Brandon Campus News
FLATE’s STEM-based outreach targets students, educators and industry
Florida Advanced Technological Education Center (FLATE) at the Hillsborough Community College (HCC) Brandon Campus is one of 46 National Science Foundation (NSF) centers of excellence in high-technology manufacturing. The Center serves as a conduit in ensuring Florida has a well prepared workforce, and is the go-to organization for manufacturing/advanced technical education, best practices and resources supporting the high performance skilled workforce in Florida. Given its role as an exemplar in advancing high-tech careers/educational pathways, FLATE recently organized several STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) based workshops and tours for high school students, educators and incumbent workers.

Students from King and Gaither High Schools toured FLATE’s Engineering Technology (ET) lab at HCC-Brandon. The goal was to build career pathways for students and encourage them to pursue post-secondary credentials on their way to high-tech, quality jobs, said Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE.

During the tour, students got an overview of the ET degree, offered at HCC and 13 colleges in Florida. They learned about pneumatics, hydraulics, motors and controls, and Programmable Logic Controls (PLCs). Students also gained a better understanding about different career pathways in advanced manufacturing and various ET degree specializations.

“The purpose was to get a deeper understanding of engineering technologies, and gain hands-on experience of modern high-tech manufacturing operations,” said Dr. Alessandro Anzalone, professor of engineering technology at HCC- Brandon.

FLATE also offered a one day LEGO MINDSTORMS robotics workshop for local high school teachers. During the workshop, 24 middle and high school teachers from the School District of Hillsborough County got an overview of LEGO® NXT microprocessor, building instructions for functional robots, and programming with the NXT-G software. The workshop focused on strategies for using LEGO MINDSTORMS to teach mathematics, integrating these concepts into everyday curriculum, and shed light on data-logging techniques to teach next generation science concepts.

To address professional and workforce development needs of local manufacturers, FLATE hosted a basic PLC workshop for incumbent workers who came from all over the state. The two-day workshop provided a better understanding of PLCs, with emphasis on programming, installations and troubleshooting. Participants engaged in logical program development, batch documentation and programming techniques, examined on/off instructions, witnessed PLC program scan cycle, and troubleshot common problems. Through it all, Dr. Anzalone hopes students gained confidence to solve real-life problems and think like a PLC programmer.

For more information on FLATE’s STEM-based curriculum and professional development initiatives visit and, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at

Article written by: Brandon Campus Staff