News and Events

Robots compete at OCTC

Posted in: News and Events on February 4, 2015

By Steve Vied Messenger-Inquirer | Posted: Sunday, February 1, 2015 12:00 am
Photo by Greg Eans, Messenger-Inquirer/

From left, from Jackson, Kentucky, Oakdale Christian Academy students from the OCA Tech Knights team, Maria Reynolds, Drew Wills and Ian Kratzer, and from Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, homeschooled students from the ‘Lectric Legends team Brandon Gowan, Eric Adams and Quetzal Velasco control their robots in a match off during the Kentucky FIRST Tech Challenge on Saturday at the Advanced Technology Center at Owensboro Community and Technical College.

Robots built by 21 teams of middle and high school students from Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana and Missouri gathered Saturday at Owensboro Community and Technical College’s Advanced Technology Center for the FIRST Tech Challenge in head-to-head competition. The task: Gather plastic balls, lift them up and deposit them into plastic tubes.

While some of the robots sputtered and seemed confused, others went at the job with abandon, sweeping up balls and lifting them up and dumping them into the containers while being guided by their human controllers. One of the more efficient robots was 5920, built and operated by students from Ohio Virtual Academy of Dayton. Cate Thomas, a freshman, is a member of the Power Stackers team, praised the little robot. In its first five times into the ring Saturday, 5920 never failed to score points.

“We’re doing really well,” Thomas said. “We’ve won most of our matches without a lot of issues. We’re doing well with our lifter and our hopper. We’ve done some minor repairs. Sometimes there’s collateral damage with the other robots.” Thomas said her job is to tell the “drivers” what to do in the heat of the competitions. “It’s stressful, but it’s fun,” she said.

The teams were responsible for designing, building and programming their robots to compete against other teams. OCTC, NASA Kentucky, Domtar and AMTEC sponsored the event. The robots look like metal milk crates that motor around on little wheels or tracks, each with an assortment of attachments designed for the specific task assigned for the competition.

Two arenas were set up in the Advanced Technology Center, with referees monitoring and scoring the action, with four robots in the ring at one time competing in timed contests. At the end of the day, the top three teams advanced to the South Super Regional being held in March in San Antonio.

Event official Shawn Payne of OCTC said all 21 teams were strong this year.
“The good thing is, they are working with sensors and components they will see in the real world and trouble shooting problems they may see later in real life,” Payne said.

The “Brainy Bots” team from Ryle High School in Boone County finished in sixth place with a robot that was designed not to gather the balls but to grab a tube and take it up a ramp, earning points that way. Robot 8913 found some success Saturday, freshman team member Zach St. Hilaire said. “This is our first year, and it went pretty well,” Hilaire said. “It took a while to figure it out. It did everything we wanted it to do. We grabbed the tubes and put them up the ramp. Next season we’re going to develop a way to collect the balls.”

Steve Vied, (270) 691-7297,

Mary Kinney accepting her Volunteer of the Year Award from Shawn Payne

Alamo Academies wins the 2015 Bellwether Award for Workforce Development

Posted in: News and Events on February 4, 2015

Alamo Colleges lauded for workforce program


Alamo Colleges has won a national Bellwether Award for its Alamo Academies, a program that trains high school students for high-demand science and technology careers. The Bellwether Awards go to innovative, replicable community college programs. Alamo Colleges won in the workforce development category, beating out nine other finalists including its own I-BEST program.

The awards were announced Tuesday at the annual Community College Futures Assembly in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

“In more than 1,200 national community colleges, the Bellwether Award is one of the highest honors an institution can receive,” said Dale F. Campbell, director of the policy summit, in a prepared statement. “The awards are similar to being selected by your peers for the Oscar or Emmy awards.”

The Alamo Academies pull high school juniors and seniors from the San Antonio, North-side, Southside, Harlandale, East Central and Edgewood independent school districts into free community college courses in technological fields. Over two years, students earn college credits that put them halfway toward Associate of Applied Science degrees.

In between their junior and senior years, they work in paid internships with companies including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Toyota and Holt Cat Machines & Engines.

The participating school districts serve many of the lowest-income areas in Bexar County, so Alamo Academies serve a student population that is 75 percent minority and 86 percent economically disadvantaged.

