Archive for April, 2010

Taking Flight

Thursday, April 29th, 2010
Glider in Silhouette by Matt Banks/

Glider in Silhouette by Matt Banks/

“I think a lot of gals just don’t understand aviation or are a little bit afraid of it,” Tina Thomas of Poplar Grove Airmotive told us in this week’s episode. “But if they get out and actually experience it, I think….they’ll learn how much fun it is and why all the guys are keeping it a little bit of a hidden secret.”

That got us wondering about other women who had pursued careers in the aviation field and led us to the website Women In Aviation International. There, we quickly learned that women across the country have been employed both in the skies and behind the scenes of the aviation industry – for nearly a century!

The WAI annual Pioneer Hall of Fame profiles some of aviation’s most successful women, including pilots, engineers and astronauts. Among the 2010 Hall of Fame inductees is Suzanna Darcy-Hennemann, who WAI tells us was the first woman to captain a 747-400, the first woman to captain a 777 and the first woman test pilot employed by Boeing in both production and experimental flight test. Today she is Boeing’s chief training pilot for almost 700 instructor pilots. You can hear her describe her aviation career here.

And then there’s 1994 WAI Hall of Fame inductee Mary Feik, who at age 84 travels the country as a lecturer for the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) describing her 50-year career as an airplane master mechanic, discussing her more than 6,000 hours of flight time testing military aircraft to determine maintenance and safety requirements, and talking about her work restoring famous planes at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. You can read more about Mary’s long and exciting career here.

As these inspiring trailblazers are demonstrating, when it comes to careers in aviation for women, the sky really is the limit!

ATETV Episode 32: Pushing Yourself in a New Direction

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

This week, we visit with a student who is pursuing a second career in Fuel Cell Technology, learn why writing and communications are as important to a technical career as math and science, and look at the traditionally male dominated field of aviation — from a woman’s viewpoint.

In our first segment, Stark State College student Dena Mayhorn describes her experience going back to school after working in the automotive industry for 20 years. “I’m in the Electrical Engineering Technology [program] and the one-year fuel cell certificate program,” explains Dena. “It is a lot of work to come back to school, to learn something new. The classes are challenging.” But Dena’s willingness to push herself to master new skills, coupled with her years of valuable work experience , make for a terrific opportunity for an exciting second career. Says Dena, “Taking classes and maintaining a life outside of school is a busy life, but it’s well worth it.”

In our second segment, we hear from employers and educators who explain why pushing yourself to develop good writing and communication skills will pay off no matter what type of technical career you are pursuing.

“One of the keys to being in a customer engineering role for EMC is communications,” explains EMC employer Todd Matthews. “You have to be on top of your communications because you are the face of EMC. So, not only [are communications important] from a face-to-face point of view, but you need to write well because a lot of communications are done through email.”

Andrew Maynard of Springfield Technical Community College agrees. “With so much communication focused on email, employees’ written skills are scrutinized more and more.” Springfield students take two English classes as part of their curriculum — writing and literature — making for a well-rounded learning experience. As EMC’s Kim Yohmann notes, you’re exposed to a wide variety of situations in the real world. “Being able to speak with the customers on the phone, or in meetings or even in a group setting [is important]. Presentation skills are big. You’re working with a lot of individuals so you definitely have to be able to communicate.”

Finally, our last segment profiles a group of women who are pushing the boundaries by actively pursuing careers in the typically male dominated field of Aviation Technology.

“It’s scary for women to think that they can go beyond their work scope and break into a primarily male dominated career, but it really isn’t hard at all,” says Karen Dorsey of Midwest Aero Support. Adds Tina Thomas of Poplar Grove Airmotive, “I think a lot of gals just don’t understand [aviation] or are a little bit afraid of it. But if they get out and actually experience it, I think they’ll fall in love with [aviation]. They’ll learn how much fun it is and why all they guys are keeping it a little bit of a hidden secret.”

Linda Clark, a student at Rock Valley Community College, is taking advantage of Rock Valley’s Aviation Technology program to learn firsthand how exciting this career can be. “The thing I’m most excited about is that I will have something to carry with me forever and that’s the knowledge and a degree — it will go anywhere with me, anywhere in the country.”

As these women are proving, pushing yourself beyond the familiar boundaries can be exhiliarating — whether you’re pursuing a change of career, learning an unfamiliar skill or literally taking to the skies!

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.

ATETV Episode 31: A Bright Future for Technical Careers

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

This week’s episode looks at the growing career opportunities that are available with a technical degree, as ATETV visits a community college biotechnology program, talks with employers from a number of technical industries about the future job market, and takes an in-depth look at a thriving internship program that’s helping students build their resumes.

