ATE Impacts

Janet Teng Makes the Most of Undergraduate Research Experiences


Janet Teng

In her first days at Pasadena City College (PCC) in fall 2020 Janet Teng told a STEM coordinator that she was interested in research. Most importantly she followed the coordinator’s recommendation that she talk with Jared Ashcroft. A natural sciences professor, Ashcroft leads PCC’s undergraduate research program and serves as principal investigator of the Micro Nano Technology Education Center (MNT-EC).

“I just went from there,” Teng said, modestly acknowledging the numerous research projects – including two undergraduate research experiences supported by the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program – that have led to her winning national accolades.

In 2022 alone Teng was admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received a Barry Goldwater Scholarship, the U.S. government’s most prestigious undergraduate scholarship for sophomores and juniors who plan to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, math, and engineering. 

In late summer 2021 she won the Ignite Off! Competition hosted by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE). Federal agency interns – including university and graduate students – participate in the annual competition. Teng’s presentation “Understanding Corrosion One Atom at a Time,” summarized research she did as a summer intern at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington. Her research there was included in a paper published by Cambridge University Press.

Upon her return to PCC in fall 2021 she started a yearlong, paid internship at the California Institute of Technology as MNT-EC’s first student in the Skills Training in Advanced Research & Technology (START) program. That initiative allows ATE projects to place community college students in paid internships at Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers, which receive National Science Foundation funding.

Teng recently learned she’s been selected for another prestigious internship. This summer she will be part of a research team that is modeling exoplanets at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

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Navigating Virtual, Hybrid, and In-Person Conferences


A person looking at another person over the computer screen

Conferences have always been an essential part of professional development for NSF ATE grantees providing opportunities for networking, learning about new developments and trends in industry, and expanding knowledge and skills.

With the advent of virtual and hybrid conferences, attendees now have more options to choose from when it comes to attending conferences. This post discusses the differences between virtual, hybrid, and in-person conferences and highlights some of the ATE centers doing all of the above. 

Virtual Conferences

Virtual conferences, also known as online conferences, are entirely online events. Attendees can access the conference from anywhere in the world as long as they have an internet connection. Virtual conferences can take many forms, such as live-streamed events, webinars, or pre-recorded sessions that attendees can watch at their convenience.

The Building Efficiency for a Sustainable Tomorrow (BEST) Center, which supports heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration, building automation, and energy/facilities management, pivoted to entirely virtual formats for their annual institute on high-performance building operations. The institutes have been a success with many speakers, events, and lots of knowledge sharing among participants. The BEST center also helps create networking opportunities for attendees by not only having impactful speakers but also providing  roundtable discussions so that attendees can connect online. The institute is always free to attend. The keynote presentation from their 2023 annual institute can be viewed here.

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NCAT Shares Lessons Learned from Experience STEAM


Teens recruited by Marnita’s Table meet with NCAT staffers before Experience STEAM. (Pine Peak Media)

Staffers at the National Center for Autonomous Technologies (NCAT) not only coordinated the massive Experience STEAM event at the Mall of America in August, they released a detailed 65-page Experience STEAM Impact Report of what worked and what didn’t to help principal investigators of Advanced Technological Education (ATE) projects and centers plan large-scale, collaborative outreach events.

“Experience STEAM was a first-of-its-kind-event with a tremendous amount of challenges and successes. We believe that between the best practices and lessons learned, a great framework for similar NSF ATE events in other markets has been built,” the report states. ATE projects and centers receive grants from the National Science Foundation’s ATE program.


Twenty-six ATE projects and centers were among the 57 corporations, nonprofit organizations, and academic institutions that partnered with NCAT on the dozens of hands-on learning experiences NCAT calls “activations” at the Minnesota mall that 394,120 people visited from August 10 to 14, 2022. (See “ATE centers show off their stuff at Mall of America”)

Jonathan Beck, NCAT executive director, calls Experience STEAM “a revolutionary approach to educational outreach. NCAT believes experiential learning provided by two-year technician education is a driving force in advancing social and economic mobility.”

