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Mechatronics Educators Use Monthly Calls & Microsite to Build Community of Practice

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The Mechatronics Community Exchange (MEC) is a forum for instructors of automated manufacturing and robotics to identify related needs and the means to fulfill them. It uses monthly group Skype calls and an ATE Central microsite to share resources.

For years, Virginia Western Community College Automated Manufacturing Instructor Dan Horine has been searching for more affordable equipment to teach mechatronics in high schools. By the end of the Mechatronics Community Exchange (MEC) call on Friday, October 27, he was persuaded that the Low Cost Mechatronics Trainer built by Anne Arundel Community College Associate Professor Tim Callinan could be what he's been seeking. "It's amazing," Horine said.

The trainer Callinan built for Team CollaborATE—an ATE project that involves Anne Arundel, College of Lake County, and Florida State College at Jacksonville—costs about $1,500 and can be used simultaneously by two students in a lab. The $7,000 cost of comparable commercial equipment has inhibited expansion of mechatronics programs at high schools and colleges. Team CollaborATE provides detailed instructions to build the trainer, which uses mechatronics' key electrical, mechanical and computer technologies.

Watch the video that Callinan narrates at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBGCg_1LQHw. Listen to the recording of the Skype group discussion about the trainer at https://ate.community/MCE, the Mechatronics Community Exchange microsite that ATE Central hosts for this group of ATE educators.

ATE Central's Microsite Service is free to all ATE centers and projects. Its drop-and-drag interface is easy to use and accommodates photos and multi-page documents. To begin the process of creating a microsite send an email to microsites@atecentral.net.

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All About the ATE PI Conference App!

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Once again, ATE Central and the American Association of Community Colleges are pleased to announce the release of this year’s ATE PI Conference mobile app! The 2017 app and companion website are designed to help attendees make the most of their conference experience. Conference participants can use their phone, tablet, or Internet browser to create a personal schedule, stay up-to-date with the agenda and speaker lineup, search the attendee directory, and more! The app is available for iPhone or iPad and Android devices. To download the app, search the app store for "ATE PI 2017" or simply follow the appropriate link from a mobile device.

Each year, ATE Central gathers feedback and usage data about the app through surveys and data collected by the app itself.  A review of last year’s data found that 59% of invited attendees downloaded the meeting app. This finding reflected an increase from the previous three years where 56%, 49%, and 47% downloaded the app in 2015, 2014, and 2013, respectively.  Interestingly, the primary reasons why individuals do not download the app has changed over time. In 2011 for example, 46% of individuals did not download the app because they did not have the supporting devices, whereas, in 2015 that number had dropped to 8%. Moreover, only 8% of individuals indicated that they did not download the app because of lack of awareness. While a sizable portion of the population indicated that they did not download the app because they prefer printed materials (46%) the increase usage of the app has reduced printing costs for the sponsors of the PI Conference. The app is well regarded by those who use it - 97% of those respondents who used the app deemed the quality to be good, very good, or excellent.

There’s a lot you can do with the app but we always look for ways to make it better. We’d love to get your feedback and we’re happy to answer any questions or help out if you’re having any problems logging in or using the app. Please don’t hesitate to contact staff at ATE Central at info@atecentral.net or stop by our booth (#002) at any one of the showcase sessions!

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SRI's ATE Research Developed Tools for Effective Educator-Industry Partnerships

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The WEIE Framework assists educators' efforts to prepare technicians who are ready to transfer for employment in advanced technology workplaces.

An ATE-funded research project offers a set of tools that educators can use to start new industry partnerships and enhance existing relationships with the employers of their students.

The Workforce Education Implementation Evaluation (WEIE) Framework was developed to help two-year college technical faculty members overcome "the isolation and just the constant drumbeat of work, and trying to cover everything that you've got to cover," said Louise Yarnall, senior research social scientist at SRI International.

