From The Executive Director's Desk: Don’t do it alone: “Get your partner and …”

Last month, the NSF ATE-funded Centers Collaborative for Technical Assistance (CCTA) presented a webinar named “Developing Stakeholder Partnerships Internally and Externally for Successful Grants.” I participated with two other Center directors for both the webinar and a follow-up online question and answer session with participants who wanted to dig in deeper. Some important summary points surfaced as an end result of this Q&A experience:
(a) when starting to consider working together for common goals, it’s important to stop and consider why partnerships and collaboration are desirable, needed and important. Remember that good partnerships can grow into working collaborations; (b) when approaching new, potential partners you may want to develop a script AND possibly send a hand-addressed letter (not email).

In all situations, however, before engaging in any way, it's critical to be fully prepared. Here are some “to do’s”: (1) have a clear and concise “ask” – (know what you want); (2) learn what you can about the potential partner especially where your missions overlap (the working space); (3) define concrete benefits for each; (4) be prepared with alternatives; and, (5) take the lead in all follow-up communications. In summary, when starting the conversation, remember that all good and strong partnerships have the following common characteristics.

Engage in candid communication
Cultivate strong personal connections
Listen intently to each     
 Value and acknowledge the relationship
Compromise for consensus
Appreciate each other’s motivation & culture

Partnerships typically have specific goals, deliverables and, possibly, metrics. Good partnerships are strong and can deepen with time if they are successful in making progress towards or achieving the common goal. Partnerships goals can be extended and expanded with time often making it possible to achieve much more than any one partner might be able to accomplish alone. Ultimately, partnerships require “high-touch” relationships.  When they reach this level, partners that continue to have overlapping interests and goals, may become true collaborators. Collaborators work in and with each other although both parties may not benefit from an activity, but happens to have the expertise. 

Mission alignment
Common values
Like-minded goal
Focus on outcomes
Benefit for every partner
Capacity to deliver
Resource sharing

Although the CCCTA webinar and the follow up Q&A session was focused on developing partnerships in the context of existing or potential grants for educational institutions, the fundamental elements and characteristics of partnerships are universal are good practices – no matter what the context. Our partnerships are typically among Industry interest in hiring skilled technicians and include, but are not limited to the list below:

      Trade Organizations
      K-12 and University Educators
      Other ATE or TAACCCT Projects
      Scientific and Professional Organizations
      Educational Organizations
      Government Agencies
      Certification Boards

Last month's webinar was the third in a four-part series about writing a successful grant proposal for NSF Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program. The other webinars have tips for adhering to the requirements of the program; defining measurable outcomes and strategies to be sure those outcomes are evaluated and measured. These are all important issues, but proposed work in this area cannot be done alone! The ATE program is grounded in partnerships to grow the 2-year advanced technology technician workforce in the United States. Qualified, talented advanced technicians that also meet employer’s needs is ATE’s high level goal.

The webinar's recording offers many rich examples of various internal and external partnership situations and just how these work in the “real world”. It also explores just how to get partners to “commit” and what does commitment mean at that stage of a partnership. I recommend that anyone considering submitting a grant to NSF ATE in the fall 2017 review this webinar and the rest of the series early in your proposal preparation phase. The recordings and slide decks can be found on the 2017 recordings here:

Good luck in your exploration of partnerships! If you have any questions or ideas, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Here at FLATE, we are proud of our many partnerships and collaborations that exist in a tangled web of complex multilevel relationships as well as singularly focused 2-party, deliberate working partnerships for singular tasks.

I now invite you to read the rest of the stories in the April Edition of the FLATE Focus. This month we have an article highlighting several outreach events FLATE has participated in this spring, as well as information regarding upcoming robotics events. Please send us your thoughts by emailing or commenting below each story in this blog. Also, please connect with us via social media on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Robotics Events this Spring

Robotics Open House 

To celebrate National Robotics Week (April 8-16) FLATE is hosting a robotics open house at Hillsborough Community College in Brandon. The open house will be on Thursday, April 13 from 3-6 p.m., and will feature a number of activities and stations geared to spark local students’ interest in robotics and STEM education and related career pathways.

Featured activities include: programming a robotic arm and EV3 robots, learning to operate a 3D printer, watching a demo of an electric car, meeting local robotics teams-including a demo of a 6ft humanoid robot, learning about the engineering technology program at HCC and other Florida colleges, meeting local manufacturers- including members from FIRST VISTA, and getting up-close and personal with Jane, FLATE’s humanoid robot. Plus, enter a raffle drawing for a chance to win a FREE week of the FLATE robotics summer camps!