The Experience STEAM event at the Mall of America “was created to spark excitement in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) concepts, education, and careers.”

Next Test of “Revolutionary Approach” to Outreach  

NCAT is testing this approach again—albeit on a smaller scale—with Experience Northland Aerospace on February 24 at Northland Community and Technical College, the host institution for NCAT. Beck says this iteration aims “to create deep connections” between the region’s residents and the technician education programs at Northland.

Based on pre-registration, this local event is off to a strong start. All 550 activity slots from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for students in grades 7 to 12 were filled by late January. The 86,000-square-foot aerospace facility will be open to the community in the evening (without reservations) for free activities like virtual reality drone races and lessons in programming, riveting joints, and constructing pneumatic systems.

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Select Resources for Outreach 


An image of a person in an orange sweater using a computer

Many ATE community members are aware of the importance of disseminating information and findings, but how can you effectively reach your audience when promoting your project or center’s work? Here are four new outreach tools that you could incorporate into your existing outreach program.

See where your website shines

We access hundreds of websites a day but usually only briefly. According to Klipfolio Metrics, the average time on a website is just 52 seconds. Your website has less than a minute to make an impact. Knowing this, Hotjar is a free online tool that creates a heatmap of your site. It shows where most users linger or scroll on. Users of Hotjar can see what is of most interest to website visitors, what buttons they click, and also what they ignore. Using Hotjar allows you to spot problem areas and areas working well. 

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ATE PI Chris Delahanty Joins NSF as Rotator


Bucks County Community College Professor Christine Delahanty begins work in January as a temporary NSF program officer.

Christine Delahanty, a Bucks County Community College (Pennsylvania) physics, engineering, and engineering technology professor, is excited to begin work on January 16 at the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a temporary program director, also known as a rotator.  

“I’m very willing, and happy to participate and serve my duty as long as they need me,” Delahanty said of her initial one-year contract with NSF and leave of absence from Bucks. NSF rotators’ terms may be extended for up to four years.

Delahanty led two NSF Advanced Technological Education grant-funded projects at Bucks. “I love competition. I love to write. I found this to be a great opportunity for me,” Delahanty said of being an ATE principal investigator. Her other NSF-funded activities include coaching  student teams that qualified for the final rounds of the Community College Innovation Challenge in 2016 and 2017 and serving as a Mentor-Connect Mentor Fellow in 2022.

She describes each as a positive learning experience. Her sunny perspective and outgoing personality may be surpassed only by her tenacity.

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The Importance of Digital Archiving


An image from the ATE Impacts book, from COMPASS, an instructor and student discuss code on a computer

Needing an archiving refresh? Check out the information on our website about ATE Central's Archiving Service!

Whether you’re just getting started with ATE, or you’ve been part of the community for a while, the information provided will help guide your archiving efforts. As you may know, archiving with ATE Central is an NSF requirement for grantees but also supports sustainability, ensuring your project or center’s deliverables are available beyond the life of your ATE funding.

During a discussion with Kendra Bouda, ATE Central's Metadata and Information Specialist, we asked her a series of five questions about archiving.  The answers provide an overview of the archiving service, and a general outline of how the process works.

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Success of Industry Credentials in Montcalm Robotics Program Leads to Their Addition Elsewhere


Montcalm’s robotics curriculum delivers skills that align with industry standards and meet employers’ needs.

Montcalm Community College’s robot technician education project has ushered in a new era of credentialing at the Michigan college.  

Successfully incorporating industry credentials into the automation maintenance degree program for robot technicians has “spring-boarded” the addition of industry certifications to the college’s welding and machining programs, according to Deborah Dawson-Gunther. She is the principal investigator of the Educating Robot Maintenance and Repair Technicians to Address Workforce Gaps in Automation and Skilled Trades project funded with an Advanced Technological Education (ATE) grant and is a faculty member of the automation and advanced industrial technology department at Montcalm.

