Advanced Technological Education · July 2012

Welcome to the ATE Central Connection! Published the first Monday of each month, the ATE Central Connection is meant to disseminate information to and about ATE centers and projects, providing you with up-to-date ATE news, events, reminders, as well as highlighting new centers, projects, and resources. In addition, we will also highlight an educational topic with complementary resources found within ATE Central to help illustrate how ATE resources can be used in the classroom.

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Upcoming Events

July 8-12 Summer Teacher Workshop New London, CT
July 9 2012 Summer Working Connections McKinney, TX
July 9-13 2012 Summer Sustainability Institute (SSI) Portland, OR
July 9-13 STEM Guitar Workshop West Lafayette, IN
July 10-12 2012 POGIL Northeast Regional Workshop Hamden, CT
July 10-12 2012 POGIL Northwest Regional Workshop Seattle, WA
July 10-12 2012 POGIL South Central Regional Workshop Richardson, TX
July 10-12 2012 POGIL Southwest Regional Workshop Salt Lake City, UT
July 12 NetLabs Mentoring Workshop Palos Hills, IL
July 13 VMware vSphere Install, Configure, Manage (ICM) V5.0 Concord, NH
July 15 Build a Better ATE Proposal: Evaluation and Logic Models Online
July 15-18 11th International Conference on Precision Agriculture Indianapolis, IN
July 16-20 Microsoft Office 2010: A Professional Approach Rochester, NY
July 16-20 Microsoft Office 2010: Create a Dynamic Presentation Rochester, NY
July 20 VMware vSphere Install, Configure, Manage (ICM) V5.0 Marion, OH
July 21-24 Esri Education GIS Conference San Diego, CA
July 23-25 2012 POGIL Great Lakes Regional Workshop St. Paul, MN
July 23-25 Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL): 2012 POGIL Southeast Regional Workshop Greensboro, NC
July 23-26 BIOMAN 2012 Graham, NC
July 23-27 DiiT Workshop: Microsoft Excel 2010: Create an Electronic Worksheet Rochester, NY
July 23-28 2012 HI-TEC Conference Denver, CO
July 29 - August 1 POGIL 4 Day Public Workshop University Park, PA
August 7-9 2012 Ag HR Roundtable Springdale, AR
August 12-16 SPIE Optics + Photonics San Diego, CA
August 13-16 Nanotechnology Course Resources II: Patterning, Characterization, and Applications University Park, PA
August 13-17 Guitar Building Workshop for Educators Richland, WA
August 15 Build a Better ATE Proposal: Evaluation and Logic Models Online

For more events, please visit the ATE Central Events page or, if you have any upcoming events that you would like posted on ATE Central or in the ATE Central Connection, please send them to

To add a continuously-updated list of ATE and STEM education events to your web site, use the ATE Event Widget.

Featured Resources: Food Technology

From NetWorks:

Webinar: Nanotechnology Applications in Food

This webinar from the Nanotechnology Applications & Career Knowledge Center (NACK) provides an overview of how nanotechnology is currently affecting the food industry. Current research will also be discussed to help students and educators think about the future implications of the use of nanotechnology in food production. This webinar was held on June 24th, 2010. The password networks will allow users to download and view the recorded webinar.

From the Northwest Center for Sustainable Resources:

Marine Fisheries Overview

This instructional guide is designed to provide instructors with lecture support on the topic of marine fisheries with an emphasis on those species that are commercially harvested in the United States. A general lecture outline and a more detailed PowerPoint presentation with instructor notes are provided. Historical perspectives are addressed as well as assessments of the current status of the resource. Proposed and implemented management activities that are designed to manage fisheries stocks in a sustainable manner are also discussed with an emphasis on those that take an ecosystems approach to fisheries management.

