Archive for January, 2010

ATETV Episode 19: On the Cutting Edge

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

When people think high-tech, they often think of laser beams and white lab coats. Well, we have both of those represented this week, but we start somewhere unexpected: out on the farm.

Joe Tarrence, a second-year student at Kirkwood Community College, is studying how to use GPS to help farmers increase their yields. Joe’s already out in the workforce, selling equipment to farmers and advising them on how to use it. “The sky’s the limit with this precision farming,” he says.

Next we meet Jazmine Murphy, a student in the lasers and photonics program at Central Carolina Community College. CCCC has made a concerted effort to recruit students, particularly young women with an interest in science and engineering. And with applications ranging from telephone lines to the military, Jazmine’s experience with lasers should serve her well after graduation.

Finally, we learn about biomanufacturing, which is the use of living organisms or parts of them to produce drugs like vaccines or insulin. It’s “using cells that you genetically modify to act as factories for your biomanufactured product,” explains Sonia Wallerman of the Northeast Biomanufacturing Center and Collaborative.

Whether they involve lasers, living cells or tractors, ATE programs are helping students stay on the cutting-edge of technology. And that will help them find jobs in these high-tech industries coming out of school.

Gary Beasley: Recruiting for the Future

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

As head of the lasers and photonics program at Central Carolina Community College, Gary Beasley spends much of his time recruiting students, speaking at local high schools and putting on laser workshops.

When he meets prospective students, Gary asks them a series of questions to judge whether they would be a good fit for the program: “Are you interested in science? Technology? Learning just how things work? Do you enjoy problem solving – any type of problem solving? Do you enjoy helping people with problems? How do you feel about math? Do you like it? Are you comfortable with it?”

If you answered yes to these questions, you might be exactly the type of student that Gary – and other ATE program heads – are looking for. Students like the ones in these stories Gary shared with us:

“One of my students worked his way through the program at a chicken &
barbeque restaurant that I frequently visited,” he recounts. “During his second year, he landed a job as a technician, making $40,000, working second shift while he finished school. Upon graduation, he was lured to another company at $50,000.”

Another former student has his name on two patents for optical systems, just four years after graduating!

Then there is the mother and daughter who both went through the program. Originally, the mother attended a laser workshop with her youngest daughter and was so impressed that she enrolled for herself. Her oldest daughter, an accounting major, was so taken with her mother’s success that she switched over, too. Now both women work at a major laser manufacturer and love their careers.

With success stories like these, it’s no wonder that enrollment in the program is up the past couple of years!

If you are considering lasers and photonics as a career path, Gary recommends a two-year associate degree over a four-year degree. In addition to its lower cost and hands-on approach, Gary sees the two-year program as the best route to further education. “You will be able to get a high-paying, high-tech job in two years and can continue your education while making high pay,” he says. “And more than likely, the company you work for will cover the majority of your continued education toward higher degrees.”

Like many ATE programs, CCCC’s laser and photonics program is a gateway to a lucrative career and to further studies in the field. With advantages like that, it’s a program that practically sells itself.

If I were to do it again… career advice from a STEM grad

Monday, January 18th, 2010

This week, we have a post from a guest blogger. Nicholas Lloyd, 27, is a graduate of Worcester Polytechnical Institute who lives in Ashland, Mass. He currently works as a software engineer, but, as he explains below, he came to college interested in biology. Here he describes how he used networking and internships to find a career he truly loves.

For the past few years now I have been working as a software engineer. I am very happy on this path, but it was not the first that I chose for myself. I first studied and even got a degree in biology, with aspirations of working in a lab for a pharmaceutical company.

When I was first looking for colleges, I honestly wasn’t thinking about what would happen after. I knew what I was interested in — biology, at the time — and I wanted a school with a solid program that also felt like a good fit for me.

But towards the end of my freshman year, the real world didn’t seem so far away. I started thinking more about what I would actually do afterwards, particularly as I searched for summer internships. I came to the rather startling realization that I really didn’t know what a biologist or biotech professional actually did.

To find out, that summer I managed to get an internship at a biotech start-up doing computational biology: basically, using computer programming to help the scientists with their work in the lab. That internship helped me in two different ways: it was the foundation that helped me get internships later on, and it showed me that there was more to biotech then just “working in a lab.”

In fact, doing internships probably helped me the most of all I did in my career exploration. Since they usually give you a taste of what is to come, they are a great way to help you land that first job after college. My college career center was a fantastic way to find internships, and as I discovered, it never hurts to use any networking resources you have, including your family.

Looking back, I wish I looked more closely at what kind of jobs would interest me as early as high school. I knew what subjects interested me, but I found out much later that most of the opportunities in that area were far from what I wanted to do. On top of that, it took me a while before I knew what questions to ask, and even longer to figure out WHERE I could find the answers.