“After graduating from high school, most Alamo Academies alumni continue their college education at Alamo Colleges or four-year institutions,” said Gene Bowman, the program’s executive director.

“Many enter the workforce directly at an average starting salary exceeding $42,000, and their employers often pay for them to finish their degrees,” said Alamo Colleges Chancellor Bruce Leslie. “Lockheed Martin and Toyota depend heavily on the program for new hires in San Antonio,” he said.

“This is a wonderful example of how employer direct involvement can have a very positive effect on meeting the workforce needs that we have,” Leslie said.

“Academies have been created in aerospace, manufacturing, information technology, health and heavy equipment. This year, 200 students are benefiting from the program,” Bowman said.

“Federico Zaragoza, now vice chancellor of economic and workforce development at Alamo Colleges, and Joe Wilson, a Lockheed Martin representative, started the program 13 years ago in a partnership with the city of San Antonio, using money the community college district would otherwise have paid as an energy tax,” Leslie said.

The Alamo Academies model is being replicated in Austin, Fort Worth, Montreal and Medellin, Colombia.

Nissan, Tennessee College of Applied Technology Graduates 22 Maintenance Apprentices on Dec 5, 2014

Posted in: News and Events on December 11, 2014

Congratulations to the first Mechatronics class of Nissan’s Maintenance Apprenticeship Program in Smyrna. Nissan and Smyrna Manufacturing Vice President Randy Knight recognized the 22-person class at a graduation ceremony and luncheon on Friday, Dec. 5. Each member of the group has completed two years of required academic study and spent a minimum of 2,160 hours of on-the-job training to reinforce their classroom learning. They have one more year of focused, on-the-job training in the area they will work before becoming a Nissan maintenance technician. Students received a diploma and multiple certificates from Dr. Lynn Kreider, Director of TCAT. Daniel Houze, receives the AMTEC General Mechatronics Certification and all students scored better than the national average.

Nissan plans to open a new training facility in Smyrna, TN to allow existing training operations to add equipment and new courses.  Nissan joined the State of Tennessee on Monday, Dec. 8, for the groundbreaking of a new education and training center to be located across the street from the Smyrna Vehicle Assembly Plant. The 155,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to be completed in 2016 as an extension of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) campus at Murfreesboro. Nissan and TCAT will occupy the facility jointly. When it opens, the center will focus on developing technical skills such as welding, machining, tool & die, auto mechanics, robotics, mechatronics and industrial electrical maintenance.

AMTEC Plan View

Owensboro CTC’s FIRST Lego League Competition!

Posted in: News and Events on December 10, 2014

Children from Elementary and Middle School attended the exciting regional FLL competition. Over 150 competitors descended onto Owensboro Community College from Indiana and Kentucky to show off their skills. AMTEC was a featured sponsor of this event and the Executive Director, Danine Tomlin, served as a Core Value Panel judge. The diverse teams engaged in various STEM activities and all had a great time in this well-coordinated event. Congratulations to Shawn Payne and his team at Owensboro Community and Technical College. All students with whom AMTEC spoke with expressed their desire for future careers in a STEM related field. Great job OCTC!

Lego League Competition

More than 350 students, teachers and volunteers gathered for the Owensboro Regional FIRST Lego League Competition Nov. 2 at Owensboro Community & Technical College.

Twenty schools from across the region participated including Audubon Elementary, Country Heights Elementary, Owensboro Catholic Middle, Southern Oaks Elementary, Sorgho Elementary and East View Elementary. Teams from Henderson and Southern Indiana also participated.

Teams competed in the Nature’s Fury challenge, which focused on the difficulties caused by natural disasters. Students presented innovative ways to solve problems using science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) research and knowledge. FIRST (For Inspiration in Recognition of Science and Technology) is a non-profit organization created in 1989 by Dean Kamen to get more students involved in STEM areas by making learning fun in a “sport for the mind.”

FIRST Lego League participants (ages 9-14) on teams of 5-10 worked together to design, build and program Lego MINDSTORMS® robots. Throughout the season, students conducted research, created presentations and worked as gracious professionals with other teams. Mentors, typically a teacher or parent, guided and offered support to teams throughout the season. The season culminates by competing in regional, state, and world competitions. Awards were given to teams based on robot performance, robot design, teamwork skills, and presentation of project research.

