ATE Impacts

With VESTA’s Help Highland Community College Creates Academic Program, Vineyard & Winery Incubator

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Scott Kohl directs the viticulture and enology program at Highland Community College and manages 456 Wineries.

In 2007 when the owners of a nearby winery suggested the Highland Community College-Wamego offer winemaking classes, Scott Kohl knew nothing about wine production. He wasn’t even a wine drinker. But as the director of the satellite campus, he was persuaded and gathered information to create the curriculum for a three-credit Introduction to Grape Growing course. When 17 students enrolled – one drove three hours to attend – Kohl was impressed that the college could respond to an unmet need. Enrollment was similarly strong when the college added an introductory winemaking course.

In 2008 Highland leaders agreed to join the Viticulture and Enology Science and Technology Alliance (VESTA), not only to help the center funded by the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program expand its online viticulture and enology degree program throughout the Midwest, but to reconfigure VESTA’s curriculum for in-person courses. 

“From there things just started to grow,” Kohl said. Indeed they did.

For more than 10 years the small rural college has offered enology and viticulture certificate and associate degree programs. The teaching vineyard it started with VESTA support has grown to four vineyards with 5,200 vines. Most remarkably, the college created Highland Vineyards and Winery, LLC. The limited liability corporation is the business branch of the Highland Community College Viticulture and Enology Program and operator of 456 Wineries, a wine business incubator that is located across the highway from the campus. Income from sale of wine made with the college’s grapes, the rent paid by the wine incubator tenants, and grants help sustain the program that enrolls about 16 students per year. Many alumni are the owners or employees of the 60 wineries that now dot Kansas; the state had 12 wineries in 2007, Kohl said.

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Resources for Hybrid Teaching and Universal Design for Learning

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A young woman with curly hair studies at a laptop in front of a shelf of books.

With the new school year underway, we know that members of the ATE community may be adapting their lessons and syllabi to accommodate different learning modalities in the rapidly changing circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even with several semesters of experience, there is still much that we all can learn about effective teaching and learning in remote, hybrid, and even in-person formats.

In the spirit of mutual support and collaborative learning, we are sharing five resources that we believe will be helpful for all educators to strive to make their pedagogy more inclusive, accessible, and useful for all students. 

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Online Energy Management Program Leads to Impactful Career for Esteban Montero Chacon

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Esteban Montero Chacon is happy that his work reduces energy costs for low-income people.

Esteban Montero Chacon, 40, was hired as a residential energy analyst in October 2020 while he was finishing his associate in applied science (AAS) degree in energy management from Lane Community College. By December his boss was so impressed by the way Montero Chacon revamped the agency’s Heat System Crisis program that he told him to apply for the director’s job from which he would soon be retiring.  

Montero Chacon did, and in February 2021 he became the director of the Energy Services Division of Homes for Good, a public housing agency in Lane County, Oregon.

“I don’t believe I could do the job [without the program], because number one, that’s how I got here by being an energy technician myself. And number two, is just the fact that I learned a lot not only in the technical field of energy, but there was a lot to be learned about energy policy and politics and all the different things – all the guidance, the regulations, ventilation needs and such – that come into play and represent a big role in what my job is,” he said.   

Montero Chacon is particularly grateful to Roger Ebbage, the faculty lead of the Northwest Water & Energy Education Institute at Lane Community College. It was Ebbage who told Montero Chacon of the energy analyst job at Homes for Good in 2020, and it was Ebbage who encouraged him to enroll in the energy management program at Lane Community College in 2017.

Ebbage has been the principal investigator of several Advanced Technological Education (ATE) grants from the National Science Foundation including Award 1601375 that supported the conversion of Lane’s in-person energy management degree program for online delivery. He is currently co-principal investigator of the Center for Renewable Energy Advanced Technological Education, which is hosted by Madison Area Technical College in Wisconsin.

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From the Archive: Welding Resources for the College Classroom

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A welder in a face-covering safety mask works at welding with bright sparks.

Like many of the career paths available to graduates of ATE-funded programs, welding professionals have a wide variety of opportunities available to them. From construction to manufacturing, engineering to energy, skilled welders are in high demand in a number of critical industries across the country. In many of these industries, welders need only complete a certificate program or two-year college degree to start a promising career at a good salary.

In this From the Archive blog post, we highlight an array of materials created by and for welding programs across ATE to educate the next generation of welders. Our first set of resources include two courses created by the Center for Advanced Automotive Technology (CAAT) in partnership with Roane State Community College. Next up are curricular materials that focus on mathematics instruction for welders, followed by a template to aid instructors in evaluating the welding competency of their students. 

If you are new to ATE and would like to learn more about adding your curriculum, professional development materials, or other ATE grant deliverables to the ATE Central Archive, please join us for an informational presentation via Zoom on September 28th at noon CST.

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Industry Credentials Woven into Miami Dade Cybersecurity Program Created with ATE Support

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Diego Tibaquirá, professor of computer science at Miami Dade College and principal investigator of COMPASS

In the summer of 2017 Miami Dade College had zero cybersecurity courses. Today it has a robust, multi-level cybersecurity program.

With ATE grant support for its Cybersecurity Opportunities and Methods that Promote Access and Student Success (COMPASS) project, faculty built an award-winning program. They have developed curriculum that prepares technicians for the region’s employers, boosted their professional skills earning 11 industry credentials, taught cybersecurity workshops to high school educators, and created a student recruitment process.

“COMPASS was the one that took us from zero to 100 in four years,” said Principal Investigator Diego Tibaquirá. The project accomplished so much so quickly that it led to Miami Dade’s selection as EC-Council Best New Comer Award in 2019.

