Archive for October, 2009

ATETV Episode 6: Three More Success Stories

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

ATETV Episode 6 went live yesterday with three more ATE success stories from across the country.

Our first segment, on preparing students for careers in renewable energy, couldn’t be more timely, what with President Obama’s speech on the topic at MIT this past Friday.  As we did in our story about process technology last week, we focus on a single mom who is enrolled in an ATE program — in this case, studying wind energy technology — to make a better life for her and her family.

For our second segment, we get a bit of a history lesson. Benjamin Franklin, who got his start as a printer’s apprentice, believed that apprentices made good citizens. We pay a visit to his namesake school in his hometown of Boston, which is bringing his philosophy into the 21st century through its wide variety of ATE programs.

Finally, we take a look at rapid prototype modeling, the wave of the future in design and manufacturing. Rapid prototyping allows students to “print” 3D copies of their designs; in some applications, they can even use it to produce final products. It sounds like something out of science fiction, but it’s not, and it’s being taught in ATE programs right now.

ATE Conference Wrap-up

Monday, October 26th, 2009

What a week! Our ATETV team is back from the ATE Conference in Washington, D.C., and we’re energized by the great feedback we got from attendees. Many ATE professionals came up to us at our booth at the conference to tell us how our videos have helped them communicate their work to a wider audience.

We also got to show our videos on the big screen right before every key note speaker; the last one, Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter even gave us a special mention in her speech.  She talked about how our efforts to connect students with many options for their future dovetails with the administration’s American Graduation Initiative to increase graduation rates and get students not only “in the door but through the door.”

You can check out some photos from the conference on our our Facebook page.  Thanks to the National Science Foundation and the American Association of Community Colleges for organizing such a great event, and to all the attendees for coming and sharing their work.  Seeing all of the amazing ATE projects on display made us that much more excited to continue to document the great work being done at community colleges and ATE centers across the country.

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ATETV on the big screen!

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Student Correspondent Cristina Curatolo

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Student correspondent Josh Cleburn

ATETV Episode 5; Plus, ATETV Reports Live From the 2009 NSF ATE Conference!

Monday, October 19th, 2009

ATETV episode 5 is up, and this week we’re reporting on three different ATE success stories. First, we meet a young single mother studying process technology to improve life for her and her family. Then we see how the geospatial technology is bringing the centuries-old craft of surveying into the 21st century. Finally, we learn how internships are getting ATE students into jobs even before they graduate.

In other news, Wednesday through Friday this week the American Association of Community Colleges and the National Science Foundation are holding the 16th National ATE Principal Investigators Conference in Washington, D.C. The theme of this year’s meeting is “Technicians and the Green Economy,” and the conference organizers have followed through by “greening” proceedings, down to the 100-percent recycled reusable water bottles handed out to all participants.

In addition to discussing the meeting’s very timely theme, participants will attend sessions about making the most of their NSF grants, showcase their projects and network with ATE professionals in their fields from across the country. There’s even a session on making the most of social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook, led by ATETV advisor Gordon Snyder and featuring Mike Qaissaunee, the star of last week’s cloud computing segment.

In order to bring you an insider’s perspective on this week’s event, we’ve recruited two ATE students who will be in attendance to serve as ATETV correspondents. Josh Cleburn is a student at Lee College in Baytown, Texas, just outside Houston. Josh is the president of the school’s section of ISA — The Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society.

Also reporting for us is Cristina Curatolo, who is representing Nashville State Community College at the conference. Originally, from Romania, Cristina is a student in NSCC’s Visual Communications program specializing in Multimedia Design. “For me this is a real honor and shows me how much my instructors respect the work that I have done,” Cristina said of attending this year’s conference. You can see an example of her work on her iTunes podcast.

Thanks to Josh and Cristina for their help, and check back in here for more from this year’s conference.  Our correspondent team will be sending live updates throughout the conference via Twitter and uploading photos via Facebook after the event.

We are also starting a discussion in the forum called ATE Conference: Technicians in the Green Economy.  Students, teachers, and other conference attendees can share their thoughts in this thread and keep us updated throughout the week.

We also would love to see your photos and hear your updates in our Facebook fan page.  Feel free to post photos and share your experiences with us.  For those “tweeting” from the event, follow our hashtag #ATEPI to stay up to date!

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.

The ATE Difference: Dedicated Teachers with First-Hand Experience

Monday, October 5th, 2009

A main goal of Advanced Technological Education is to give students technical skills that will greatly improve their quality of life. In Episode 3, we meet a dedicated teacher who is doing just that.

Jerry Duncan worked as a chemical engineer for 27 years before turning to teaching. He’s now the head of the Process Technology department at the College of Mainland. He’s also a former head of the Center for the Advancement of Process Technology (CAPT) and an ATETV advisor.

We followed up with Jerry this week to ask him a couple more questions about the impact of Advanced Technological Education on his students’ lives.

ATETV: What is a memorable success story from a student of yours?

Jerry Duncan: There are many success stories. One of the more interesting ones is a guy named Austin. He took dual-credit courses toward Process Technology in high school and finished up his degree at the College of the Mainland. He received a paid internship at a local refinery, and one month after he completed his internship and graduated he was offered a full-time job.

Austin just turned 20. He is making $80,000 a year. He comes back to the college every semester and speaks to the public about his experiences, to help us recruit new students.

ATETV: Wow, that is inspiring. Why is the demand so high for students with ATE degrees, and more specifically degrees in Process Technology?

JD: Demand is high because the average age of process technicians in the industry is about 50. Many people are starting to retire, and unfortunately many of today’s students will not consider working in a refinery or chemical plant. These workplaces are perceived to be dirty and labor-intensive.

Nothing could be further from the truth. These plants have retooled themselves into high-tech industries. The employees have to be able to understand how these complex factories work.

A survey that we did at CAPT estimated that over 50,000 process technology jobs will become available in the next 5 years. There are 55 colleges that offer Process Technology degrees. They graduate about 1,200 students per year, so you can see there is a large gap to overcome.

ATETV: What does your average student look like? How does a degree in process technology change their lifestyle and starting salary?

JD: Our average student is 27 years old (they range from 18 to 50). Generally speaking most of our students are working at jobs which pay $10-12 an hour. Once they graduate, the major refineries and chemical companies start them out at $30 an hour. Tripling your salary certainly makes a difference in their lifestyle. Additionally, all major companies offer life and dental insurance, a 401K, etc.

The Process Technology program gives the students a baseline which allows the companies to quickly integrate them into their organization. They are taught math, physics, chemistry and technical courses which deal with the types of equipment that they will encounter in industry. They are also taught critical thinking skills and basic troubleshooting techniques.

Also this week, we look at two stories of women entering the field of biotechnology. First, we meet a young woman training to be a biomedical technician at Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology in Boston. Then we head to Southwestern College in San Diego, where the students in the biotechnology program are primarily female.

These two programs show that Advanced Technological Education isn’t just about enriching individual students’ careers; it’s also about expanding opportunity and increasing diversity in science and technology.