Archive for the ‘Industry’ Category

More on Wireless Power

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Wireless Electricity

The most recent ATETV video introduces you to WiTricity; the Massachusetts based company known for producing wireless electricity. While you and I marvel at the possibilities, many products are already on the market and a few more are in development.

#1- Inductive Coupling
Anytime that an electrical current moves through wire, it creates a circular magnetic field around the wire. Bending this wire in a coil amplifies this field and the more loops in the coil, the bigger the field. If you then introduce a second wire into the magnetic field you have created, the electrical current will transfer. Simply put, inductive coupling then is the process of using magnetic fields to stimulate movement of a current through a wire.

According to a recent article in Fast Company Magazine, this is the first wireless powering system to market. “It looks like a mouse pad and can send power through the air, over a distance of up to a few inches. A powered coil inside that pad creates a magnetic field, which induces current to flow through a small secondary coil that’s built into any portable device, such as a flashlight, a phone, or a BlackBerry. The electrical current that then flows in that secondary coil charges the device’s onboard rechargeable battery.”

Products include:
Automotive: Companies like Powermat sell these pads and offer wireless solutions to among other industries, the automotive industry to integrate this technology into new cars. Imagine being able to recharge your cell phone, while driving simply by placing it strategically somewhere in the car itself? No cords necessary!

Flashlights: By eliminating exposed metal conductors and the need for unnecessary cords, the Reference ATEX Certified Explosion Proof Torch and Charger uses induction technology to eliminate some of the previous issues that oil and gas industry professionals previously encountered with hand held flashlights.

Cell Phones: HP has created the Palm USA using HP Touchstone Technology. “Charge on Contact. Simply. Magnetically. Intelligently.” – the Web-site announces.

#2- Radio Frequency Harvesting
While less efficient, they work across distances of up to 85 feet. In these systems, electricity is transformed into radio waves, which are transmitted across a room, then received by so-called power harvesters and translated back into low-voltage direct current. In marketable products, a transmitter plugs into the wall, and a dime-size receiver (the real innovation, costing about $5 to make) can be embedded into any low-voltage device.

Products include:
This method of transmitting wireless power is not without its problems still which makes the number of products on the market available, scarce. But at Powercast in PA, you can purchase receivers and transmitters to customize your power solutions.

In the future, this will be available to consumers in the form of a few small appliances like clocks and smoke detectors and wireless sensors; down the road, it will appear in wireless boxes into which you can toss any and all of your electronics for recharging.

#3- Magnetically Coupled Resonance
WiTricity Technology uses magnetic resonance to transfer power over large distances. Following principles similar to the idea of acoustic resonance, which allows an opera singer to break a glass across the room by vibrating it with the correct frequency of her voice’s sound waves, magnetic resonance can launch an energetic response in something far away. According to Fast Company, the difference in this case is that “the response is the flow of electricity out of the receiving coil and into the device to which it’s connected. The only caveat is that receiving coil must be properly “tuned” to match the powered coil, in the way that plucking a D string on any tuned piano will set all the D strings to vibrating, but leave all other notes still and silent.”

Products in development:
Still under wraps!

A few years ago, Marin Soljačić, an assistant professor of physics at MIT, was dragged out of bed by the insistent beeping of a cell phone. “This one didn’t want to stop until you plugged it in for charging,” says Soljačić. In his exhausted state, he wished the phone would just begin charging itself as soon as it was brought into the house. So Soljačić started searching for ways to transmit power wirelessly. His efforts are clearly paying off. While the rest of us are still contemplating the possibilities of a world without cords, batteries, plugs, etc he is one of a few select individuals that are already hard at work turning these ideas into reality. As a result, the future of the electronics industry looks pretty bright!

Meet Network Security Specialist Jerry Gamblin

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Photo of Jerry Gamblin

Do you like working with computers? Interested in both networking AND programming? Well, then a career as a Network Security Specialist might just be for you! This week, ATETV staff caught up with one in person. Jerry Gamblin works as the Network Security Specialist for the Missouri House of Representatives; a position he has been in since 2005.

Here’s what he had to say about his work:

What made you decide to pursue this as a career?
I love problem solving and there is no bigger problem in the networking field then security. Plus I really don’t like fixing printers : )

Tell us about your current position. What does a typical day look like?
I work at the Missouri House of Representatives with 163 state representatives, their legislative assistants and House staff.

It is really hard to describe a typical day but it is always going to include checking access logs, catching up on industry news and responding to emails. Then I will spend some time catching up with other people in our office about the projects they are working on and how they impact our security posture. After I get that done I am on call to help fix or answer any questions that might come up.