In our first segment, we head to Southwestern College, where the biotechnology program is preparing students for exciting careers in a growing industry. Beginning with the basics — learning to use laboratory equipment such as micropipettes and making solutions — students quickly advance to some of biotech’s intricate techniques: gel agarose, gel electrophoresis, and column chromatography, explains Southwestern’s Jonathan Atwater, PhD.

“The core course of study for the biotech program is four courses,” says Jonathan. “There are two lecture courses — DNA Science 1 and DNA Science 2 — and there are two laboratory courses, Introduction to Research 1 and 2.” Students begin at the ground level and work their way up to DNA sequencing and other sophisticated molecular biology techniques routinely used in today’s scientific labs. “Our students come out of this program fully prepared to work in industry without any additional training,” he adds. “They are ready to go.”

And, as we see in our second segment, an abundance of interesting career opportunities await. “The nice thing about research is that it tends not to be the same old thing day in and day out,” says Lawrence Schwartz of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. “Research is always moving forward in a very aggressive kind of way and so the problems that one addresses are always changing, which makes it stimulating.”

But, great futures are open not only to students with biotech degrees — technicians are in demand in a wide variety of industries, as employers tell us.

“One of the most interesting things about the field of telecommunications is how dynamic and diverse the field is,” notes employer Laura Bernstein of CRA Telecom.

“If you have good communication skills and you’re bright, you can do really well at a start-up software company…. and you will [earn] probably double that of your peers that went into a non-technology program,” adds employer William Bither of Atalasoft, Inc.

Finally, as FloDesign Wind Turbines co-founder Stanley Kowalski III notes, “The future is bright and America really needs that. There are plenty of opportunities…and [they are] just going to continue to grow.”

As we see in our third segment, students from Saddleback College are already experiencing some of these opportunities firsthand, through the community college’s vibrant internship program.

“Kawasaki Racing came to me because rapid prototyping hasn’t hit the racing market yet,” says Saddleback student William Graff. “They wanted to replace a headlight with a vent so we reverse engineered the headlight by laser scanning it. So [we students] are actually working in the field, but we’re learning at the same time. It’s an internship, but we’re getting paid for it.”

“Every time the phone rings, it’s a different challenge,” adds Saddleback College’s Dean of Business Science Division and Economic Development Ken Patton. “We get…requests to assist companies with new products and we have our students do the work. We pay them, it’s not free labor. But they get to learn on real-world projects and get to build their resumes.”

What are you waiting for? Learn more about these and many other opportunities on

“Our Thirsty World”

Friday, April 16th, 2010
Lower Lewis River Falls, WA by Scottyboipdx Weber and Nat Geo

Lower Lewis River Falls, WA by Scottyboipdx Weber and Nat Geo

This week, we talked with student Mike Poitras, who is studying Water Treatment Technology at Bristol Community College. As Mike noted, “Water is depleting all over the world and we just have more and more need for fresh drinking water.”

That message comes through loud and clear in a special issue of National Geographic Magazine on newstands this month. Called “Our Thirsty World,” the publication looks at our world’s water shortage from numerous vantage points and explores the many ways that individuals and governments are working to conserve water, develop better technologies to treat water — and how far we still have to go.

Included in this National Geographic special issue and on its website is the Fresh Water Quiz. It’s an eye-opening look at just how fast our planet’s fresh water supply is depleting. But see for yourself: Take the quiz and find out just how much you know — or don’t know about this vital resource.

ATETV Episode 30: Looking at the Future from a New Angle

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

This week, we look at the ways that ATE programs are helping community college students to see themselves in new roles, and the way that one program is looking at the future from a 3-D perspective!

In our first segment, we talk with Julia Mitchell, a student at Central Piedmont Community College, who has used her interest in maps as a jumping-off point toward a new career.

“I had always worked in administrative office management, and I was looking for a change in jobs,” explains Julia.”Being able to work with maps is something I’d always found interesting.”

And through the Geographical Information Systems [GIS] program at Central Piedmont, Julia is transitioning from a one-dimensional office position to a three-dimensional career perspective. “I’ve taken a variety of other college classes but never completed a full degree program. Now, I’m doing 3-D work with mapping and it’s very interesting.” Julia is currently working as a trainee in the field, and can look ahead to other fields where 3-D mapping is used, including architecture, engineering, drafting and design.

All of these fields emphasize CAD. So, what, exactly, is CAD? In our second segment, we answer that question.

“CAD stands for Computer Aided Design,” explains Laura Lemire of the Community College of Baltimore County. And through CAD, technicians are able to create three-dimensional models to build the likeness of a product, enabling them to look at the model from all angles.

“With CAD, companies benefit from lower product development costs and a shortened design cycle,” adds Laura. CAD is just one example of a high-tech application that’s in demand and that is being taught at community colleges.