From the Bio-Link:

Detection of Genetically Modified Food

Genetically modified foods are often in the news and widely grown in the United States. Three US government agencies (USDA, FDA, and EPA) work to regulate the introduction and production of genetically modified foods. These crops can provide agricultural, ecological and nutritional benefits, but there are also potential risks to the environment and consumers. As consumers and public interest groups around the world have become aware of these risks, there has been a call for more explicit product labeling and reliable methods for the detection of genetic modification in the foods we eat. This lab activity explores these issues by taking students through a three-part process to detect the presence of genetic modification in corn (maize) or soy food products. This lab uses PCR analysis, one of the two methods for detection of genetic modification currently approved by the European Union. For convenience, the resource is divided into 5 sections, all PDF files, including background, wet lab, paper lab, assessment and further reading.

Community Connection

Coming Soon: Career Pathways for STEM Technicians

Career Pathways for STEM Technicians A few weeks ago, I received a preview of Dan Hull's newest book: Career Pathways for STEM Technicians (CPST). Even from the first chapters, it is evident that Dan and a host of co-writers from the field of STEM education have created something that will resonate throughout the ATE community. CPST presents a "win-win" solution to two main problems facing the United States: we don't have enough technicians, and we don't have adequate opportunities for capable high school students who might want to pursue technical careers. ATE programs in particular have struggled to build enrollment. CPST introduces these issues in some detail, but does not linger on the problems. Instead, it focuses on solutions, offering a model career pathway and asking eight other ATE centers to respond in the middle chapters. Finally, it concludes with some concrete suggestions for high schools, community colleges, and employers who are trying to solve the technician shortage and create career pathways for high school students in STEM.

Dan agreed to a question and answer session about the need for and timing of the book, as well as what we can expect in the final version. Excerpts are available below. CPST is scheduled for release in time for the July HI-TEC conference in Denver, so be sure to stop by the book release table following the opening session or the OP-TEC booth (#305) to talk to Dan and receive your complimentary copy. The book will also be available in print and digital format on OP-TEC's website.

Questions & Answers

OP-TEC's Dan Hull, compiler of Career Pathways for STEM Technicians

ATE Central: Can you tell me a little bit about your background in ATE and with the ATE community?

Dan Hull: Well let me go way back. I'm a registered, professional engineer. My undergraduate degree was from the University of Texas in electrical engineering. I've got a graduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and some advanced studies from Johns Hopkins. I graduated just about a year before lasers came out, and so I got involved very early in the beginning of lasers and worked in this field for 14 years before I got involved in technician education. In 1973, I was a manager of radar and communications systems for NASA and I could not find good technicians—I could get engineers, but I couldn't hire the kind of technicians I needed. So in 1974, I agreed to take a one-year leave of absence to work on this issue. I've been working on it ever since because I feel very passionately that there's a three-legged stool in technical fields: scientists, engineers, and technicians. And we don't have enough technicians. They're the geniuses of the labs; they're the masters of the equipment. They know how things work. But they're not just manual laborers—these people need good math and science backgrounds, and ATE programs provide that. ATE ensures that this is education. This is not just training.

When I decided I wanted to do something different, I had the opportunity to create and operate OP-TEC. Six years ago, the center was awarded, and I was back to my roots: this was what I wanted to do in 1974.

ATE Central: Can you tell me a little bit about this CPST project: how it came about, and who's involved?

Hull: Let me just tell you that our center is representative, but we're not unique in this technician problem. OP-TEC conducted a 2009 needs assessment, where we went to photonics employers and said, "How many 2-year degree technicians do you need?" And generally speaking, we need about 1,000 new photonics technicians every year. We have around 30 colleges that have photonics programs. But we have less than 800 students in these 30 colleges. And we're graduating less than 300 a year. When you need 1,000 and you're graduating 300, you're asking, What am I going to be able to do about this?

You always hope you recruit some people that are 30, 35 years old that are wanting to do a career change, but mostly you want a high school pipeline. You want people that realized their interest 2 or 3 years earlier and got ready for it. The technicians are typically not all A students—some of them are—but many of them are B and C students. And frequently by the time they get to high school the B and C students have kind of gotten the message: You're not too smart, you can't do much. These students are bright—they may learn differently, but they're bright. But the high schools do not prepare for them. There just isn't a pathway in most high schools to encourage these people to get into STEM fields and to prepare them, and to help them to realize when they graduate from high school that their next step is at a two-year college.

