FLATE Focus 

2020 FLATE Award Winners

The spotlight is back on the 2020 FLATE Awardees. This year FLATE and FloridaMakes are working together to coordinate the 2020 FLATE Awards and recognition program.  FLATE Awards initiative was launched in 2007 and is part of FLATE, the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center’s strategy to recognize industry professionals and educators who have for a number of years invested in training the next generation of high-skilled workers. This year’s awardees are Todd Thuma, Alan Zube, and Shannon Guzman.

Todd Thuma, Manufacturing Secondary Educator-of-the-Year, is currently the instructional technology teacher at Mulberry High School in Mulberry, FL, boasts of storied educational and professional credentials in predominantly STEM-related fields. He holds a master’s degree in marine science from the University of South Carolina, and a second master’s degree in education and instruction technology from the University of Georgia. Most recently, as part of the National Science Foundation grant to design low cost PLC trainers, Thuma completed a three-year-long intensive training program on PLC’s at Florida State College at Jacksonville.

Thuma’s diverse professional experiences have not only added to his professional toolkit, but enriched what he’s brought to the classroom. Thuma believes any child can learn. The key, he says, is
finding something they enjoy and finding a connection to what they are learning. “The opportunities that await students in these careers provide them with a means of having the kind of life that elevates them from where they come”.  He believes, education coupled with training and development of more efficient practices and tools for manufacturing is what will procure a productive worker. Given his innate interest in STEM and manufacturing, Thuma has his hands in several pots. In 2017, Thuma started an electric car race team competing in Electrathon of America through the Electrathon of Tampa League, and earned the award for Team Sponsor of the Year. Under his tutelage, the team has brought home many trophies over the years and remains undefeated in the current season. In 2017, Thuma wrote a grant that provided $5,000 for the purchase of Amatrol Applied Electronics Control 90-EC1A mechatronics trainer, and in 2016 he successfully secured a $3000 grant to purchase 3D printers for students at Mulberry High School.
Developing critical thinking and higher-order skills are also of prime importance as increased skills come from better educated workers. “Gone are the jobs where a worker spot welded sheet metal, on the contrary, skilled technicians program and maintain robots performing these tasks,” says Thuma. He advocates for educators to prepare students for the rigors of trouble shooting and analyzing the work, rather than just teaching them how to push buttons to operate machinery.


Alan Zube, the 2020 Post-Secondary Educator-of-the-Year, professor of Advanced Manufacturing and CAD at Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ). At FSCJ, Zube teaches survey electronics, hydraulics and pneumatics, and robotics. In the past, he has also taught Mechanics, Manufacturing Processes, Motors and Controls, Introduction to Engineering Design, AutoCAD, Advanced AutoCAD, and Intro to Geographic Information Systems.

Zube is a strong proponent of manufacturing education and points to manufacturing as an important component of an economy. He points to manufacturing as the bedrock of innovation, invention and learning process development, and advocates a need for students to expand their understanding about the exciting opportunities in manufacturing. He is among a growing number of educators who bemoan the loss of application of knowledge and process development in the K-12 education system. “Gone are the days of woodworking, metal working, sewing, cooking and other application-based classes that provided relevance for students and allowed them to see the value of their studies in science, math and humanities” laments Zube.

These trends, he notes, has made manufacturing education more important than ever. “Robust manufacturing education that attracts students of all gender, race and socioeconomic backgrounds is more critical now than ever.” Part of the need for manufacturing education, he says, stems from the need to economically support the framework of the manufacturing industry as it exists, and more importantly train for what manufacturing will look like by 2030. He highlights the economic benefits of manufacturing as one of the largest multiplies of the economy and points out the benefits of manufacturing education in imbibing important real-life skills like problem-solving and teamwork that transfer across professional boundaries.

Zube’s professional portfolio unravels a number of achievements and engagements in STEM-related projects. Since 2019 he has served as the Principal Investigator for an NSF Grant that is focused on Industry 4.0 technician training in advanced manufacturing, was the Co-PI of the CollaborATE NSF grant, and the PI for the NSF ATE Instrumentation and Control Technician program. He serves on multiple advisory board of members that include the Orange Park High School Engineering Academy, Johnson & Johnson Advanced Manufacturing Dual Enrollment program at Englewood High School, Lee High School’s Project Lead the Way program and the Nassau County Machining and Manufacturing advisory board. He previously worked at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College in West Virginia (WV) where he kick-started the mechatronics program and played a leading role in securing over $2 million in WV advanced program grants. Other positions include teaching at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College in Martinsburg, WV, where he helped build and establish the Mechatronics program, and served as the program coordinator for four years. Zube also served as an adjunct instructor at Hagerstown Community. He is trained in Industry 4.0 and in 2019 certified over 100 students in SnapOn Multimeter and Festo Hydraulic and Pneumatics.

On the industry side of the continuum, Shannon Guzman is the recipient of the 2020 FLATE
Distinguished Manufacturing Partner Service Award. Guzman has been the regional Human Resources Leader for Chromalloy Tampa Castings since August 2016. Guzman has over 16 years of experience as a HR professional. She has served at the Department of Defense Education in the Netherlands, was the Division Talent Acquisition Manager for Everest University Online, and provided HR leadership for manufacturing companies such as Ingersoll Rand and Western Forge in Colorado Springs. Guzman holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Resource Management from the University of Maryland University College- European Division, and an MBA with an emphasis in HR Management from Colorado Technical University.
In her role as the regional HR leader for Chromalloy Castings, Guzman has worked with FLATE, Hillsborough Community College, CareerSource Tampa Bay and the Manufacturing Alliance to build strategic partnerships in education, talent development and manufacturing market insights. The partnership with FLATE/HCC has culminated into the launching of a successful internship program to provide students with hands on learning, and a tangible career path customized to their skills, ambition and aptitude.

Guzman’s views on manufacturing and manufacturing education is through the lens of a human resources and talent development and acquisition professional. Guzman points to “employees” as a company’s most important asset. Manufacturing, she says, is all about producing high quality products that meet customers’ standards of excellence in a global marketplace. To that effect, Guzman believes the man, or the woman behind the machine and the product is what sets a company apart. Therefore, recruiting and training skilled workforce is essential to driving the bottom line.

In manufacturing, she notes, there is a growing demand for production operators to not only contribute to assembling a particular part, but to understand the role they play in achieving the fulfillment of the big picture, by applying advanced manufacturing concepts, especially by process improvement through lean techniques, troubleshooting their equipment, analyzing data and maintaining machine and work area safety.  In that regard Guzman says “manufacturing education provides the critical foundation of safety, quality, business acumen and fundamental equipment knowledge.” The rationale being candidates who possess these attributes not only save the company time and money, but have the capabilities to add immediate value to their production process, their team, and the business overall. This is in turn correlates to achieving successful KPIs that ultimately drives quality deliverables and team satisfaction. Recognizing manufacturing education’s link to quality, safety and customer focus will continue to drive enhanced global customer and U.S. company confidence and trust that we can provide the workforce for the growth in this sector, and the jobs and careers of the future for generations to come.


2020 marks the 13th year of recognizing educators as well as industry and community partners who support the advanced manufacturing industry in Florida. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, there will be no award ceremony this year. However, awardees will still receive their recognition pieces and congratulatory letters from the governor of Florida. For more information visit https://fl-ate.org/programs/flate-awards, or email Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org. 

FLATE Focus (May 2020)