Archive for the ‘Technology in the News’ Category

Blast Off!

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Space Shuttle

Last week millions of spectators gathered at the Kennedy Space Center and many millions more tuned in via TV or Web to watch history being made as the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis ended the shuttle program’s 30 years of flight.

Although the four shuttle astronauts are often the face of the space program, there are scores of people working behind the scenes. According to a recent feature story on the NASA website, a group of specially certified United Space Alliance Aerospace Technicians called spacecraft operators function as the “eyes, ears and hands” of the Shuttle Test Team at Kennedy Space Center. This group serves as an integral part of the processing and test teams that ensure the shuttle is ready to fly. As Spacecraft Operator Bill Powers notes in the article, “Our job is to make sure when [the astronauts] get in the [shuttle], there aren’t any surprises.”

There’s no question, Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians keep things running smoothly. Part of a highly skilled, technical team that supports equipment and systems designed to launch, track, position and evaluate air and space vehicles, these technicians operate, install, calibrate and maintain the integrated computer/communications systems consoles, simulators and other instruments designed to acquire data, test and measure. According to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 30 percent of the current aerospace technician workforce will be retiring in the next six years, creating plenty of new job opportunities, which might range from positions in aerospace product and parts manufacturing, to air transportation support activities, facilities support services and scientific research and development services.

If these sound like intriguing professions, you might want to check out SpaceTEC. Made up of ten partner institutions in nine states, and headquartered at Brevard Community College in Cocoa, Florida, SpaceTEC is a tremendous resource for anyone interested in a career as an Aerospace technician. SpaceTEC provides educational materials, supports student recruitment and outreach activities to foster interest in aerospace and STEM subjects, maintains a national network of industry partners and promotes professional development opportunities for educators and practitioners. SpaceTEC’s National Resource Center for Aerospace Technical Education, based at Kennedy Space Center, additionally provides professional certification in several areas.

Besides Brevard, participating SpaceTEC schools and programs include Allan Hancock Community College in Santa Maria, California; Calhoun Community College in Huntsville, Alabama; the Community College of the Air Force in Montgomery, Alabama; Dona Ana Community College in Las Cruces, New Mexico; Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, Washington; Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida; the National Center for Aerospace & Transportation Technologies; Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, Virginia; and Tulsa Technical Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Check out the individual web sites for lots more information on the field of aerospace technology, educational requirements, and job openings.

ATETV Episode 20: It’s All about Jobs

Monday, February 1st, 2010

ATETV hits a milestone with its 20th episode this week, and we’re marking the occasion by focusing on the issue of jobs and the needs of our workforce. In particular, this week we look at how ATE programs are training students for work in the new green economy, and to meet the high demand for technicians in many fields.

First, we head out to Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where Jonathan Terry is studying to be a wind turbine technician. Jonathan actually has a bachelor’s degree in international business, but he went back to school because he saw that wind energy is a growing industry.

Jonathan’s story illustrates a larger issue we cover in our second segment this week: the need for skilled technicians in many industries, from green tech to lab work. “The ability for the two-year community colleges to deliver these workers as quickly as they can, this is an area that has become critical to the United States economic position in the world,” says Ellen Bemben of the Regional Technology Corporation.

Finally, we take a look at one specific type of green job that’s in high demand. Sinclair Community College is partnering with affordable housing groups to conduct energy audits and weatherize homes. “It creates an awareness about what can be gained from energy efficiency,” says Sinclair’s Bob Gilbert. “And the possibilities for our students in the job market just keeps increasing and increasing.”

As the country continues to focus on creating more opportunities for the future, students should look into community colleges as a fast, cost-effective way to prepare for secure, in-demand careers.

Cloud Computing and ATETV Updates

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Episode 4 of ATETV is up today, and things are heating up on ATETV.org. We’re busy planning our coverage of the upcoming National Science Foundation ATE Conference, which starts October 21.  The event is only open to principal investigators on NSF grants, but we’re recruiting attendees to send live twitter updates from the proceedings for us. We’ll also have some follow-up stories coming out of the gathering in the weeks to come.

For our last segment this week, we hit Times Square to ask passers-by about a tech term that’s been in the news lately: cloud computing.  We got some pretty creative responses, which you can see in the video above.

Basically, cloud computing refers to moving data and applications off the hard drives in individual computers and into the “cloud”:  farms of servers that can be accessed by any computer or mobile device, anywhere, anytime.

“All the software lives in the cloud. You no longer have to worry about installing software,” says Mike Qaissaunee, associate professor at Brookdale Community College.  “You no longer have to worry about downloading updates.”

Web-based email programs like Hotmail and Gmail are early examples of cloud computing.  With those services, your inbox doesn’t exist on your computer but on a server at Microsoft or Google.

If you’ve used an online service like Apple’s MobileMe to synchronize your contacts or calendar between your computer and your PDA, you’ve used cloud computing. If you’ve run any program in your Web browser instead of off your hard drive, you’ve been up in the cloud as well.

Google Docs, which lets users edit and share text and spreadsheets with coworkers online, is a more sophisticated example.  That sort of online collaboration is the big advantage of cloud computing, says Qaissaunee.  “It changes the whole way that you work.”

Apart from changing the way coworkers and students collaborate, cloud computing also means big opportunities for ATE students.  Storing more data in the cloud means more servers that need to be maintained, and since users expect access to their data 24/7, those servers need to be up and running constantly.

That means new careers for technicians who can maintain those servers.  More servers also means more electricity usage, which puts even greater strain on our energy resources. As cloud computing ramps us, so will the demand for alternative energy sources and conservation.  That means more jobs in green tech.

Cloud computing also presents new challenges in privacy and security. How should companies stores users’ personal information in the cloud?  How do they protect users’ data from identity theft?  As computer scientists and companies grapple with these issues, ATE programs and community colleges will be a vital link between the latest tech and the students who will be putting it into practice.

For more thoughts on cloud computing and other science and tech topics, check out cloud computing expert, Mike Qaissaunee’s blog.