To RSVP for this FREE event visit our Eventbrite page, or contact Janice Mukhia, FLATE’s Project and Outreach Manager, at

Summer Camps 

STEMtastic Summer is right around the corner, and FLATE has new and exciting camps available for middle and high school students this summer! The summer camps will run Monday- Friday from 8:30 a.m.- 4 p.m., and will be hosted at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) Brandon campus in the Student Services Building, room 218 (BSSB 218). There will be three different camps:

June 5-9: Intro EV3 Robotics Camp for middle school.

June 12-16: Intermediate EV3 Robotics Camp for middle and high school.

June 19-23:
Engineering Technology Camp for high school.

At the Intro and Intermediate EV3 Robotics Camps, students will have the opportunity to build and program the all new LEGO MINDSTORMS® EV3 Robot system, participate in team challenges, tour an advanced manufacturing facility, and learn about the science, technology, engineering and math used in today’s high-tech industries. At the Engineering Technology Camp, high school students will have the opportunity to use 3D modeling and CAD to design a functional robotic device, engage in 3D printing process using additive manufacturing techniques, and tour an advanced manufacturing facility. In addition, students will be able to keep the Arduino microprocessors and servo motors.

The Intro and Intermediate EV3 Robotics Camps will cost $175 per week. The Engineering Technology Camp will cost $200 per week. Registration forms can be downloaded here. For more information, visit FLATE’s 2017 Robotics Camps webpage here.

For more information about all upcoming Robotics Events please 
contact Janice Mukhia, FLATE’s Project and Outreach Manager,
at or 813-259-6581,
or Dr. Marilyn Barger, FLATE’s Executive Director, 

Don’t miss out on FLATE’s Engineering Technology (ET) Experience Tours

FLATE offers several outreach initiatives that are designed to spark students’ interest in STEM and manufacturing. One of FLATE’s ongoing efforts to reach out to local students is through Engineering Technology (ET) Experience Tours. These tours place an emphasis on hands-on problem based learning, and strive to capture students’ interest in STEM and robotics, give them a realistic view of the skills needed in high-tech manufacturing jobs, and motivate them to pursue high-tech and high-paying careers.

This spring, FLATE will be hosting ET Experience Tours at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) Brandon Campus. Most recently, students from Burns Middle School participated in an ET Experience Tour on March 28. The 8th grade class that visited was part of an Aerospace Technology program. This program gives the students high school credits while they are still in middle school. This was the first time Burns Middle School has participated in an ET Experience Tour.

The tour began with students being welcomed by Dr. Marilyn Barger, who gave a brief introduction of FLATE. After Dr. Barger’s opening remarks, students watched a video titled “Why Not Me,” which discussed why manufacturing careers are so great and in high demand. After the video, students were separated into two groups for a tour of HCC’s ET Lab. During the tour students were very engaged as they saw demonstrations from a 3D printer, programmed a robotic arm to conduct simple tasks, and spoke with students currently enrolled in HCC’s ET program. The students learned about the mechanics and real-world applications of these devices and machines in high-tech manufacturing operations.

Following the hands on and interactive learning, Shirley Dobbins, one of HCC’s ET program instructors, led a discussion about manufacturing careers and educational credentials. Students also watched a presentation that focused on items that are “Made in Florida.” The activity showed students a real-world view of manufacturing companies and the products are made right here in the state.  

At the end of the day, one Burns Middle School student stated that attending the ET Experience Tour will help them with STEM coursework in school because “now I’m interested in manufacturing and engineering so I will focus more in class.” Another student commented that the ET Experience Tour “showed the importance of STEM and what skills are needed in the future,” and stated that the tour was “great and fun, and very informational.”
Information gathered from surveys completed by Burns Middle School students after the tour showed that 100% would recommend this ET Experience to other students. One student commented that they would recommend this to other students “because technology is going to be a big part in our future.”

Middle and high schools in Hillsborough County with Career and Technical Education (CTE) Programs are invited to visit HCC’s ET labs and learn about the college’s ET degree program. All ET tours are hosted by FLATE staff and HCC faculty and last around two hours. All costs are covered by a grant from Hillsborough County. The ET Experience Tours are a great follow-up to the Manufacturing Day tours in October. 

If you would like more information on ET Experience Tours or are interested in scheduling a tour for your students this spring please contact Janice Mukhia, FLATE’s Project and Outreach Manager, at or 813-259-6581, or Dr. Marilyn Barger, FLATE’s Executive Director, at