools can quickly provide a visualization of these trends that can help community college workforce personnel compare current to past trends and map that information to economic trends and “happenings” for the industry sector of interest. All 3 tools are free to use based on national Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data Systems (IPEDS) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). 

Read more about these tools and try them out by going to the Data Tools menu item under Products on the Rutgers HII website. To get some ideas on how these tools have been used, there are issue briefs detailing the use of the tools under the Publications link (also under Products on the site).

There are many potential benefits for community colleges to engage with these organizations and some can be gleaned from these reports. Educators can find other reports and case studies from this project including promising practices at some specific colleges that are engaged with their economic development, workforce, and other community organizations.
The Rutgers Education and Employment Research Center has conducted a wealth of research focused on many aspects of Community College workforce programs and initiatives that can support all community colleges working in this space. In the fast-evolving landscape of technical education and training, degrees, certificates, and credentials, it’s a resource not to be overlooked. Please check out the HII project and the many other publications documenting a wide range of topics pertinent to college faculty, administrators, and advocates.

Spotlight on the Florida Statewide Engineering Technology Industry Advisory Board

Industry advisory boards are crucial in helping organizations make informed decisions to streamline and meet targeted strategic goals. For several years, Florida Advanced Technological Education Center (FLATE) has been leading the effort to bring together diverse and geographically dispersed colleges offering degrees in engineering technology (ET) to discuss and share best practices, and identify strategies to strengthen its technology consortium across Florida. FLATE is an NSF center of excellence in Florida that has been funded to date with a $10 million grant and is considered to be part of the NSF ATE Community as a “sustained” Center. The ATE program is focused on improving STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education to meet the technician workforce needs of American advanced technological industries. From 2004 to 2020, FLATE was funded through a National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) grant and was absorbed as part of the FloridaMakes network in 2020.

Overview, role and responsibilities of SETIAB

In an ongoing effort to streamline the engineering technology degree and related curriculum, in coordination with FloridaMakes and state and community colleges offering the ET Degree, FLATE launched the Statewide Engineering Technology Industry Advisory Board (SETIAB) in the spring of 2023. The Florida SETIAB is a key vehicle in engaging and building in-roads between Florida manufacturers and colleges offering two- and four-year degrees in engineering technology. The Board’s mission is to ensure that the 20-plus Associate in Science Engineering Technology (ASET) programs offered in community and state colleges across Florida are meeting rapidly evolving industry needs, and raising the visibility and competencies of ASET degree graduates. The Board is also tasked with identifying SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) goals by assisting the Florida College System (FCS) in ensuring ET curriculum learning objectives and activities are productive and of high quality.

Expected benefits and outcomes

Following the inaugural in-person meeting in March 2023, the Board recruited additional members to set up its initial organizational structure and bylaws. The Board now consists of one or two industry representatives who support an engineering technology advisory board from each of the Florida state colleges, plus one member each from FloridaMakes, Florida’s K-12 education system, and the Florida Department of Education’s Adult and Career Education division. Supporting members of the new advisory board include representatives from each college that has an industry member on the board as well as representatives from FLATE. A college may have more than one industry representative on the Board which helps to ensure that there is broad geographic representation and includes representatives of all manufacturing sectors found in Florida.

SETIAB is the “go-to” resource for providing recommendations on the continual development of engineering technology and related education for students at all FCS-affiliated institutions. It assists in developing a positive image for the ET programs and will serve as a conduit for maintaining information between the colleges, FloridaMakes, Florida Department of Education (FDOE), and manufacturers across Florida. The Board will also recommend curriculum content in both degrees and certificates while adhering to FDOE guidelines.

Similarities with engineering technology programs in colleges and universities

On a broader spectrum, the effort to establish a statewide engineering technology industry advisory board is not unique to Florida. The effort aligns with similar initiatives at colleges and universities across the country. The Purdue School of Engineering & Technology at Indiana University has a similar board consisting of alumni, industry experts, and industry professionals to advise, assist, support, and advocate for its electrical engineering technology program. Similarly, the engineering technology departments at the University of Toledo and East Tennessee State University have industrial advisory boards with a similar scope to advise engineering technology programs at each of their universities in an effort to achieve excellence. “Through the Florida SETIAB, we hope to provide guidance that enhances and aligns career and technical training with industry needs,” said Dr. Marilyn Barger, senior education advisor for FLATE. Barger hopes the initiative will also guide education and industry pathways that spur career growth for students and employees across the state and gives greater visibility to the ASET degree programs offered across the state including the skillsets of ET graduates.

