FlexFactor is a unique workforce development program created by NextFlex, America’s Flexible Hybrid Electronics Innovation Institute. Launched in San Jose, California in 2016, it has expanded nationally to Ohio and Alabama. This technology and entrepreneurship program is designed to be an immersive educational experience that engages the next generation of advanced manufacturing talent by connecting students, school districts, colleges and universities, and members of the industry. NextFlex’s collaboration with Ohio’s Lorain County Community College (LCCC) marked the first step in FlexFactor’s national expansion.
Helping students develop the 4Cs … and then some
Launched as a pilot with 13 high school students in March 2018, Lorain County FlexFactor will engage more than 750 students in the 2018-2019 academic year, with continued expansion for next year. This exponential growth is not surprising as it mirrors the rapid expansion seen in Silicon Valley, where the program grew from eight students in the inaugural pilot in 2016 to more than 3,500 students across four locations in less than two years.
FlexFactor challenges student teams to work collaboratively to identify a real-world problem, conceptualize an advanced hardware device that addresses the issue, and showcase their product by building a business model and pitching it to a panel of business and education representatives “Shark Tank” style.
FlexFactor brings imagination and creativity into the classroom, and students are lighting up with excitement. “FlexFactor allows students to let their imagination run wild, solving problems with futuristic technology we didn’t think was possible!” says Ario Thompson, a junior at Oberlin High School. “Through FlexFactor, we can impact the future by sharing our technologically driven ideas and business plans with industry professionals who can help us bring them to reality.”
During their time in the FlexFactor program at LCCC, students are immersed in the collegiate environment, eliminating college admissions barriers while forming relationships with faculty members through lectures and interactive advanced technology lab experiences. Students engage in design thinking and prototyping at the LCCC Campana Center for Ideation and Innovation.