Also… you will get a call after hours a couple of times a week. This is NOT a 9-5 job.

Why would students today be interested in this career path?
It is a good hybrid field for students who like networking and programming. You get to use your analytical skills that programming helps to develop while being able to work on a lot of varied projects that seem to draw people to networking.

What qualities would make them successful?
You have to want to always learn. If you are not willing to completely turn over your skill set every 3-5 years this isn’t going to be the field for you. You have to spend a lot of time reading, learning and talking to your peers.

What do you see as the biggest types of security risks that they might face in their careers?
The ones they are not thinking about. Most of the time security risks come from servers that you don’t know exist or haven’t audited. That is why having a good relationship with all the members of your team is so important so you don’t get left out of the loop on projects.

What advice do you have for people considering this as a career
Learn how to communicate. Security is a lot about being able to take an abstract security idea and turn it into something that you can make your customers care about. You can have all the technical knowledge in the world but you won’t be successful until you can share it.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, to prepare for a career as a Network Security Specialists, individuals commonly earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information science and management information systems (MIS), but a degree in any field, supplemented with computer courses and experience, may be adequate. You can also prepare for jobs in this field by pursuing an associate degree or professional certification, along with related work experience.

And for the rest of us? Well, it is good to remember that everyone has a role to play in keeping their computer systems safe. “Security…” Jerry said in a in a recent interview with the National Conference of State Legislatures, “.. is everyone’s business.You’re just as responsible for security as your IT person. You have a link in the security chain and you can blow it up pretty quickly.” So take the time to regularly scan your computer with your anti-virus software, to continually update your passwords and to pay attention when programs ask for personal information. For these tips and more,visit the National Cyber Security Alliance.

Inside Industry: Reality TV for Tomorrow’s Technicians

Monday, July 25th, 2011

If you want to train students in the technologies of the future, who better to turn to than the industries that will employ these future technicians?

One of the hallmarks of the Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program has always been the close collaboration ATE has established between community colleges and industry to produce the up-to-date curriculum necessary to produce a job-ready workforce.

That’s why we’re excited to tell you about a new series of ATETV programs coming up this fall. Called “Inside Industry,” the segments will take viewers behind the scenes of some of the country’s leading industries, including manufacturing, welding, and information technologies.

These in-depth “job descriptions” will go beyond employer interviews to provide a real-life look at work environments, equipment, skills and people — presented from the perspective of recently hired technicians and their supervisors. You’ll see inside an advanced-tech manufacturing plant. You’ll watch a welder work with laser precision. You’ll hear firsthand from some of the country’s biggest leaders in the IT field.

Stay tuned –through “Inside Industry,” prospective students and educators alike will get a glimpse of the work life of today’s technicians and will hear straight talk from their employers about the opportunities and challenges that are part of today’s rapidly changing workplaces.

Talk about reality TV!

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.

Q&A with Stanley Kowalski III of FloDesign, Inc.

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

SK_headshotThe FloDesign, Inc. was recently awarded $3 million in grants from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to expand its operations, including the creation of a product development center and the continued operations of its aerodynamic research center. We talked with FloDesign founder Stanley Kowalski III, about the company’s wind turbine technology, clean energy and the types of jobs that this new industry will create.
 
Why do you think the wind turbine industry is a good field for technical students to consider as they’re looking toward their careers?

Right now, wind is the lowest cost renewable resource. There’s nothing more rewarding than going into a job that will have a social impact, a job in which you’re actually going to be “doing good.” And green tech has that right now. If we can wean ourselves away from fossil fuels, we really can save the planet. And all of these things make you feel better and give you more purpose.
 
The FloDesign wind turbines are based on jet engine technology. Can you explain how this is distinct from other wind turbine technology?

Our technology is called a “shrouded turbine” and it’s totally different from [existing wind turbines]. Most wind turbines you see today have three blades and look like a propeller on an airplane. Our turbine, on the other hand, looks just like a jet engine. That’s because our engineers and scientists come from aerospace backgrounds and we’re applying aerospace and propulsion principles to wind power. [Shrouded turbines are built around a fan surrounded by a "shroud." As a result, wind flows through the fan and around the outside of the shroud creating an air mixture at the back of the turbine that pulls air through more quickly.]

But, what’s noticably different about our technology is that these turbines are about half the size of other wind turbines — but produce the same amount of power. And because the rotors are half the size of traditional turbines — and the towers are half as tall — these turbines can be used in a variety of different environments and places where the much larger turbines wouldn’t fit, for example, in cities and at airports.
 
