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Developing the workforce of the future

In support of our commitment to the future of advanced manufacturing, NextFlex created a program that energizes youth, industry, and local communities around the importance of technologies such as Flexible Hybrid Electronics as they relate to day-to-day life. By showcasing the vibrancy and reach of modern day manufacturing, NextFlex is not only dispelling false perceptions, but more importantly, we are catalyzing an important group of future industry leaders – especially young women and other underrepresented populations. The program at the center of this growing movement is FlexFactor®.

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Following a project-based learning approach, FlexFactor equips students with a range of 21st-century skills that will advance their impending career potential and opportunities. Judgement, adaptability, research, problem solving, critical thinking, creative reasoning, teamwork, and leadership are all core components of this innovative approach to preparing individuals for a bright future.

Partnering with companies, schools, government organizations, and non-profits, FlexFactor is informing, inspiring, and recruiting people to become the future of advanced manufacturing. By fully immersing students into the blended worlds of advanced manufacturing technology and entrepreneurship, the program generates excitement around STEAM-based education and career pathways.

The FlexFactor platform manifests itself in a variety of forms. There are month-long “full” programs, one-day “sprints," and a variety of options in between. Each type remains true to the core imperatives of technology, entrepreneurship, education, and career pathways wrapped around a project-based learning format.

FlexFactor is a month-long program that exposes students to the vast range of professional opportunity within advanced manufacturing. Small teams of students identify a human health- or performance-related problem, conceptualize a flexible hybrid electronic device to solve it, and package their concept into a viable business model. FlexFactor’s project based learning approach is integrated into an existing classroom, regardless of the subject, providing an alternative learning structure into which classroom objectives can be embedded.

After a month of engaged research, product design, and customer discovery work, students pitch their product and business models to a group of industry professionals in a “shark tank” style setting. Students who complete all requirements earn college credit through dual enrollment agreements with local community colleges.

In addition to the culminating product “pitch” at the end, students conduct two field trips: one to a manufacturing company and one to a college. While at the college, students receive two 90-minute classroom lectures on entrepreneurship and business model development.

FlexFactor is a month-long program that exposes students to the vast range of professional opportunity within advanced manufacturing. Small teams of students identify a human health- or performance-related problem, conceptualize a flexible hybrid electronic device to solve it, and package their concept into a viable business model. FlexFactor’s project based learning approach is integrated into an existing classroom, regardless of the subject, providing an alternative learning structure into which classroom objectives can be embedded.

After a month of engaged research, product design, and customer discovery work, students pitch their product and business models to a group of industry professionals in a “shark tank” style setting. Students who complete all requirements earn college credit through dual enrollment agreements with local community colleges.

In addition to the culminating product “pitch” at the end, students conduct two field trips: one to a manufacturing company and one to a college. While at the college, students receive two 90-minute classroom lectures on entrepreneurship and business model development.

FlexFactor Sprint is a condensed version of the FlexFactor™ program. The objectives are consistent and focus on immersing participants in technology and entrepreneurship while familiarizing them with education and career pathways in advanced manufacturing. Results are achieved in a compressed time frame by leveraging a project based learning approach.

During the first part of the day, students tour a local manufacturer to observe technical innovation, manufacturing process, and STEAM-sector career opportunities first hand. During the second part of the day, students work in teams of four to identify a human health- or performance-related issue and conceptualize a FHE-based hardware device to address it. Additionally, teams create basic business models around their concepts focusing on target markets, users, buyers, and revenue models. Mentors help teams think critically about their product and the components of their business model. At the end of the day, teams pitch their product “shark tank” style to a panel of industry representatives.

FlexFactor Sprint is a condensed version of the FlexFactor program. The objectives are consistent and focus on immersing participants in technology and entrepreneurship while familiarizing them with education and career pathways in advanced manufacturing. Results are achieved in a compressed time frame by leveraging a project based learning approach.

During the first part of the day, students tour a local manufacturer to observe technical innovation, manufacturing process, and STEAM-sector career opportunities first hand. During the second part of the day, students work in teams of four to identify a human health- or performance-related issue and conceptualize a FHE-based hardware device to address it. Additionally, teams create basic business models around their concepts focusing on target markets, users, buyers, and revenue models. Mentors help teams think critically about their product and the components of their business model. At the end of the day, teams pitch their product “shark tank” style to a panel of industry representatives.

FlexFactor is reaching a diverse population of youth and transitioning adults while helping to increase the numbers of women, veterans, and underrepresented populations in technology and advanced manufacturing. Our focus on creating a bright and optimistic future for all while not disadvantaging traditional populations, has been a critical element to the success of the program, and has resulted in a rapidly growing network of innovative companies, colleges, high schools, teachers, students, and parents across Silicon Valley.

We are currently expanding the program locally, regionally, and nationally. If you would like to see the program introduced in your community or to become a FlexFactor sponsor, please write or call and join us in helping to create the future.

For more details, click here.

FlexFactor is reaching a diverse population of youth and transitioning adults while helping to increase the numbers of women, veterans, and underrepresented populations in technology and advanced manufacturing. Our focus on creating a bright and optimistic future for all while not disadvantaging traditional populations, has been a critical element to the success of the program, and has resulted in a rapidly growing network of innovative companies, colleges, high schools, teachers, students, and parents across Silicon Valley.

We are currently expanding the program locally, regionally, and nationally. If you would like to see the program introduced in your community or to become a FlexFactor sponsor, please write or call and join us in helping to create the future.

For more details, click here.

Meet some of NextFlex's MVPs

These power players boast stellar stats with backgrounds in manufacturing, government and education.

Joseph M. Kunze, Ph.D.

President & CEO

si2 Technologies

Since founding SI2 in 2003, Dr. Joseph Kunze has led the company’s growth to include in-house RF, microwave and metamaterials design, manufacture and testing, all of which is the basis of si2’s absorber systems and conformal antenna systems business. Prior to starting SI2, Dr. Kunze was Vice President and Business Unit Leader at Triton Systems, Inc. in Chelmsford, MA. Dr. Kunze’s prior experience includes positions at 3M Company.

Azar Alizadeh, Ph.D.

Senior Material Scientist

GE Global Research
2017 NextFlex Fellow

Azar Alizadeh has worked at GE Global Research since 2000. During her tenure she has led numerous cross-functional teams for the NBMC, the US Army, and the AFRL. She has also been the key GE contact on the NBMC “Wearable paper-based microfluidic biomarker sensor patch” program and the co-Lead on the NextFlex Human Monitoring Systems Technical Working Group. Dr. Alizadeh holds a Ph.D. in Physics, has extensive experience in the field of nano-bio-manufacturing, has 45 peer reviewed publications and 13 US patents/patent applications.

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