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58 PCB007 MAGAZINE I APRIL 2019 ager who handles local coordination activities, FlexFactor acts as a hub for K–12, higher edu- cation, and the industry to easily plug-in and work together. Through seven linked activities spread over a month, FlexFactor uses a project-based learning approach to engage students with advanced technologies and entrepreneurship. During the program, small teams of students are challenged to identify a real-world prob- lem, conceptualize an advanced hardware product to address the issue, build a business model around it, and pitch their idea to a pan- el of representatives. Along the way, students engage with both industry professionals and higher education to inform their product con- cepts and learn about education and career pathways in the technology sector. The program is designed to work within ex- isting classroom structures and absorb subject- learning objectives. When layered over an Eng- lish class, the program can be used to study rhetoric, messaging, and oral presentation. In environmental science classes, the program can be used to study how advanced technolo- gies address environmental challenges. Robot- ics classes can expand the program out for ad- ditional weeks and use the extra time to build prototypes of their products. FlexFactor's unique curriculum enables this STEM- and entrepreneurship-based program to align with non-STEM and busi- ness subjects. Through video modules and workbooks, pro- gram materials illuminate the conceptual underpinnings of hardware design, functional electronics, advanced materi- als, market needs, and business finance. The logic-driven ma- terials enable students of any background to grasp the cardi- nal points of each discipline. The resulting understanding helps students create a knowl- edge framework that allows them to identify and map criti- cal relationships between a va- riety of subjects that are usually taught in isolation. This conceptual scaffold- ing provides a foundation into which specific STEM and business skills, such as design prin- cipals and statistics, can be embedded later. This approach inspires the next generation of engineers and technologists to be cross-func- tional thinkers who can readily engage busi- ness themes, such as market needs, as they iterate through product development cycles, ensuring technical features are not developed in isolation of user requirements. This type of global thinking will become more and more critical to employer and employee success across the range of manufacturing enterprise activities that define Industry 4.0. FlexFactor is successful because student teams define their own topics, ensuring they are fascinated by and passionate about their fo- cus areas. Themes like business statistics and basic material properties, generally compelling for only a select few primary school students, take on new meaning and relevance when studied as a means to address infant mortal- ity in the third world. For example, how would a company go about resourcing, designing, manufacturing, and distributing a baby bot- tle integrated with bacteria-killing LEDs that could be used by families in parts of the world where drinking water is routinely contaminat- ed? Complex practical and ethical dimensions are brought into the fold as teams struggle to Flex Factor program student participants from Abraham Lincoln High School take in the displays at the DuPont Silicon Valley Technology Center on February 11, 2019.

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