You’ve referred to this as “disruptive technology.” Can you explain what you mean by that?

It refers to using an old idea in a new way. If you look back through time, there has always been a place for disruptive technology. For example, think about ice. There was a time when ice was produced by carving up lakes and transporting ice blocks by horse and buggy. Then refrigeration came along and the whole ice industry changed drastically. A more recent example would be the [photo] film industry. Remember when digital cameras first came to market, how rapidly the film industry declined? These are both examples of disruptive technologies. In the case of FloDesign, we took a mature technology used in propulsion systems, called the mix rejecter, a means of pumping air on the back of a jet engine, and placed it on a new object — the wind turbine. The result was better performance and potentially lower cost
 
FloDesign’s new research and development operation is expected to create 150 new jobs. Can you tell us more about the types of jobs that will be created?

Like the automotive industry, there will be many different facets of the operation that have to come together in order for this project to fully come to fruition. For example, there’s the manufacturing itself — how will we actually build these? Then we will be developing ancillary products like a shipping container. So everything from the design down to the actual installation of the device, will create job opportunities. So, when I talk about design, that will involve scientists and engineers. When we talk about the execution of that design, we will need people with CAD [computer assisted design] skills.

Can you talk more about these skills?

When we talk about CAD, we’re talking about computer-aided tools that can be used either for drafting or for design.

For us, we’re building small prototypes of our actual wind turbine. And we’re using a science known as similitude, which means we can test it in small scale. Imagine if you had to build the whole thing before you could see how it worked — you can’t do that. You have to test on a small scale before you can go to large scale. And that’s what rapid prototyping does — it gives you rapid, quick tests. I can test 37 iterations of my wind turbine, at a cost of maybe $5,000 and know what the performance would be for that first turbine that will cost $2 million [to actually produce.] I think CAD is one of the most powerful tools you can have [as a technician.]

What other advice would you give today’s students?

Well, I would say that internships can be valuable. Our company currently has five or six employees [who started as interns] and it was a great process — the students got a taste of the real world, and we got to know them [and their abilities.] It was sort of a dating period.

I would also say that I think for students who are just graduating and considering their employment options, entry level positions at small companies provide you with the opportunity to be part of something that could be enormous. Of course, I’m biased, but I think that many of today’s opportunities in America really lie in small companies and start-ups.

Small is the New Big Idea

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Fuel Cell Technology: Small is the New Big Idea

Imagine a fuel source that can run on natural gas and propane — or soybean oil and used cooking oil. Or even farm waste.

Well, it’s not just an imaginary scenario, it’s a real and thriving industry known as fuel cell technology, and it’s being used today to create locally generated electricity in rural farm areas, military battle zones and other hard-to-reach places beyond the range of the standard electrical grid.

The subject of a recent report on the CBS News program, “60 Minutes,” the promise of fuel cell technology lies in its ability to generate the equivalent of a “power plant in a box,” replacing massive power plants and the transmission line grid in the same way that laptop computers have partially replaced desktop computers or the way cell phones have replaced many land-line phones.

A fuel cell is a two-inch disk made of ceramic that converts fuel into electricity and heat using an electrochemical process many times cleaner, quieter and less polluting than engines and turbines. Because a single fuel cell generates about 0.7 volts of electricity, hundreds of fuel cells are combined in a “stack” to generate enough energy to power a motor.

Fuel cell systems decrease our carbon footprints and provide important alternative energy options. By generating electricity through an electrochemical reaction, rather than from a combustion process as would occur in an automobile engine, there’s no need for burning or combustion and no need for power lines from an outside source. Compared to a battery, which uses an electrochemical reaction to produce a finite amount of energy, fuel cells produce electricity continuously as long as they are provided fuel — whether it be diesel, kerosene or vegetable oil. (For an interactive explanation of how fuel cells work, visit the General Motors Education website.)

Technology Management, Inc. (TMI) has been developing fuel cells for the past two decades, and according to their website, fuel cells provide a unique source of power generation for several important reasons: 1) They are modular. Unlike solar, wind, diesel or natural-gas generators, fuel cells are compact in size and can be placed anywhere there is a fuel supply. 2) They are clean. Compared to generators, which produce noise, odor and air pollution — including lethal carbon monoxide — fuel cells are clean, quiet and safe for indoor use. 3) They are efficient. Fuel cells are at least twice as efficient as a gas engine or turbine at producing electricity. In addition, fuel cells produce clean heat which can be used for cooling as well as heating. 4) They are scalable. Fuel cells are modular which means that each individual system enjoys the same high efficiency regardless of size and can be used as “energy building blocks.” You simply add more to get more power, demonstrating that bigger is not always better.