Winners in programming and mechanical design were Joshua Academy and Audubon Elementary. Project and presentation award winners were Chrisney Elementary, Country Heights Elementary (the Technology Twisters and CHES Lego Lightning) and Niagara Elementary. Core Values winner was Lincoln Trail Elementary. The Gracious Professionalism award, which embodies the core of the FLL experience, went to the East View Elementary Ray-Bots. The overall Champion’s Award of all categories went to HCPL3, a team representing the Henderson County Library. Four teams from the Owensboro Regional FLL Tournament will advance to the state championship in Bowling Green on Jan. 25: HCPL3, Audubon Elementary, South Middle School Bulldogs, and Owensboro Catholic Middle.

The Owensboro Regional FLL Competition has been sponsored by OCTC for 6 years in conjunction with community partners Domtar and Time Warner Cable. In fall 2011, OCTC received a National Science Foundation grant focused on promoting and implementing STEM initiatives (such as FIRST robotics programming) with underrepresented groups across the state of Kentucky. Underrepresented groups in STEM fields include females, minorities, disabled students, low-income and first-generation college students. Eligible teams seeking funding would have a majority of students who represent at least one of the aforementioned demographics. Since the implementation of this grant, more than 750 students across the state of Kentucky have been exposed to STEM education through summer academies, Discover STEM clubs, and FIRST competitions.

If your child or school would like to get involved, contact Owensboro Regional FIRST Lego League Tournament Director Jessica Cecil at  Read the original article here on!


More High Schools Turn Out Hire-Ready Skilled Workers

Posted in: News and Events on November 14, 2014

Manufacturing courses offer way to well-paid careers without college

Paul Davidson @ PDavidonusat USA TODAY, Nov. 12, 2014 USA Today Newspaper

WHEELING, ILL. Javier Tamayo looks like a journeyman machinist as he briskly turns a wrench to replace a chipped tool in a computerized cutting device at Bridgestone’s metal parts factory here.

USA Today Photo
ANNE RYAN USA TODAY Omar Bahena sets up a machine to make a new part at Bridgestone in Wheeling, Ill., one company gearing up for a labor gap.

Tamayo, 19, landed the $12-anhour job last year after graduating from Wheeling High School’s manufacturing program and is on his way to a career that pays upwards of $80,000 a year.
Wheeling has been turning out hire-ready manufacturing workers like Tamayo for six years. It’s one of a growing number of U.S. high schools that have launched or revived manufacturing programs in recent years to guide students toward good-paying jobs and help fill a critical shortage of skilled machinists, welders and maintenance technicians.

Manufacturing courses were dropped from vocational education programs as the industry declined over the past three decades, and no one tracks how many high schools offer them now. But Project Lead the Way, which creates high school engineering and technology curricula, says one manufacturing class it designed for Wheeling is offered in about 800 schools — nearly twice as many as in 2009.

The training targets a glaring imbalance in the labor market. Despite high unemployment since the recession, manufacturers struggle to fill hundreds of thousands of job openings. Since bottoming out in February 2010, employment at U.S. factories has risen by 700,000 to 12.1 million, recouping about 30% of the jobs the industry lost in the downturn.

Manufacturers are increasingly looking to high schools and community colleges to fill current staffing needs and gear up for a wave of Baby Boomer retirements. Educators are trying to dispel student’s misconceptions about the industry and spark their interest before they choose other jobs or head to four-year colleges, a costly career investment that has yielded disappointing results for some graduates.

Manufacturing is dogged by an outdated image that it’s “very physical, labor-intensive, you’re working with your hands, you’re getting dirty and there’s no career path,” says Gardner Carrick, vice president of the Manufacturing Institute, the industry’s training arm. Actually, “you’re working with computers and robots that are doing what you used to do by hand. That requires a skill set (in math and science) above what was required a generation ago.”

Lessons from Germany

The high school programs borrow from Germany’s education model, which forces students to choose a career track and take part in internships as early as age 15. Many are channeled into skilled-labor jobs, which are more highly respected than they are in the U.S. After building plants in the U.S. in recent years, several German companies are teaming with U.S. community colleges to replicate that apprenticeship system in this country.