Knowing the right questions, asking around to find the right people, and getting as much experience as you can before graduating — either high school or college — can help immensely to find the direction you want to go. Take the time now; it can make a difference!

ATETV Episode 17: Standard Operating Procedures

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

This week we head back to Times Square for another man-on-the-street segment, get our hands dirty on the farm, and then head online to explore the world of Cyber Security.

First, we take to the streets to ask people if they know what “SOP” stands for. As in the past, we get some pretty creative answers, but no one gets it right. SOP stands for Standard Operating Procedures, and in the ATE world it refers to the meticulous systems by which labs operate. If you’re a person who likes checklists and order, a career in biotechnology where you may utilize this system might be right for you.

Next we head out to Kirkwood Community College to learn more about hands-on internships in Agriculural Technology. “One of the best ways to have students learn is to have them actually do the exercise, do the math, do the work,” says Kirkwood’s Terry Brase. “They can hear about it, they can read about it, but it’s not going to stick with them until they actually experience it.”

Finally, we talk Cyber Security with Scott Edwards of Juniper Networks. Juniper makes routers, switches and other computer equipment that powers the Internet and keeps data secure. As devices become ever more interconnected, the need for workers trained to make and service these devices is growing. An ATE program in Computer and Information Technology (C.I.T) will give you the skills you need for these career opportunities.

ATETV Episode 16: ATE in Virtual and Real Worlds

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Technology is changing the way we interact with the physical world; it even lets us create entire digital realities that exist only within a computer. This week we look at three ATE programs operating at different spots on the spectrum between reality and virtual reality.

First, we visit the simulation and game development program at Wake Technical Community College, where students are immersed in virtual worlds of their own design. The curriculum is intense; student Ryan Snell recalls a class where he had to make a new video game every two weeks. “It was the greatest experience I’ve ever had,” he says. Another student, Aisha Eskandari, is adding a side project to her course load, coding a simulation to teach people CPR. Her work is a good example of virtual reality having a positive impact on the real world.

Another blending of the real and virtual is geospatial technology, which creates digital maps of the physical world. Central Piedmont Community College is spreading the word about this growing field by reaching out to high school students. “Students can take our courses free of charge while in high school, and get college credit as well as high school credit, and earn a certificate before they ever come here as a college student,” says Central Piedmont’s Rodney Jackson.

If geospatial technology straddles the real and the virtual, civil engineering is all about building the infrastructure that makes the real world work. That’s the appeal for Bristol Community College student Vittorio Pascal, who’s come back to school to change careers. “I like the possibility of a work environment where I’m not necessarily crammed into a four-by-four cube.”

Whether you want to work out in field like Vittorio or are more comfortable in front of a computer, chances are there’s an ATE program that will appeal to you.

ATE and This Year’s Hottest Gifts

Monday, January 4th, 2010

We talk a lot on this blog about the practical, real-world application of ATE programs. In keeping with the holiday spirit, we’re going to do that this week by taking a look at some of the loot you might be playing with this winter break.

GPS: Perhaps you got a GPS device for your car this year, or a new smartphone with GPS capabilities. If so, you’re part of the growing number of consumers making use of Geospatial Information Services (GIS), a hot field that keeps coming up on ATETV. GIS has major industrial applications as well, from agricultural technology to environmental engineering.

3-D & CGI: One of the hottest movies this holiday season has been Avatar, which is pushing the boundaries of 3-D and computer-generated imagery (CGI). The same can be said for the hottest video games, which every year get closer and closer to photorealism. If you’re a sci-fi fan or avid gamer, you might considering enrolling in an ATE program in game design, simulation design or drafting and graphics engineering at your local community college. New technology is even letting students “print” their designs as 3-D models.

Gadgets: When it comes to geek gifts, Internet connectivity is the latest trend. From smartphones that can surf the Web to e-readers that download books wirelessly to HDTVs that can plug directly into a home network, the hottest gadgets rely on the ’Net for their killer features. In Information and Communications Technology (ICT) programs like the one at Springfield Technical Community College, students learn how to keep networks online and secure.

Science Gifts: Then there are the classic gifts for the science-minded: microscopes, chemistry sets and remote-control robotics kits. If you received one of these gifts, you might enjoy an ATE program. Biotechnology student Shain Eighmey got his first microscope when he was five, a gift that sparked a lifelong interest in biology. More mechanically inclined? At Bristol Community College, students graduate from Erector sets and radio-controlled cars to building fully functional underwater robots.

So as you’re enjoying your gifts from this past holiday season, think about the science and technology that goes into them. Maybe you’ll be inspired to look into an ATE program!