The WEIE Framework and research methodology are explained on the project's website:https://www.sri.com/work/projects/community-college-partnerships-instructional-impacts

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An Interview With Dr. Celeste Carter

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ATE Central recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Celeste Carter, who is a Lead Program Director for NSF’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program.  We were interested to learn more about her involvement in the ATE program as well as how she thinks the program has changed and evolved over its tenure.  Dr. Carter also discusses the challenges of proposal writing, as well as three things she recommends every new grantee should do once they receive their funding.

ATE Central: You've been involved with NSF’s ATE program at a number of levels - initially as a grantee and now, of course, as a Lead Program Director. Can you describe your history with ATE for us?

Dr. Carter: I started as an ATE PI with an award made in fiscal year 1997. The project developed case studies with associated laboratory activities around the structure of a biopharmaceutical company. It was not only a very fun and challenging project, but it also introduced me to the ATE community. I was wrapping up that project when one of the Program Officers in NSF’s Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE) left for a job on the House Science Committee. Elaine Johnson, PI of the ATE-funded Bio-Link Center called me at my home institution and told me I needed to call Duncan McBride at NSF. Elaine explained that she thought I would be a great Program Officer and she had told Duncan (her Program Officer for Bio-Link) about me. I did call, and Duncan had me fly to Arlington to interview. They offered me a position as a rotator (a non-permanent Program Officer) in the DUE. I worked in DUE from 2001-2003, surviving 9/11, the Anthrax threat, and the snipers – I did have many people asking me why I stayed! I returned to my home institution in California only to be asked back again as a rotator. That rotation lasted only a year as Liz Teles informed me that she would be retiring and she thought I should apply for a permanent position at NSF and take over the ATE program. That is exactly what happened, and this October marks 8 years for me with the NSF as DUE Lead Program Director for the ATE program.

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Mentor-Connect Seeks Nominations for New Mentor Fellows Program

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Jim Hyder and Pamela Silvers were Mentor-Connect fellows during 2017, the pilot year of the ATE project.

Beginning in 2018, a few qualified members of the ATE Community will serve each year as Mentor Fellows. The individuals selected as Mentor Fellows will receive financial support and guidance as they engage in activities that prepare them to be Mentor-Connect mentors for potential ATE grantees.

The fellowship program is one facet of Mentor-Connect's regenerative leadership development effort. The main thrust of Mentor-Connect, an ATE project of the South Carolina Advanced Technological Education Center, is diversifying the two-year colleges and educators who obtain ATE grants. Mentor-Connect mentees are faculty from two-year, associate-degree-granting institutions that are eligible for Small Grants for Institutions New to ATE.

Mentor-Connect leaders plan to offer three fellowships during 2018 to individuals who are interested in eventually serving as Mentor-Connect mentors. Those selected as fellows will shadow experienced Mentor-Connect mentors as they guide two-year college educators through Mentor-Connect's nine-month process for preparing competitive proposals to the National Science Foundation's Advanced Technological Education program.

Nominees must have three-to-five years of involvement in the ATE program and recommendations from two current ATE principal investigators or co-principal investigators in addition to the nomination from another member of the ATE community. Experience developing projects and writing grant proposals for the ATE program is a key qualification. Fellows receive a stipend of $1,750 plus travel support to attend two Mentor-Connect workshops.

The application and details about the fellowship opportunity are available at www.mentor-connect.org. Mentor Fellow applications are due by 11:59 p.m. EST, September 30, 2017.

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What Do Students Think of Guided Pathways?

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Based at the Teachers College of Columbia University, the Community College Research Center (CCRC) conducts research on the issues affecting community colleges and works with colleges and states to improve student success and institutional performance. In July 2017, the CCRC released a new ten page research brief titled What Do Students Think of Guided Pathways?. In this report, 149 students at the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) were interviewed about their experiences with a new guided pathway tool and how it has influenced their studies, their plans for the future, and whether or not it’s actually helping them stay on track in terms of their educational goals.