Today, in partnership with Stark State College and Lockheed Martin, TMI is developing a fuel cell military application that promises to greatly reduce the need for a front-line unit to transport and secure large quantities of gasoline or diesel fuel on the battlefield. Delivering this fuel is expensive and dangerous, but by reducing the need for petroleum at outlying military installations, the long truck convoys required to deliver fuel (which are especially vulnerable to enemy attack) can be reduced, saving costs as well as safeguarding soldiers’ lives.

TMI is also developing a small-scale fuel-cell-driven power system that could be placed on thousands of small farms in rural America or tens of thousands of rural villages in the third world to bring power to customers in remote locales. As TMI CEO Benson Lee puts it, “Small is the new big idea.”

To hear a presentation by Benson Lee about the role of fuel cell technology in today’s marketplace, including its role in solving global social problems, click here.

What exactly is Precision Agriculture?

Friday, February 26th, 2010
Working the Field

Working the Field

Image: vitasamb2001 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’ve been speaking a lot about Precision Agriculture on ATETV- who is using it, how they are using it, how it is vital to the efficiency and production efforts of farmers, etc. But what is it exactly? We thought it was an interesting enough topic to delve still further into and get greater insight into this new and exciting field.

Precision Agriculture is the use of technology to understand and manage varibility in fields and crops. Emerging technologies such as remotely sensed imagery, GPS, and GIS allow farmers to survey their land and collect information to create maps that identify crop specific variables like soil nutrients, management practices, soil characteristics, past yields, level of moisture, pest infestations, etc down to the specific meter. This data helps farmers manage their fields for economic or environmental benefits. The many benefits include: reduce costs for crop inputs like fertilizer that would have been spread in areas that don’t need it and can now be placed in areas that do, better time management for the farmer and reduction of agricultural impact by targeting the use of pesticides and other chemicals. It also allows the farmer to more specifically document a history of his or her practices and results to pass on to future workers.

The field of Precision Agriculture has been around for at least 10 years but the basics of it are nothing new. Collecting data and making decisions based on that data are central principles of farming and have been around for many years. When plots of land were smaller in size, this was obviously easier. But as they grew, this no longer was possible. New tools and techniques were waiting to be discovered. Created in the mid 1960s, the Geographic Information System (GIS) was probably the first precision farming tool developed. It provided tools for analysis.

Then came several different soil testers and other instruments designed to make the techniques of farming still easier and more accurate. What remained was how to streamline all of this information and translate it to a broader, all encompassing picture of the area that could be used to further improve practices.

Along came the Global Positioning System (GPS). With enough satellites available in late 1980s and early 1990s, it was possible to use GPS receivers to determine individual location for all of this data. What that meant for the farming industry then was that farmers would now be able to analyze all that data for smaller manageable “subfields” and program a computer to position application of nutrients and seed where they are needed spatially on the land. These subfields, which are hundreds of separately manageable units, allow the farmer to make decisions that are much more efficient than on a whole field basis.

As new and emerging technologies, they will continue to be applied to a wide number of industries including agriculture. The use of pneumatic systems now allow equipment to automatically shutoff the application of seed or nutrients on areas that have already been applied, eliminating double application. The use of identification tags along with GPS will allow farmers to accurately track and manage individual animals. Optic systems will allow the identification of specific pests and the automatic application of a pesticide only on that pest, reducing costs and the use of chemicals.

Where this goes from here then is anyone’s guess. Perhaps tools will be invented that collect data and make decisions in real-time? Maybe we will utilize small field robots one day? Anything is possible. Special thanks to Terry Brase at Kirkwood Community College for his input on this topic!

Home Energy Audits: Greening Your Home, and Saving You Money

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

In the past couple episodes, we’ve focused on home energy audits as a growing source of good, green jobs that can’t be outsourced. Today we’re going to take a look at the process from the homeowner’s perspective, explaining what goes into an energy audit and what actions homeowners can take to save energy and money.

According to Sinclair Community College Professor Robert Gilbert (featured in this week’s episode), a home energy audit looks at four different aspects of a home’s energy efficiency. First, technicians determine how well-insulated the building’s walls, ceilings, windows and foundation are. Gilbert says that up to 60% of a home’s heating and cooling costs are due to “air infiltration.” By blowing air in through the doorway of the house and measuring the pressure inside, technicians can measure how airtight a home is and where the leaks are.