Several years ago, Siemens, the German energy conglomerate, sought to train new U.S. workers for a 1,500-employee turbine and generator plant it was opening in Charlotte in 2011. It partnered with Central Piedmont Community College to create a program that supplies machinists for the factory. High school seniors and graduates who enter the program earn associate degrees while serving as paid apprentices at Siemens for 3½ years. When they’re done, they’re guaranteed a $55,000 a year job at Siemens.

“You’re getting paid, you have no debt and you get a job at $55,000,” says Eric Spiegel, CEO of Siemens USA. “The average liberal arts graduate (from a fouryear college) is making less than $40,000” or can’t find a position in their field. “Meanwhile, we can’t fill these technical jobs.”

Other Charlotte-area manufacturers are taking part in the program, most of them German.

Another German company, Volkswagen, went a step further, building its own academy next to the 3,200-employee assembly plant it opened three years ago in Chattanooga, Tenn. Instructors from Chattanooga State Community College teach high school graduates and others to maintain and repair robots at the plant while they serve apprenticeships at the factory.

It costs Volkswagen about $1 million to put each student through the three-year program. “We are interested in having our own skilled team members who … have to be familiar with our equipment,” says Sebastian Patta, the plant’s executive vice president of human resources.

President Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership is working to spread the community-college-apprenticeship model across the USA, initially through programs led by Siemens, Dow and Alcoa in Texas, California, Illinois and Minnesota.

A draw for ‘A’ and ‘C’ students

Wheeling and other high schools aim to spur students’ interest in manufacturing and familiarize them with equipment, rather than turn out fully formed craftspeople.

In the six years since Wheeling and other schools in Illinois District 214 began their manufacturing classes, the number of participating students has increased to 216, nearly doubling since 2012. The schools provide a growing labor pool for factories in metropolitan Chicago, one of the nation’s most manufacturing-intensive areas.

Wheeling ’s manufacturing lab, nestled in a quiet corner of the bustling school, almost resembles a small factory, with three hulking computerized machines to cut and shape metal, two manual mills, a drill press, a laser cutter and other devices. In another room with rows of PCs, students write programs that tell the digital machines how to shape formless metal or wood.

When the classes started in 2008, instructors initially faced resistance from parents turned off by the industry’s gritty image and wedded to their kids attending a four-year college. “You go up to a parent and you say we have manufacturing classes, and they walk away,” says Wheeling teacher Michael Geist. “But you say manufacturing-engineering and you show them the kinds of things” kids are doing in class “and they become excited.”

The traditional college route is an option for Peter Barts, a strapping junior at the district’s Elk Grove High School in nearby Elk Grove Village. He gets high grades and takes advanced placement physics and math classes. But, he says, “I’ve always loved working with my hands.”

Until he began taking manufacturing classes, “I thought of it as you’re doing exactly the same thing over and over again.” He changed his mind when he learned that machinists use judgment to program computerized machines to trim metal to precise specifications measured in ten-thousandths of an inch.

Barts says he plans to be a welder, which can pay upwards of $100,000 a year with overtime, or a shop-class teacher. “For me, it’s not work — it’s something that I love doing,” he says. “Once you’re done building something, you have this sense of pride — ‘I did that.’ ”

There are also financial benefits: “I won’t pay as much (for school) as students who are going to a four-year college,” Barts says.

For struggling students, the program provides inspiration and a potential career path. Before he took Wheeling ’s advanced manufacturing class this fall, junior Adrian Trego had poor grades.

Now, he says he’s getting B’s and C’s in geometry, chemistry and literature and plans to work as a machinist after he graduates. “With this class, I have the motivation,” Trego says.

Manufacturers: Potential for growth

Many Wheeling manufacturing graduates pursue industrial careers. A third are hired by local factories, starting at $12-$16 an hour, a third continue training at a local community college, and the rest scatter to other careers. District officials work with about 100 local manufacturers to help design classes and establish internships for some students.

Despite the successes of high school and community college programs, the demand for workers still far outstrips the number of students taking courses.