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NSF Releases New ATE Program Solicitation

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National Science Foundation seal

Exciting news - the newest ATE program solicitation is now available from the National Science Foundation! As most of us in the ATE community are well aware, the ATE program emphasizes the education of technicians for the high-technology fields that drive our nation’s economy, with special emphasis on two-year higher education institutions. Through partnerships among academic institutions and industry, ATE promotes improvement in the education of science and engineering technicians, including curriculum development, professional development, career pathways, and other activities.

The focus of the new solicitation is the same as it’s been in years past in that it provides funds to advance the knowledge base related to technician education. Projects and centers are expected to be faculty-driven and incorporate credit-bearing courses and programs, although materials developed through the program may also be used for incumbent worker education.

According to Dr. Celeste Carter, ATE’s Lead Program Director, “This new solicitation further strengthens the role of community and technical colleges in the ATE program and in the education of the skilled technical workforce.”

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COVID Pivots Extend the Reach of 2 Projects

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People become ATE principal investigators (PIs) because they are innovators. They are educators who have ideas to improve technician education and they have obtained funding from the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program to test those ideas.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the creativity and stamina of ATE PIs not only sustained ATE initiatives, in many instances the way PIs responded to the public health crisis helped advance their ATE projects in new and interesting ways.

This blog features the work of Skilled Workers Get Jobs 2.1 and Smart Manufacturing for America’s Revolutionizing Technological Transformation (SMARTT). Both projects switched their professional development programs to virtual formats from in-person workshops with unexpectedly positive results.

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Preparing for the HI-TEC 2021 Virtual Conference

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HI-TEC 2021 Virtual logo

Always a popular event in the ATE community calendar, the High Impact Technology Exchange Conference (HI-TEC) is a national conference on advanced technological education where secondary and postsecondary educators, counselors, industry professionals, trade organizations, and technicians can update their knowledge and skills. Charged with preparing America’s skilled technical workforce, the event focuses on the preparation needed by the existing and future workforce for companies in the high-tech sectors that drive our nation’s economy. 

Due to public health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, HI-TEC 2021 will be held virtually this year. The conference will take place on Wednesday and Thursday, July 21-22, starting at noon EDT. The virtual conference will feature live keynotes and panels, as well as a variety of  “on-demand” pre-recorded sessions which will be available for 6 months after the conference. Participants will need to register (either individually or as an institution) to access the live virtual sessions and “on-demand” content.

Highlights of this year’s event include keynote addresses, one on each day of the conference. The first keynote speaker is Mark Maybury, who as Chief Technology Officer from Stanley Black & Decker manages a team across the company’s businesses and functions and advises on technological threats and opportunities. The second speaker is Jessica Gomez, Founder, President, and CEO of Rogue Valley Microdevices who has gone on an inspiring journey from homeless teen to CEO of a microelectronics firm.

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Enrollment Grows during 2020-21 in Agriculture Science Program Started with ATE Support

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In-person classes in Allan Hancock College’s greenhouse and farm in fall 2020 helped grow ag science enrollments.

Enrollment in the agricultural science certificate and three agricultural degree programs – agricultural science, plant science, and agricultural business  – created with an ATE grant at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, California, grew in the past year while community college enrollments in California and nationally decreased.

For example, the number of declared agricultural science majors increased from 109 students in 2018-2019 – the first year of the program – to 317 in 2019-2020. During 2019-2020, the headcount enrollment in agricultural science was 465, a 172% increase from the year before when the headcount, which includes non-majors, was 171.

During 2020-2021 – the year of COVID-19 restrictions – the headcount enrollment in agricultural science courses increased to 529 students. That was a 14% increase at a time when overall headcount at Allan Hancock College decreased by 8%. Enrollment at U.S. community colleges dropped 9.4% from fall 2019 to fall 2020, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

“Anything agriculture happened as a direct result of the NSF ATE grant,” said Erin Krier, principal investigator of Creating Precision Agriculture and Crop Protection Pathways via Industry Partnerships (Award #1800889). Prior to Allan Hancock College receiving a $225,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program, the Central Coast college had an established viticulture and enology degree program that focuses on wine-making. However, it had only a smattering of courses in other aspects of agriculture. And none of those courses led to agriculture-specific credentials. 

“That grant launched the whole program,” Krier said.

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Accessible Outreach Tips and Tools

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A man in a button-down shirt types on a laptop.

Many members of the ATE Community are aware of the importance of creating accessible content, but how can you put that knowledge to use when promoting your project or center's work? Here are some quick tips and tools to optimize your web presence, social media content, and presentation materials for accessibility:

Format materials with accessibility in mind from the start. 

Whether you are writing web content, making presentation slides, or creating an accessible PDF, consider the clarity and navigability of your outreach materials right from the start. To ensure that your written content is understandable to all, make sure text gets your point across in a concise way that is comprehensible to a general audience. Avoid using acronyms or jargon, unless you are writing for a particular audience who has familiarity with these terms.

Design elements can also aid in getting information across. When formatting text, avoid creating uneven spaces between letters. Be sure to choose fonts that are easily legible on screens, such as sans serif fonts, which are easier to read at both small and large sizes. When creating hyperlinks, use meaningful text that describes the content, rather than general phrasing like “click here.” Format web pages with a defined and consistent visual hierarchy, so that information is grouped in logical ways that visually cue your reader on the relationships between content and the order of importance. In addition to layout cues, add headings using standard HTML to make navigating your site easier for those using screen readers.

Many softwares and web platforms offer tools that aid in accessibility. For example, Microsoft PowerPoint offers existing presentation templates for creating navigable slides. Presenters can also set slide content order, so that audience members using screen readers can move through the slide in the intended progression. This video tutorial provides a helpful overview of how to design presentations with accessibility in mind.

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