The measurable success of recruiting students into STEM based pathways via a popular high school program known as FlexFactor has led the Department of Defense to recently invest $5 million via its Manufacturing Engineering Education Program (MEEP). This investment will adapt and export the FlexFactor framework to be used nationally by eight Manufacturing USA Innovation Institutes and nonprofit partners focused on emerging technologies.
Developed in San Jose, Calif. by the Flexible Hybrid Electronics Innovation Institute known as NextFlex, FlexFactor is the hallmark of NextFlex’s workforce development portfolio. An awareness building program designed for middle school and high school students, FlexFactor puts students in the shoes of business leaders facing real world opportunities and challenges that flexible hybrid electronics help to solve.
Via an immersive six-week program, students gain a deeper understanding of the advanced manufacturing sector as well as the tools, skills, and judgment required for effective decision making as it relates to developing and bringing a new technology product to market.
“FlexFactor guides student teams to explore emerging technologies and entrepreneurial thinking through an inquiry-based approach where they examine the lifecycle of a product. The process begins with a specific problem’s identification, then progressing to a potential technological solution including a traditional business case, that vets an opportunity based on projected demand, distribution partnerships and a forecasted return on investment for a given solution,” said Courtney Power, Workforce Development Portfolio Manager at NextFlex.
“Students not only explore the technological aspects of a potential product, but the projected sales and operational costs associated with bringing that product to market. In doing so, they hone 21st century skills like critical thinking and collaboration, all while getting a taste of what a career in advanced manufacturing might look like for them.”