Rather than diminishing the college’s associate degrees and certificates, Dawson-Gunter said the industry credentials are encouraging students to enroll and addressing employers’ expectations. “The employers are happy about it,” she said.   

“The world is changing around us....We need to change or die,” Rob Spohr said during a presentation at the 2022 ATE Principal Investigators’ Conference. Spohr was then the vice president for academic affairs at Montcalm. During the session on Industry 4.0 he and Dawson-Gunther explained why and how the college is tying as many courses as possible with industry credentials from various sources.

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From the Archive: Using Interviews to Spotlight Career Pathways


Advanced technology fields offer a breadth of opportunities for those interested in pursuing them. However, many potential STEM students need to be better informed about the various career paths, what a STEM career could look like, or how to get started. Hearing from students and professionals in these high-tech fields is a practical approach for reaching those who want to learn more.

In this month's From the Archive blog post, we highlight career videos ATE grantees created. Our first collection of videos spotlights the work of technicians in the expansive field of advanced manufacturing. In contrast, our second calls attention to the expectations of students enrolled in a nuclear energy program and their reasons for choosing this industry. Last up is a promotional video featuring recent graduates, who describe their experiences and advice for pursuing a career in photonics.

For those interested in creating their own career videos, check out this past From the Archive blog post on producing quality video content.

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With Biotech Certificate Ignacio G. Rivera Lands Job with His Dream Employer


Ignacio G. Rivera

As a teenager Ignacio G. Rivera helped his dad – who has worked for a commercial window washing company for more than 30 years – set up equipment to clean the exterior windows at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. At one point he told his dad, “I want to work here one day. I want to be on the inside. I want to know what it’s like.” 

In his late 20s Rivera had a plan to become a nurse and if all went well to be involved in patient care at Cedars-Sinai. He had saved money while taking classes part time at Los Angeles Mission College in California and working full time. In fall 2021 he started arranging things to enroll in an accelerated nursing baccalaureate program at a private college. But, when he saw his first tuition bill with $2,400 per course charges and lots of fees, he reconsidered.

He was feeling defeated in January 2022 when an LA Mission College email with biotech in the subject line caught his attention. “It was a one-semester thing. I was like, ‘Why not? I’ve been in school so long, let me try biotech’ ... That did change my life. I’m really happy with where I’m working at today,” he said.

Today he is a research lab assistant for Cedars-Sinai’s Medically Associated Science and Technology Program (MAST) team. He began work in June, right after finishing the laboratory assistant biotechnology certificate program. When his dad saw his employee ID badge, “He was just the proudest,” Rivera said.

Rivera is grateful to Chander P. Arora, Ph.D., the biotechnology instructor at LA Mission College and principal investigator of the Expanding the Biotechnology Pipeline to Adults Seeking Reemployment Advanced Technological Education (ATE) project.

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Three Video Series Highlighting the ATE Community


An image from the ATE Impacts book,. The image shows two students preparing their underwater robot in a pool

ATE Central serves as an information hub for the ATE grantee community alongside promoting the work of ATE grantees and sustaining their work through ATE Central’s archiving services and resource collection. ATE Central also creates a number of tools, services, and resources that are freely available to those within and beyond ATE and are designed to support the work of educators. In this post, we wanted to share some of our work done collaboratively with others to create several different video series. These include the ATE Student Success Stories, the Achieving Sustainability series, and four new videos that showcase the impact of the ATE programs and are a companion to the ATE Impacts book.

The Student Success Stories highlight a diverse set of students' struggles and triumphs in community and technical college settings and showcase the impact of the ATE program on their lives, education, and career paths. The ATE Impacts videos reveal the impact of ATE on a variety of stakeholders—Principal Investigators, administrators, students, and industry partners.  

And finally, the Achieving Sustainability series was created in collaboration with the American Association of Community Colleges to help support ATE grantees as they endeavor to sustain their activities and impacts beyond National Science Foundation (NSF) funding. Read on to learn more about each video series. 

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