The use of guided pathways involves re-thinking academic programs and support services for students with four objectives in mind:

  • mapping pathways to student end-goals
  • helping students choose and enter a program pathway
  • keeping students on their pathway to completion
  • ensuring that students are learning throughout their programs
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Striving To Do Her Best for Her Daughter, Young Woman Steers Others to Manufacturing Careers

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Milliechel Ramirez said, “In manufacturing I can actually put my ideas to work.” (Photo Source: TRUMPF & Carey Manufacturing Inc.)

For Milliechel "Millie" Ramirez the fact that she was a teen-aged, single parent pushed her to return to community college and pursue a manufacturing career.

“I’ll be honest with you, many people think a child is a reason to quit. For me it is totally the opposite. For me a child is the best reason why you should keep going. It’s not your future now, it is about her or him. Everything you do in life, it will actually help your kid’s future. When it comes to going to college or anything,” Ramirez said during an interview at the 2017 High Impact Technology Exchange Conference (HI-TEC) in Salt Lake City.

Her excellent performance during an internship at Carey Manufacturing Inc., led to the company hiring her full time in 2015 when she completed a one-year manufacturing certificate from Asnuntuck Community College. Now 23 years old and a production supervisor at Carey, Ramirez was featured on the cover of The Fabricator magazine in July as an example of young women choosing manufacturing careers.

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Showcasing the Impact of ATE: The ATE Collaborative Outreach and Engagement Project

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Highlighting the valuable work of ATE is done through a variety of pathways within and beyond the community. And while most grantees include outreach and dissemination activities as part of their specific project or center goals, it’s also critical to capture and share out the aggregate impact of the program. As such, Internet Scout Research Group, home to ATE Central, is excited to share information about the ATE Collaborative Outreach and Engagement (ACOE) project that was funded this spring by the National Science Foundation (DUE #1723674). The project has three overarching goals:

  1. Inform stakeholders of the resources and services offered by the funded projects and centers in the ATE program,
  2. Support grantee outreach efforts by creating materials and resources they can easily adapt and integrate into their own work, and
  3. Facilitate collaboration and engagement within and beyond the ATE community.
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3 Friends & Their Employer Talk about Benefits of Photonics Career Pathways

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Laser-electro-optic technicians Davian Tevault, Tyler Dumbacher, and Ryland Plummer work in different parts of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Tevault and Dumbacher characterize and align the injection laser system at the National Ignition Facility. Plummer works in the test chamber pictured here.

Timing can be everything. And the success of three young graduates of Indian Hills Community College (IHCC) indicates its Laser and Optic Technology program is in sync with the ways teenagers think at key decision points.

Davian K. Tevault, Tyler Dumbacher, and Ryland Plummer landed in the introductory laser course at Columbia Area Career Center because it had openings, and other courses were already full when they scheduled their sophomore classes. They became friends while taking classes and residing in dorms at IHCC. After graduating with associate degrees in 2014, the three moved together to take jobs as laser-electro-optic technicians at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California.

The scheduling alignment was serendipitous for three guys who at the time had no postsecondary plans. However, the dual enrollment photonics program at their high school and IHCC's College Immersion Experience for juniors and seniors are the quite intentional results of National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education grants to the Midwest Photonics Education Center (MPEC) at IHCC and the National Center for Optics and Photonics Education (OP-TEC).

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5 Community College Resources You Should Be Sure to Bookmark

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At ATE Central, part of our goal is to help community members stay current with educational news, facts, and figures. Below is a selection of five resources we felt were worth a closer look. Whether you are looking for material to help as you write up a report, create an informative presentation, or if you just want to stay up-to-date about news, events, and opportunities central to community and technical college education, we hope you find this list helpful.

American Association of Community Colleges: DataPoints

From the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), DataPoints are a collection of printable snapshots on a range of topics, including degree completion rates, enrollment trends, student attitudes, and projected demographics of high school graduates over the next fifteen years. For instance, one recently published snapshot reveals how well students felt their experience in higher education prepared them for the workforce. Another DataPoint provides information about student completion rates for remedial coursework. Easy to read and attractively presented, these DataPoints offer a helpful resource for use in meetings, presentations, or even grant applications.

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