Spiegel of Siemens says just 15 apprentices are in the company’s program with Central Piedmont Community College.

“One of (manufacturers’) concerns is — if I train people for 3½ years, somebody else can come along and hire them,” he says.

The solution, he says, is to blanket the country with such programs. “I think this is really a path to America’s new middle class,” Spiegel says.

The CNN 10: Hacking College article highlights AMTEC’s effort to produce Multi-Skilled Technicians

Posted in: News and Events on September 26, 2014

By Todd Leopold, CNN.     Read the article on CNN.

Skilled technicians are in demand in many industries that don’t require college degrees

Apprenticeship programs that will train people for specific trades

Enroll at a community college, which offers two-year training programs

You know the college deal: Four years of schooling. A varied set of courses. Graduation. Job search.

But is that really the ONLY deal?

If you want to pursue a specific trade, there are other options, says Danine Tomlin.

Tomlin is executive director of the Automotive Manufacturing Technical Education Collaborative (AMTEC), a collaboration between members of the auto industry and more than three dozen community colleges in 18 states. The program is designed to train and improve students with an eye towards channeling them into manufacturing – and there are jobs available for those who fulfill the program’s requirements.

“The demand for a multi-skilled technician is needed in several of the trades,” she says.

It’s not just the heavy manufacturing epitomized by the auto business, either. Health care – a rapidly growing field, especially given the aging of the population and the need for improved services – has a number of businesses looking to [train and hire people] for such specialties as pharmacy technicians and elder care.

The food-and-beverage business needs people to oversee the making of products. The electrics, plumbing and climate-control industries all have a demand for well-trained workers. Many of these training programs are offered through community colleges, and some take just two years to complete.

In some ways these programs are throwbacks. Decades ago, established businesses and professionals would take on newcomers as apprentices, teaching them skills in classic on-the-job “earn and learn” arrangements. Though “apprenticeship” has a specific definition these days that includes requirements set by the U.S. Department of Labor, the model is still greatly successful in providing training and work for willing students.

Ironically, however, finding those students has been a challenge, says Tim McGhee, dean of the engineering technical division at Chattanooga State Community College in Tennessee. The college has a partnership with Volkswagen called the Volkswagen Academy, where students balance five semesters of academic training with four semesters of paid, on-the-job training, according to its website.

In a national environment that prizes the four-year baccalaureate degree, the idea of a trade school, community college or apprenticeship has been a hard sell, McGhee says.

“That’s an embedded stigma in this country and we’ll always be fighting that,” he says.

Nevertheless, the training is tremendously flexible, he says. The Volkswagen Academy’s “automation mechatronics” training, which combines electrical and mechanical skills, “would transfer to 99% of any manufacturing plant in this country,” says McGhee.

“At the end of the day, you’re going to have pumps, dials, motors, controls, electronics, automation that has to be maintained, repaired and programmed, and these folks can do that anywhere.”

Like the four-year university setting, apprenticeships and community colleges aren’t for everybody. It helps to have a specific career goal, and applicants often have to be willing to start working right away.

But if you’ve got that focus, it might be the way to go.

“Most of my friends don’t have a clue about their futures,” says one AMTEC student. “I do.”

Congratulations to UK’s Institute for Sustainable Manufacturing on the NIST-AMTech Award!

Posted in: News and Events on September 23, 2014

Congratulations to UK’s Institute for Sustainable Manufacturing on garnering a NIST-AMTech award to strengthen and expand an existing industry-led consortium and develop shared-vision R&D roadmaps to identify prospective next-generation technologies that enable closed-loop, sustainable manufacturing operations and have the potential to increase U.S. manufacturing competitiveness.

AMTEC looks forward to adding value to UK-ISM wherever our assistance and experience is needed.


PRISM is the Partnership for Research and Innovation in Sustainable Manufacturing (PRISM). It is an emerging alliance of industry, government, and academia with the goal of defining and executing a pragmatic, business driven agenda for achieving and maintaining sustainable manufacturing. PRISM is funded primarily by the National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST) Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech) program.


