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FLEXO Magazine : February 2008
FTA TODAY www.flexography.org FEBRUARY 2008 FLEXO 55 between 125 and 150 in each of the concentrations." In some ways, Gilbert noted, the inter- est has almost outgrown the availability. "Design-wise, the program is growing out of its space. But there are plans to expand and renovate some of the buildings so that each department has its own floor. This will help by providing more space and a better workflow." When Thompson first came to A&T, she immediately saw the potential for the flexo program. She wrote a grant that allowed the program to purchase a flexo press and an Anderson -- Vreeland plating system. Since that time the idea of expanding into packaging seemed a natural occurrence. "Working from that foundation we have been able to write grants for 20 seats of ArtiosCAD software, a Kongsberg sample plotter table, and an Epson 9800 inkjet proofer. These updates provide us with the unique ability to teach flexo along with paperboard and corrugated package design and production", explained Gilbert. In Fall of 2007, the university hired Dr. Ben Uwakweh as the new dean of the School of Technology. He too, according to Gilbert, has keyed in on the importance of packaging, and is working tirelessly to help the program reach its full potential. "Dr. Uwakweh is a strong proponent of coop- erative education. Through his leadership, our program will soon require each student to complete three semesters of co-op be- fore graduation." Gilbert believes the digitally-oriented mindset of today's youth will help draw them into the packaging industry. "Students have heard all their life that the world is going to computers. So when they take electives, they usually take computer- based electives. But I want them to get that excited about the technical hands-on elec- tives. The corrugated design classes will do that because, at first, they will design the graphics and structure. The next level is to print and convert their designs and have a tangible product. This is where we will develop partnerships with our industry friends to provide the resources to make plates and print corrugated projects." As it stands, the flexo classes are already packed. "We usually have capacity in our labs, which is a little less than 20 students. Sometimes it's a little more than that---22 to 24. The advanced flexo class is anywhere from 8 to 10." Over the next few years, Gilbert expects to see more equipment come in through grants, many of which have already been written. "We are also looking at combining our lab resources with a university-wide printing and publishing center so that the students will be able to complete a co-op on campus and also provide a service for the university," he said. "That would give us op- portunity to get more sophisticated equip- ment. It would also give us some space and advance our flexo area specifically. I'd like to see an additional flexo press, the ability to print UV inks and additional substrates. As we become a little more known, and indus- try begins to recognize us as a major pro- vider of students with flexographic skills, it will advance the program even more." In accordance with the physical growth of the program, the curriculum is also be- ing revised. "What we're attempting to do is make certain students possess the basic skill sets in that lab," said Gilbert. "Both litho and flexo courses should be required while oth- er processes will be taught in other required courses. I am certain that the packaging course would be a popular elective." Another change in the course offerings is the addition of a virtual internship. The university was approached last year by a company that offered a unique software. "This program will connect us to any print- ing company that has purchased this pack- aging workflow software. So, if the compa- ny is open and willing, it can assign a proj- ect to one of our students for graphic or structural design (or both). The student can interact with the instructor, do preliminary drawings and send those back to the com- pany for critique or acceptance, all without having to leave the university. It opens up all sorts of opportunities." Gilbert insisted that the virtual internship is no substitute for a traditional co-op experience, but of- fered that it was a good first step, and gives students a chance to test their ideas in the real world on actual products. While the school does not currently offer a concentration or degree in flexography, the majority of the industry support has been through and for flexo. "While stu- dents have the opportunity to take courses in lithography, screen printing and all the other print processes, most of our more recent progress has been in flexo. If this continues and the other segments of the industry don't step up to support education at the university level, then there will be a natural migration toward flexo." TEST ANTICIPATION As an instructor of flexography, Gilbert was intrigued and pleased by the an- nouncement of FFTA's TEST (Technical Education Services Team) initiative. "Both the flexographic industry and the educa- tional institutions that serve that industry have been looking for a single resource to provide the training and technical as- sistance necessary to maintain a highly skilled, well trained workforce," he said. "While the FTA has always provided train- ing and technical assistance, I see the TEST developing into the multi-faceted training resource we've all been waiting for." He continued, "For me, as a university educator, I am excited that TEST will offer a FIRST compliance process for instructors. This will assure a certain level of compe- tence for instructors and give greater cred- ibility to our student's degrees. It will also help educators develop curricula that meet industry needs and comply with FIRST recommendations." FELLOW FLEXO PROFESSORS Dr. Mitchell E. Henke has a Ph.D. from Virginia Tech, a M.Ed. from Bowling Green State University and did his undergraduate work at The Ohio State University. He has taught a variety of courses in graphic communications including design, pro- duction, estimating, and project management. This is Henke's first year at North Carolina A&T State University, where he in- structs the beginning flexography course, inks and substrates, estimating, and the introductory graphic communications course. Dr. Cynthia Carlton Thompson is the chairperson and professor in the Department of Graphic Communication Systems and Technological Studies, School of Technology. She received her B.S. degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, M.S. degree from University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and her Ph.D. degree from Virginia Polytechnic and State University. She joined the faculty at North Carolina A&T School of Technology in the Department of Graphic Communication Systems and Technological Studies' Printing and Publishing Program in Aug. 1997 as an assistant professor. She was named the chairperson of the department in Aug. 2004.