Are you a high school or community college educator interested in starting an ATE program or incorporating ATE content into your curriculum? Learn more about the key aspects of ATE programs, how to apply for ATE funding of your own, and where to find classroom resources.

Hands-on and Career-driven

Regardless of the industry or type of technology, all ATE programs connect learning to real-world applications in real-world careers. “There’s focus to the classwork, there’s focus to the curriculum, and there’s a direct application that you can feel and smell and touch and hear and see,” says Diane Auer Jones, a former assistant secretary of education.

This hands-on approach reflects the latest thinking in pedagogy. “All of the educational research today is pointing to the value of hands-on, contextual learning,” says Elaine Craft, director of the South Carolina ATE Resource Center and an ATETV advisor. “The student is not just being told something or just memorizing something, but they’re seeing how the pieces fit together.”

Most of the programs featured on ATETV are based at community colleges, but there is a push to introduce classes in high schools as well. “By introducing this at the high school level, not only are the students coming out of high school prepared to enter curricula of choice in college, but they have a better feel for what type of career they would like to embrace and pursue,” says Craft.

State-of-the-art Skills, State-of-the-art Equipment

When many adults think of technical education, they might flashback to programming on ancient computers or fixing clunkers in an oil-stained shop-class garage. But ATE programs teach students using the latest technology, often donated by some of the companies where graduates go on to work.

“I feel it’s vitally important that people actually work with the equipment that they’re going to be dealing with,” says Robert Rak of Bristol Community College. At the College of the Mainland, process technology students learn to operate an industrial-scale oil refinery. At Kirkwood Community College, agriculture technology students train on John Deere tractors equipped with GPS. And at Saddleback College, design students are able to “print” 3-D models of their work.

Access to the latest technology makes all the difference in finding work upon graduation – or, in the case of Saddleback student William Graff, even before then. Graff used Saddleback’s 3-D technology to design a part for a Kawasaki motorcycle, and he got paid to do it. “We’re actually working in the field, but we’re also learning at the same time,” says Graff.

Tech Work Meets Teamwork

Of course, applied learning only works if the students have the basic knowledge to apply. “You’re going to be using your math; you’re going to be using your chemistry; you’re going to be using your biology,” says Bristol’s Robert Rak. But of equal importance are the real-world skills students develop from working together.

Jill Zande of the Marine Advanced Technological Education (MATE) Center runs an international competition where teams design, build and pilot remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs). She says the contest teaches the participants far more than math and science. “They really do need skills like teamwork, project management, managing budgets. The big one is working together as a team.”

National Science Foundation’s ATE Program
Want to start an ATE program but need funding? The National Science Foundation’s ATE program is the primary source of grants for Advanced Technological Education today. (It’s also the main funder of ATETV.) The NSF is an independent federal agency that funds “20 percent of the federally supported basic research conducted at America’s colleges and universities.”

The NSF Web site sets out the goals of the ATE program:
“The ATE program supports curriculum development; professional development of college faculty and secondary school teachers; career pathways to two-year colleges from secondary schools and from two-year colleges to four-year institutions; and other activities. A secondary goal is articulation between two-year and four-year programs for K-12 prospective teachers that focus on Advanced Technological Education.”

You can visit the ATE program funding page to learn more about applying for an NSF grant at

For High School Teachers
High school teachers interested in Advanced Technological Education should start by reaching out to their local community college or ATE center; click on “Find ATE Centers” along the top of any page on

ATETV advisor Elaine Craft says this approach helps create “smooth pathways” from high school to community college. Students can use their local community college to explore potential careers and even to get dual credit for ATE classes.

Community colleges can also help with faculty development, helping high school teachers strengthen their technical skills, bring new technology to the classroom and make their science and math lessons more relevant to the real world.

For Community Colleges
The NSF has set up ATE Centers around the country to support community colleges interested in Advanced Technological Education. Click on “Find ATE Centers” along the top of any page of, or go to

The next step, says Elaine Craft, is to apply for an NSF ATE grant. But start small, especially if you’re new to grant-funded projects. You can also go to the South Carolina ATE Center’s Teaching Technicians Web site ( to find professional development and other resources to help you get started.

Do you have an ATE success story you’d like to share? Submit a post to ATETV’s blog by emailing Please note, however, that all blog submissions are subject to the editorial review and approval of ATETV.

Classroom Resources
Lane Warner, a high school and college instructor and ATETV Project Advisor, has shared several lesson plans he has written for his process technology classes in Jefferson County, Colo. You can access the lesson plans at

The South Carolina ATE Center’s Teaching Technicians Web site has also pulled together classroom resources from around the Web. View the whole list at

Many other ATE Centers also offer resources and advice for educators. Click on “Find ATE Centers” on or to to find links to centers in various regions and industries.

WordPress Video Lightbox