Second, technicians test the mechanical parts of the house: the heating and cooling systems, major appliances like washers and dryers, and even the type of lightbulbs a home has. But just as important as what stuff a home has is how the folks inside use it, which is the third part of the audit. Technicians look at when residents are home, what temperature the thermostat is set to and even how often the TV is on. Finally, technicians will look at utility bills to see exactly how much fuel and electricity the home is using.

Gilbert credits tax rebates and incentive programs offered by utility companies and state and Federal governments for the increased demand for audits — and, by extension, for audit technicians. Another factor is that more homeowners are realizing that small steps can lead to big savings on their utility bills.

A home energy audit is a great way to get your home to peak efficiency, but you don’t have to wait to start saving. To save electricity, Gilbert suggests replacing incandescent light bulbs with florescent models; turning off lights in unoccupied rooms; plugging TVs and other electronics into power strips, and turning them off when not in use; and unplugging items like cell phone chargers, which drain electricity even when not in use.

To save on heating and cooling, Gilbert suggests turning down the thermostat at night and when you aren’t home; programmable thermostats are particularly handy for this. And if you’re up for a do-it-yourself project, caulking and foaming over areas where air is leaking out of the house can result in big savings.

You can find more helpful tips and information on energy audits online. Energy Star, the energy efficiency program run by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, has a page where you can find a professional energy audit company near you and compare your energy usage to that of other homes in your area.

Thanks to Professor Gilbert for his help this week and for his practical energy-saving tips!

ATETV Episode 22: More on Green Jobs and Industry Partnerships; Plus, Computer Careers

Monday, February 15th, 2010

This week, we’re continuing with a couple of topics from recent weeks: industry partnerships and green jobs. We’re also profiling a young father who’s fitting in his own homework in computer security between helping his kids with theirs.

First, we head to Bristol Community College to profile the partnership between the ATE program there and the local environmental and mechanical engineering industries. At Bristol, that partnership translates to input on curriculum via an industrial advisory board, and access to valuable internships like the one student Mike Poitras completed at a desalination plant.

Mike’s position at the plant is the kind of job that can’t be outsourced. The same goes for the energy technician jobs that Sinclair Community College is training its students to fill. The demand for these positions making buildings more energy efficient already outstrips the supply of workers, and the gap is widening. “The problem is not going to be a market” for these service, predicts Mike Train of Certified Energy Raters LLC. “It’s going to be having boots on the ground to service that market.”

One reason energy conservation is becoming a hot topic is the amount of electricity that our computers and other digital devices are consuming. At Springfield Technical Community College, student Francisco Nofal studying computer security, another hot career in our increasingly wired world. Francisco enrolled at STCC after a layoff. Now he’s balancing his studies with being a husband and father. “I get homework, they get homework, so I can’t do mine when I get home. I gotta wait, help them with theirs.”

Hopefully for Francisco all that homework will pay off, for him and his kids. Tune in next week for three more ATE success stories like his!

ATETV Episode 21: Industry/Community College Partnerships

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Last week we focused on the demand for technician jobs, green and otherwise. This week we’re looking at how community colleges are teaming up with industry leaders to meet that demand.

“We couldn’t exist without the technical college,” says Jill Heiden of ESAB Welding and Cutting Products in South Carolina. “They create the students that help us produce our products.”

And because these students are so vital, industry has taken an active role in their education. “Industry partners are valuable at helping you develop curriculum in the college,” says Elaine Craft, head of the South Carolina ATE Center. “You discuss what it is that they need and how you can best meet those needs.”

That industry/education partnership is going strong in South Carolina, but it’s an important part of ATE programs across the country. At The College of the Mainland in Texas, Process Technology students like Umair Virani are learning how to use the same equipment in the field at major oil refineries. Umair actually has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, but he decided he wanted hands-on experience that would let him work in an environment outside the lab.

Finally, we visit the Video Simulation and Game Development program at Wake Technical Community College, which is located near the Research Triangle in North Carolina, a hotbed of the game industry. Wake Technical’s Kai Wang says one of the missions of the program is “trying to meet local industry demand” from those game makers.

To accomplish that, the school asks the industry for input. “We work very closely with industry representatives, advisory committees, and they really drive what we train individuals on,” explains Wake’s Robert Grove. “When students are finished with us, they are ready to enter the workforce because we have designed that program based upon what they have told us to do.”

Whether it’s video game design, oil refining or high-tech manufacturing, employers are looking for specific skills. By working with them directly, community colleges are making sure that the lessons they are teaching are preparing students for the real world.