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Newest NSF ATE Center Focuses On the Future in Micro Nano Technology Education (MNT-EC)

Jared Ashcroft, PI and Center Director, MNT-EC, Pasadena Community College and Billie Copley, Nano-Link Center for Nanotechnology Education

Microsystems and nanosystems technologies are becoming, if not already, pervasive throughout the daily human experience. The internet of things is expected to support a trillion micro-nano devices. Examples of micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) include pressor sensors, microphones, accelerometers, time-keeping devices, photonic devices, and medical instrumentation. The growth and convergence of these technologies will expand for the foreseeable future as the miniaturization and integration processes continue. With this growth comes the need for a hi-tech workforce, and that workforce requires an education that keep pace with rapidly advancing technologies.

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STEM Technician Students Surveyed About Remote Instruction

Marilyn Barger, Executive Director, Florida Advanced Technological Education Center, and Lakshmi Jayaram, President, Inquiry Research Group

During the recent “virtual” Spring Meeting of the Florida Forum on Engineering Technology, participants expressed concern about technician students’ experience in moving to remote instruction this semester due to COVID-19. Based on early reports from community college partners, the transition has been challenging, and some programs indicated students are even considering withdrawing from their programs. As one faculty member explained: “They have given up. [Students] feel they can’t do this online without support.” There was interest in discussing this topic further at the next ET Forum due to both the uncertainty related to the return of in-person instruction and the perceived need to improve student comfort and confidence in online learning. To help inform that discussion, the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center (FLATE) and the Inquiry Research Group LLC teamed up to create a small pilot survey to collect some initial feedback from Florida technician students about their online experience this past semester.

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NSF Grants Put Lane Community College Programs Ahead of the Curve

Brenda Cervantes, Project Specialist, Water & Energy Programs, Lane Community College, Eugene, OR

Technical careers require hands-on educational experiences and with an online curriculum the challenge is to provide students with that experiential component. In the past decade with funding through two NSF ATE grants, Lane Community College (LCC) transitioned its traditional classroom Energy Management program into an online instructional program with hands-on lab experiences available. The Independent Learner Energy Education Design project provides instruction in LCC’s online Energy Management (Building Controls Option) program coupled with fieldwork facilitated by regional power utility mentors.

Of particular interest, however, in this time when classrooms are going virtual to meet the needs of social distancing, is their transformed Water Conservation Technician (WCT) program, which has been moved to a completely online instructional environment.

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GeoTech Center Goes Virtual for Professional Development Conference

Vincent A. DiNoto Jr., Director and Principal Investigator of the National Geospatial Center of Excellence, Jefferson Community and Technical College, Louisville, KY

In response to COVID-19 restrictions on in-person gathering, the National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence (GeoTech Center) has modified its conference and regional professional workshop delivery for the remainder of the year. This year, GeoTech will hold its annual GeoEd’20 Conference on June 9th and 10th in a virtual format for the first time in conference history, while keeping many of the features of past conferences.  There will continue to be sessions on a variety of topics in geospatial technologies.  Over the two days multiple concurrent sessions will be offered in two-hour blocks through interactive desktop video.  While the conference is entirely virtual, it will still have valuable content and pedagogy presented, cutting edge technologies discussed and times allocated for networking. In addition to the learning sessions, there will be keynote speakers during “a virtual luncheon” and a “virtual happy hour” session designed for participant networking.

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COVID-19, Higher-Ed, and What the Future Holds: The View from RCNET

Kevin Cooper, Principal Investigator, Regional Center for Nuclear Education and Training, Indian River State College

The rapid online response in education to the COVID-19 crisis was nothing short of amazing.  Seemingly overnight, all levels of education were required to shift from using a variety of methods to deliver instruction to remote learning.  The instantaneous learning curve and ramp for students, teachers, and administrators displayed the true will and adaptability of humankind.  We adapt, we overcome, and we prosper.

That said, humankind, given time, wants and will return to some state of normalcy. Within a month of “stay-in-place” orders in the United States, there are signs of adaption, acceptance, and safe socializing like quarantining.  As we go forward into the fall 2020 academic year, this need to adapt will hold especially true in education.  Remote learning may be preferred by those with certain learning styles, but for many others, learning is a social activity best done in person.  The social aspect of learning is particularly important in technician STEM fields where hands-on teamwork is a major part of a career.

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