To meet the charter manufacturing members and learn more about Florida’s SETIAB, visit https://flate.site/setiab, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at Marilyn.barger@flate.org and Dr. Mori Toosi, director of engineering technology at Polk State College, at mtoosi@polk.edu.

AmSkills & Local Colleges Establish Articulation Agreements to Build Enrollment

AmSkills, a regional resource for manufacturing training on Florida's west coast, met recently with FLATE in a discussion about expanding articulation agreements with local schools.  AmSkills believes strongly in productive collaboration between post-secondary education providers and has established articulation agreements with several colleges.  The focus has been on agreements with schools that offer the Associate in Science in Engineering Technology (ASET) degree, allowing AmSkills participants who receive industry certifications to receive college credit towards the ASET degree.  

According to Dr. Anzalone, COO of AmSkills, the common goal is increasing the number of students pursuing post-secondary education in STEM, specifically in Engineering Technology. It is no secret that enrollment in postsecondary education has declined since the COVID pandemic started and has struggled to reach pre pandemic levels. The National Student Clearinghouse publishes an annual enrollment report with relevant data. “Total postsecondary enrollment remains well below pre-pandemic levels, down about 1.09 million students overall and about 1.16 million undergraduates alone, compared to spring 2020.” 

Some of the causes for this decline are:
  • Perception about College, Community College, and Technical Programs
  • Competition with other programs
  • The “Gig” economy (Ride sharing, meal delivery, freelancing work, etc.)
  • Class format and location
  • Dual Credit
  • College and Student Finances
  • Mental health decline and support services not available or not promoted enough.

Low enrollment is happening at a time when there are 1.42 job openingsfor every unemployed person in the US. The question is: How do we get more people interested in pursuing a career in the technical aspects of manufacturing? Many have been working on this for the last 30 years, including AmSkills, since its founding. AmSkills has concluded -- based on work conducted over the last decade -- that the key factor is awareness of the different careers available and of the pathways to getting into them.

FLATE is a national leader on promoting and expanding opportunities for individuals to explore careers in STEM and manufacturing, through manufacturing months tours, summer camps, curriculum development support, teacher training in STEM fields, among many others.  FLATE continues to partner with organizations like AmSkills on initiatives related to awareness of manufacturing careers and pathways to these careers. 

AmSkills strongly believes in productive collaboration between post-secondary education and training providers.  They have established articulation agreements with colleges near them that provide college credit into the ASET degree for their participants, using the industry certifications achieved in AmSkills programs.  Specific industry certifications can be articulated into credit hours towards the ET degree through these articulation agreements. 

FLATE encourages the development of articulation agreements between Florida's colleges around the state.  There are many programs like these by AmSkills that offer alternative pathways to learning manufacturing and soft skills and students using them to earn certificates can also earn college credit if articulation agreements are in place.  

For step-by-step instructions on how to establish articulation agreements, click here watch the FLATE Webinar on Developing Local Articulations.

Click here for a list of Florida colleges that offer the AS in Engineering Technology.

The involvement of industry partners is crucial for all technical education and training programs. It’s vital that educators regularly learn from industry what skills their workforce needs so students completing programs can go directly into the workforce and perform at a high level. Successful job placements enhance a program’s success in attracting more people to manufacturing careers. Industry partners often provide financial support for student’s tuition, activities, and competitions. More importantly, the information provided by these industry partners guides which programs are offered at AmSkills.

AmSkills Programs

AmSkills has many programs designed to expand the pipeline of people pursuing careers in manufacturing, as well as to upskill newcomers and incumbent workers.  Below are just a few of the programs currently being offered.

High School Initiative:
AmSkills is running a four-year advanced manufacturing pre-apprenticeship Academy program at AnClote High School in Pasco County. The curriculum for the 4-year program is based on Amatrol’s “Ignite” program with courses that include stimulating interactive eLearning lessons, computer simulations, design projects, and hands-on workstations using Industry 4.0 technologies. Currently, there are 153 students in this program.

Youth Camps: AmSkills offers a variety of youth camps of varying durations to expose teenagers to technologies and careers in manufacturing at both their Lealman and Holiday locations.

Adult Career Discovery Bootcamps:
The 2-week program exposes participants to different aspects of manufacturing and soft skills requested by industry partners. At the end of the 2-week program, completers are guaranteed interviews with multiple hiring employers, most of them attaining a job in manufacturing after a second or third interview with one of these companies.

Upskilling new and incumbent technicians: AmSkills offers training in most industry credentials related to mechatronics, taught in different formats and locations, responding to industrial partners’ needs.

To learn more about AmSkills, please visit their website at https://www.amskills.org/.

By Alessandro Anzalone, Ph.D. and the AmSkills team.