Episode 15: Working “Remotely”

In even the best of times, it’s a challenge keeping employers engaged and interested in supporting your college technical programs. We know that it is important for programs to maintain strong industry partnerships, but what does that look like in a rapidly changing business and education environment? For starters, it means cultivating a champion within companies, a champion who shares information about your program and its graduates and who can envision the ROI from engagement.

Jill Zande,  Associate Director and ROV Competition Coordinator for the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center at Monterey Peninsula College
May 2020 | 00:25:21

Episode 15 Transcript and Show Notes

Even in the best times, it can be a challenge keeping employers engaged and interested in supporting your college technical programs. We know that it is important for programs to maintain strong industry partnerships, but what does that look like in a rapidly changing business and education environment? For starters, it means cultivating a champion within companies, a champion who shares information about your program and its graduates and who can envision the return on investment from engagement. That ROI might be as simple as increased community visibility from event sponsorship or as multifaceted as future employee recruitment. In this episode, Jill Zande, Associate Director at the Marine Advanced Technology Education Center in Monterey, California examines how professional societies—in this case the Marine Technology Society—and companies can be champions for educational initiatives. She also discusses how sponsoring the ROV (underwater remotely operated vehicle) Competition World Championship each year provides both types of ROI.

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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Episode 14: Delivering Automation at UPS

UPS has moved from standard motor control to PLCs, camera scanners, and mechanical devices, leading to increased efficiency and capacity. In response they’ve needed to double their staff of automation technicians and maintenance mechanics in some cases. New hires need to be multi-skilled, with troubleshooting, mechanical, and welding experience preferred, and be able to work under pressure, as David Ayala, Western Region Buildings and Systems Engineering Training Manager explains.

David Ayala, Western Region Buildings and Systems Engineering Training Manager for UPS
April 2020 | 00:18:56

Episode 14 Transcript and Show Notes

As the Western Region Buildings and Systems Engineering Training Manager at UPS, David Ayala has seen the company go from humans manually sorting packages by zip code—way back in 1999—to today’s increasingly automated processes. Moving from standard motor control to PLCs, camera scanners, and mechanical devices has increased efficiency, leading to increased capacity and the need to double their staff of automation technicians and maintenance mechanics in some cases. New hires need to be multi-skilled, with troubleshooting, mechanical, and welding experience preferred. Most importantly, they need to be able to perform reliably under pressure in an industry where time is a make-or-break factor. Predictive maintenance is one of the keys to successful operations at UPS.

UPS is a trademark of the United Parcel Service of America, Inc. and is used with the permission of the owner.

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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InnovATEBIO Goes Virtual to Reach Biotech Instructors and Students

Russ Read, Executive Director. National Center Biotechnology Workforce,
Forsyth Tech Community College, Winston-Salem, NC

Last fall, Austin Community College was awarded a $7.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education program to create the National Biotechnology Education Center–InnovATEBIO–with partners in New York, California, Washington, North Carolina, and Wisconsin (see partners, below). The Center is addressing the rapidly growing need for highly skilled technicians by consolidating several biotech education projects into a national network to share best practices and expand research opportunities for students at two-year institutions.

Because of InnovATEBIO‘s collaborative structure, we know that we can offer quality instruction despite not being in the classroom face-to-face. In fact, through the sharing of data across the nation, we have the opportunity to find out more about what biotech programs are doing and share best practices, resources, and challenges.

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Episode 13: A Robot for Every Technician? A Look at Trends Driving Manufacturing

MARCH 2020 — In this episode, we check in on the evolution of those buzzword technologies driving manufacturing: automation, 5G, big data, AI, cybersecurity, machine learning and cobots. All of these technologies impact technician training. What do they really need to know? Will every technician need a cobot assigned to them? Our guests from the Association for Manufacturing Technology help us compare the hype behind some technologies with the timeline for thorough development and implementation.

In this episode, we check in on the evolution of those buzzword technologies driving manufacturing: automation, 5G, big data, AI, cybersecurity, machine learning and cobots. All of these technologies impact technician training.  What do they really need to know?  Will every technician need a cobot assigned to them?  Our guests from the Association for Manufacturing Technology help us compare the hype behind some technologies with the timeline for thorough development and implementation.  In other words, they help us understand technology in the service of the problem to be solved, not just technology for technology’s sake.

