National Science Foundation

Advanced Technological Education (ATE)


The Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program promotes exemplary improvement in technological education at the national and regional levels through support of curriculum development and program improvement at the undergraduate and secondary school levels, especially for technicians being educated for the high-performance workplace at two-year colleges. Guided by a vision for technician education, ATE projects and centers not only prepare students to enter the technical workforce but also provide a solid foundation for continued higher education.

ATE centers of excellence focus on systemic approaches to technician education, usually within a specific discipline (such as manufacturing, information technology, telecommunications, semiconductor manufacturing, environmental technology, or biotechnology) and are expected to have a broad impact on two-year colleges and secondary schools within a region or across the nation. ATE projects focus on specific aspects of technician education, such as the development or adaptation of educational materials, courses, and curricula; professional development opportunities for college faculty and secondary teachers; technical experiences for students; or laboratory development. All centers and most projects have extensive partnerships with business and industry, and also with other two-year colleges, four-year colleges and universities, and secondary schools. Cooperative efforts among projects and centers assure that the ATE program is having a national impact. NSF and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) act as partners by holding annual ATE Principal Investigator (PI) conferences and supporting efforts that encourage networking and joint activities.

In FY1998, the ATE program supported 11 centers of excellence and 158 projects. During the first five years of the programís operation, centers have accounted for 27% of fund allocation ($32.6 million of $120 million), and projects for 66% ($79.6 million).

A. ATE Centers

In FY1998, the ATE program funded one new center of excellence and extended funding for three centers that were initially funded for a three-year term in 1995. The San Francisco Community College District is coordinating activities for the new center, Bio-Link: A National Advanced Technological Education Center for Biotechnology. Working with six regional partners, the center acts as a clearinghouse for biotechnology in two-year colleges. Working closely with industry and R&D laboratories, primary objectives of the center include curriculum development, professional development for faculty and teachers, and student recruitment and retention through internships and other work-related activities.

The following table lists the awardee institutions and areas of focus of all 11 ATE centers.

ATE Center


Year Founded

Eastern Iowa CC District

Environmental Technology


Texas State Tech. College, Sweetwater

Distance Learning


Sinclair CC (OH)



Bellevue CC (WA)

Information Technology


Middlesex County College (NJ)

Engineering Technology


Chemeketa CC (OR)

Natural Resources Management


S.C. Technical College System

Engineering Technology


Maricopa County CC District (AZ)

Semiconductor Manufacturing


Springfield Technical CC (MA)



Monterey Peninsula College (CA)

Marine Technology


San Francisco CC District (CA)



B. ATE Projects

In FY1998, the ATE program funded 38 new projects and continued to support 120 projects started in previous years. Official cost-sharing in the program is about 35% of NSF funds; however, project reports show that institutions are leveraging NSF funds with other funds better than 1:1.

The following table shows the broad disciplinary categories across which projects are distributed.

ATE Project Distribution by Focus Area


Science-related technologies, including biotechnology, chemical technology, agriculture, Geographic Information Systems, and environmental technology

Engineering and computer technologies, including manufacturing, electronics, aerospace technology, etc.


Core courses and skills for technical studies, including mathematics, physics, and interdisciplinary

Total ATE-managed projects

Some examples of the new projects are:

C. Awards Won by ATE Projects and Centers

As one indication of the success of center and project activities, over 25% of ATE-supported projects and centers report that they received special recognition awards in FY1998. The South Carolina Advanced Technological Education Center won the National Leadership Forum Achievement Award sponsored by Jobs for the Future. The Advanced Technology Environmental Education Center (in Iowa) won a national award for faculty development for its Fellows Program. Johns Hopkins University was a finalist for the Bellwether Award in Instructional Programs and Services. The Maricopa and New Jersey centers and Intelecom won national awards for their video products. A PI at Piedmont Technical College won the South Carolina award for most innovative educator because of her work on the South Carolina ATE Exemplary Faculty project. Prince Georgeís Community College was one of six recipients--and the only two-year college winner--of the Hesburgh Award.

D. Program Issues

Core content and skill and academic standards: Industries recognize a need for technicians with greater capability in science, mathematics, and technology. Several ATE projects and centers are using or developing skill standards or competencies for their areas. Other projects use existing standards in the creation of materials and professional development for teachers. For example, the American Chemical Society is developing both high school and community college instructional materials based on Voluntary Industry Standards and National Science Education Standards.

Recruitment, retention, and placement of students, including technical experiences for students and parental involvement: A universal challenge is to encourage students to enter technical programs and retain them through the associate degree. Many educational consortia currently link Tech Prep-fostered state and local consortia and School-to-Work programs with ATE projects. Cleveland State University and three two-year colleges are cooperating with schools to provide technical experiences that attract and prepare students for technical careers. Working with Washington State Tech Prep consortia, Bellevue Community College is developing information technology Tech Prep curricula, providing professional development for current teachers, building student recruitment models that involve parents, and improving student access to assessment, tutoring, mentoring, and internships.

Professional development for college faculty and secondary teachers: In many technical fields, the knowledge required by technicians in industry is changing rapidly. Several ATE projects and centers provide professional development opportunities for faculty and teachers. Consortia of two-year colleges and industry collaborate on professional development so that students can be educated for the needs of local industries.

Adaptation and implementation: Projects' and centers' high-quality educational materials, novel degree programs, effective educational practices, and thriving partnerships must be disseminated, adapted, and implemented to meet needs in other institutional settings. Projects and centers work with disciplinary professional societies, publishers, and regional and local consortia in faculty development and dissemination of products and methods. A new component in the FY2000 ATE program announcement will be support for institutions to adapt and implement exemplary curricula or programs developed by other ATE projects, or exemplary curricula developed in other programs that can be adapted to technological education. Through a Phi Theta Kappa project, developers of ATE materials are mentoring the implementation of these materials in other community colleges.

E. For More Information

For more information about the ATE program or awards, visit one of the Web sites listed below or contact one of the lead program directors for the ATE program:

Dr. Elizabeth J. Teles
Division of Undergraduate Education
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Blvd., Rm. 835
Arlington, VA 22230
Phone: 703-306-1666
Fax: 703-306-0445
Email: eteles@nsf.gov

Dr. Gerhard L. Salinger
Division of Elementary, Secondary, and Informal Education
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Blvd., Rm. 885
Arlington, VA 22230
Phone: 703-306-1620
Fax: 703-306-0412
Email: gsalinge@nsf.gov

NSF Web Sites of Interest

Directorate for Education and Human Resources

Division of Undergraduate Education

Division of Elementary, Secondary, and Informal Education

Award Abstracts

Project Information Resource System

ATE Centers of Excellence

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