We looked around, and last year there were over 3,000 STEM high schools. Now there are 4,000. But they're attracting the A students; they're attracting the students who are interested in becoming scientists and engineers. We're not asking these schools for big expenditures; we're asking them to have a sensitivity to reach out—not asking them to cut back on their engineers or scientist enrollment, but to add technician career pathways to their programs.

ATE Central: Is there a particular reason that this shortage is happening now? Or is it a problem that's been building over time?

Hull: A couple of studies address that question, and they're listed in the first chapter of the CPST book. A study that came out from the National Academies was one of the ones that talked about that in detail—it was called "Rising Above the Gathering Storm." That came out five years ago and said, We need more technical people in the workforce. The Academies group came back and revisited it three or four years later, and said, We don't see much happening. If we don't—now they call it a Category 5 storm—if something doesn't happen pretty soon, we're going to be in deep trouble in this country. Then in February of 2011, Harvard came out with the "Pathways to Prosperity" study. And they said nearly everybody needs some education past high school, but we don't all need baccalaureate degrees.

I've talked to my colleagues who are running other ATE centers, and they're having the same problem we are. We work like crazy to build good curriculum, to get industry support, to start programs at colleges and so forth, but we're not turning out the numbers that we need because we're not getting students enrolling in these programs as fast as we need them. If we can leverage these STEM high schools to give us the students and prepare them, then we've come a long way towards solving our problem.

ATE Central: In the introduction to CPST, you mention three solutions to this problem: first of all the recognition of the problem, then engagement in a process to identify students who are interested in becoming technicians, and then a commitment to providing these career pathways.

Hull: The solution is all focused on these STEM high schools. The educators, the high schools, and their parents need to recognize that these are good programs. Parents need not to think, Well, if my student doesn't go to a university, they're going to have a second-rate life. We talk a lot in the last chapter of the book about how we can bring these changes about. We made a checklist of six items each for the high school, community college, and for the employers: what they have to do to make this work. The worksheets document who is going to do what, and what obstacles they might face. We're really trying to ramp up a movement.

ATE Central: A lot of your solution seems focused on person-to-person engagement, talking to counselors, getting community college representatives out there, and in many ways changing how we think about community colleges. Is that fair to say?

Hull: We've got to change attitudes about two things. One is we've got to change our attitude about students who are not in the top 20% not having any value. That's crazy. Everybody wants to believe that their kids are in the top 20% but they're not all in there.

The second misperception is that the only path to success is a baccalaureate degree. Our students in the photonics area are getting anywhere from $45,000 to $60,000 a year when they go to work. These are rewarding jobs; they're not dead-end jobs.

ATE Central: So you need to get people onboard from all sides?

Hull: The bottom line—after we've won recognition and we've engaged the stakeholders—is that high schools need to make these STEM career pathways, and it's going to take some work. The person who wrote the fourteenth chapter of the book—her name's Jill Siler—was a deputy superintendent at Lake Travis high school. They eliminated all their old vocational education courses, and she rebuilt these career institutes. She's talked about how they made this major change.

We lay a pretty good plan out in that fourth chapter of CPST. And then all the ATE center chapters—8 total—talk about that fourth chapter model. The chapter authors look at that model and say: Here's how that would play out in the photonics sphere, or here's how that would play out in the nanotech area, or here's how that would play out in the MEMS area, or here's how that would play out in biotech, or bio-manufacturing, and so forth. So they're all examples that say: This can be done in these different ATE fields.

Did you know?

To date, ATE Central has cataloged over 3,700 resources that are created by or relevant to the ATE community.

News & Reminders

Are you registered for HI-TEC (July 23-26)?

If not, make sure to visit the HI-TEC site for details and then come visit us in the ATE Central booth (#313) on July 25th and 26th. We're looking forward to talking with PIs and staff from ATE projects and centers to figure out how we can continue to support and amplify your efforts. Check out the HI-TEC website to find information about the technology showcase, presentations, preconference workshops and much more. See you in Denver!

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