For example, it is getting progressively easier to teach robots how to do simple tasks and those tasks can be built upon.  Add data collection from the manufacturing process, correlate that data to errors, and then you potentially have information that allows tools to make decisions about the process. With AI:

              “We have our current working definition of a device that perceives this environment and takes action, then maximize the chance of success at some goal. So it’s an agent working for you, right? So you’ve trained this agent to do something for you and that requires your basic math software and domain knowledge to solve the very, very specific goal. So when we hear the thoughts of everyone should be doing AI, hold on a second. Yeah, let’s pump the brakes a little bit. What is the true need and then is AI an actual tool to help you solve that need?”

Solving Future Labor Gaps by Engaging Students Early

Emily McGrath, Director of Workforce Development, NextFlex

While a lot of the current focus on the availability of highly skilled manufacturing technicians in the future revolves around the creation of educational pathways, NextFlex realized that wasn’t enough. NextFlex , a consortium that supports the Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE) manufacturing ecosystem, conducted a labor study to determine the need for new types of future talent for emerging jobs that don’t yet exist. FHE technology combines printed electronics with traditional semiconductor integrated circuits to create a new type of electronics that are thin, bendable, and wearable for applications including medical devices, printed antennas, soft robotics, and asset monitoring systems.

How do you solve a future labor gap?

The first problem isn’t that pathways don’t exist, it’s that the students aren’t aware of, or interested in, the advanced manufacturing sector to begin with. To tackle this problem, NextFlex developed FlexFactor, a project-based learning program for K-12 students. FlexFactor connects schools, colleges, and a variety of industry partners in new ways to excite students and raise awareness about the education and career pathways that lead to advanced manufacturing jobs. FlexFactor invites both higher education and industry into the classroom to engage with their future talent pool at a critical point in students’ lives.

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Project Facilitates Regional Convening on Future of Work

The nature of work is changing right before our eyes. The effects of accelerating technology advancements on the technician workforce are posing challenges and opportunities for community colleges whose mission includes preparing STEM technicians for the uncertain work of the future. Conversations between educators and employers are underway across the country to identify the cross-cutting knowledge and skills that will be required of STEM technicians and determine how best to equip them to remain competitive in the future workplace.

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I Did That with My Brain! High School Students Explore Physiological Computing

Chris Crawford, Assistant Professor, Computer Science, University of Alabama • September 3, 2019

Advances in Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) are enabling the exploration of novel input techniques. Innovations in this area have resulted in technologies such as neuroprosthetics and brain-controlled wheelchairs. However, there is a lack of research investigating the design of technological tools that prepare the future workforce for this emerging technology. Furthermore, there have been limited investigations of how K-12 technological tools featuring BCI technology support the acquisition of computational thinking skills. Our project, Exploring Physiological Computing Education in the Alabama Black Belt, funded by the National Science Foundation’s Division of Research on Learning, began addressing this gap by holding Neuro Summer Camp 2019.

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The ABCs of I4.0: What Technicians Need to Know about Incoming Technologies

Mariano Carreras, International Training Manager, SMC International • August 15, 2019

New technologies are emerging that are, or soon will be, a part of a technician’s day-to-day routine in manufacturing plants. One sweeping trend is that most of the new technologies are related to data—the ”fuel” that is driving processes. With improved data, we can make better decisions, so technicians need to be aware of how and why data is gathered, how data flows and what to do with it. Adoption of new technologies will vary according to the type and size of industry, of course, and the cost of equipment and training, but here are some that will change the role of the technicians interacting with them.

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Special Interest Group Hosts Forward-Looking Conversations to Address the Future of Work

Tiffiney Gray, Project Manager, CORD • August 9, 2019

Technology advancements associated with Industry 4.0—including more sophisticated automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning—present both the need and the opportunity to reimagine and retool technician training to meet the knowledge and skill demands of a rapidly-changing workplace. With support from the NSF Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program, the Preparing Technicians for the Future of Work project convened a Special Interest Group comprised of industry leaders and technician educators at HI-TEC in St. Louis, Missouri. The project facilitated discussions between industry representatives and ATE leaders with a variety of expertise (e.g., advanced manufacturing, biotechnology, information technology, cybersecurity, etc.) to determine ways to actively prepare for the impacts of emerging technologies on the future of work and on the skilled technical workforce. 

The group’s discussions also underscored the need to significantly broaden the skill set of the 20th-century technician to cultivate the advanced technician of the 21st century. Discussions centered around three cross-disciplinary trends (identified by participants in earlier convenings) that represent knowledge and skills to be integrated as essential elements of STEM associate degree programs alongside traditional technical skills: data knowledge and analysis, advanced digital literacy, and business knowledge and processes.

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