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

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

MODEX EXPO 4/7-8 Atlanta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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