Providing technical support to the nation’s manufacturing industries as they strive to out-innovate and outperform the international competition has always been one of NIST’s top priorities. Innovation and manufacturing work hand in hand. An innovation ecosystem has many interrelated elements—entrepreneurs, skilled workers, tax policies, to name a few. But without manufacturing, the economic magic of innovation is not nearly as potent and its benefits to the nation are not nearly as great.

AMTEC visits with students at the IMTS event!

Posted in: News and Events on September 22, 2014

Thank you all for visiting us at the IMTS event! It was a pleasure getting to speak with you all about your aspirations. Please contact us if our program interested you!

AMTEC would also like to thank our partner FANUC America and the IMTS staff for the opportunity to exhibit in the Student Learning Summit at the annual International Manufacturing Technology Show, Sept. 8 – 13, 2014.


The Largest Manufacturing Technology Show

The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) is the largest manufacturing technology show in the Western Hemisphere. IMTS 2014 drew more than 112,000 industry decision-makers over the six day show. It’s the best show to get ideas and find answers to your manufacturing problems. Compare technologies from around the world in one place and get the edge you need to stay competitive in your field in the future.

Hi-Tech Conference

Posted in: News and Events on August 1, 2014

AMTEC would like to thank everyone who attended our Pre-Conference Workshop at the High Impact Technology Exchange Conference and visiting our booth in the exhibiting hall. We would also like to thank our guest speaker from our industry partner, Kevin Smith, for presenting his experiences implementing the AMTEC curriculum at the Nissan North America facility in Smyrna, TN. Click the link to download a pdf version of the Hi-Tech presentation.

HI-TEC is a national conference on advanced technological education where secondary and postsecondary educators, counselors, industry professionals, trade organizations, and technicians can update their knowledge and skills. Charged with Educating America’s Technical Workforce, the event focuses on the preparation needed by the existing and future workforce for companies in the high-tech sectors that drive our nation’s economy.  591 people attend the HI-TECH conference this year.

AMTEC partners featured in national publication for legislators: Capitol Ideas

Posted in: News and Events on April 15, 2014

Read the full article at Below is an excerpt from the article!

Unlikely Partners

One example of what’s possible when education, businesses and economic development come together is the Automotive Manufacturing Technical Education Collaborative, commonly known as AMTEC. The collaborative is a National Science Foundation-designated Advanced Technological Center located within the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.

In 2004, community and technical college leaders from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee were discussing their assorted automotive training programs at a national conference. They began wondering if colleges, working with industry partners, could do better.

Caren Caton was general manager of Toyota’s North American Production Support Center, a regional training facility, until her retirement in 2012. She said Toyota, which operates a plant in Georgetown, Ky., has a long history of working with the Bluegrass Community and Technical College System, which helps teach maintenance employees skills that Toyota instructors are not able to teach.

But, Caton said, when the first meeting was held in 2005 between automotive heavyweights like Toyota, Ford and General Motors and community college leaders, it was a radical idea.

“The things we were thinking about in 2005 was, ‘Wow, this is a great idea,’” she said. “We hadn’t thought of it.

“Historically, the automotive companies have worked separately. Of course, your competitive advantage is something that you protect. But what we had to think about though was … the technical training we were talking about is really common across the industry. By itself, it wasn’t something making us strong.”

Danine Alderete-Tomlin, executive director of AMTEC, said the national collaborative received funding from the National Science Foundation to get off the ground. Originally comprised of representatives from 12 colleges and 18 car companies from eight states—collaborative members worked together with AMTEC staff to build a curriculum and assessment tool to help colleges across the country educate and deliver a more skilled automotive manufacturing technician graduate.

“It is unique in that we have gotten to the distinct advanced skill sets that are needed in a manufacturing environment for a multi-skilled technician,” Tomlin said. “It was specifically designed to accelerate the learning experience and build on the areas they (students) may have weaknesses in. The research, meetings and analysis have yielded an innovative instructional design that is an industry-driven model.”

Caton said collaborations like AMTEC are perfect for states, businesses and students.

“Industry really should be telling the community colleges what skill sets they are looking for,” she said. “There was no reason really to expect community colleges to know that, but traditionally, that’s how it’s worked out. The colleges offer the programs and then the students are out there for you to hire. This is sort of taking a Toyota principle, which is customer input and really understanding what the customer wants, and using that to strengthen schools’ programs.