In our third segment, we visit with Mike Poitras, a student at Bristol Community College. Like Julia, Mike decided that it was time for a career change.

“I drove trucks,” says Mike. “I thought that’s what I was going to do for the rest of my life.” But then, at age 38, Mike decided that he was looking for more than a job — he wanted to pursue a career that he would truly enjoy.

So, he entered the Environmental Sciences program at Bristol Community College, where he discovered that studying Water Treatment Technology offered him a world of career opportunities. “Water is depleting all over the world and we just have more and more need for fresh drinking water,” says Mike. And although it had been 20 years since Mike studied math and chemistry, he found that with the tutoring and other support provided through Bristol, he was able to quickly get up to speed.

Fast forward four years, and today Mike is working at a desalination plant, an opportunity that emerged through Bristol’s internship program. And, as Mike told us, he was expecting to get his water treatment license within a couple of weeks of our meeting.

“My father always used to tell me that if you like what you do, you won’t work a day in your life. Well [since switching careers], I haven’t worked a day yet.”

Teamwork Pays Off

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Teamwork is integral to any successful career, and ATE programs help students develop important team-building skills. This week’s blog is from Laura Floyd of Florence-Darlington Technical College and her ATE English 260 students who shared their insights on the importance of teamwork.

The class submits:

More and more often the workplace looks for workers who have been trained in teamwork or who have had experience working in teams. Students in the ATE program at Florence-Darlington Technical College work in teams to complete group assignments. In their first semester, students learn ways to make a team function most efficiently.

Florence Darlington 1 Specific lessons focus on making rules and procedures for the team, having assigned roles and responsibilities, developing good interpersonal skills, and making checklists and timelines. Because faculty members “team-teach” the ATE curriculum, we often model the same basic teaming procedures that we’re teaching.

The college’s second-semester students recently completed their first group project, and as part of their assignment, they posted their comments about teamwork to the college’s discussion board. As many of the students commented, there is a need to feel a sense of unity within the team.

Corey S. : The purpose of a team is to pull together to get the job done and if any team can do that then that team is successful.

Thomas: I completely agree with what Corey said. The purpose of a team is to come together to solve a problem, allowing each others’ strengths to compensate for weaknesses. The only way a team can work is by removing the mindset of “how will this affect me?” and start thinking in a way that says, “How will this affect the team?” Teams are made and destroyed by this ability to remove oneself from the equation and think about the good of the team.

Research has shown that students who feel a sense of belonging are more likely to Florence Darlington 2succeed and less likely to drop out. Here’s what one student noted:

Caleb: The concept of teamwork is extremely important to the success of any team. All coaches talk about working as one unit, as a unified team. Teamwork and unselfishness create the backbone of a great team; without them, a team cannot realistically compete. You can have a group of superstars, but if they do not work well as one unit, chances are they are not going to be as successful as you would think. The working as one cohesive unit is going to be the key in their success.

Another key component of working in teams is developing good interspersonal skills:

Greg: [Teamwork] not only prepares you for the workplace, but helps your people skills. I also agree with Corey and Thomas on the fact that the groups help maximize your better strengths and improve your weaknesses. Last semester was the first time I ever worked in groups, and I enjoyed the experiences overall. People skills are required to work well in groups and I think I work really well with others no matterFlorence Darlington 3 their background.

Most of the students emphasized the “two heads are better than one” value of teamwork:

James: Last semester we had to build an assembly line to prcess different styles of radios. These radios were placed on a chute and then conveyed to a point in the system where they wer processed onto one of five lines to be loaded onto trucks and shipped to the customer. Our team of three, with different backgrounds and experiences, proved to be beneficial because we were able to divide the problems into sections that each person was familiar with. One member figured the velocity of the radios moving down the chute while a second member designed a box to transport the radio, and I designed a turntable to position the radio from the conveyor onto the correct processing line.

Although the comments on working in teams were mostly favorable, students also noted the hard parts of teamwork — being dependent on other students, having teammates who don’t do their part.

Reade: Good teamwork skills are something that everyone should have. Working in teams is a good way to complete large-scale projects. Sometimes your teammates may fall short on completing their work and it puts a heavier load on everyone else.

Brent: I completely agree with Reade on teamwork. All members of a team must perform together and work with each other to get the job done. I believe that every member needs to get an equal amount of the project so one member can’t complain to another; also teamwork calls forFlorence Darlington 4 a lot of communications among team members.

Scott: Like anything else, teamwork has its ups and downs. Some of the good things about teamwork are less work for the individual person, better ideas since there are more people, and skills that the people in your team have. Some downfalls of teamwork are stress [resulting] from team members not doing their parts, people not showing up for meetings, and not agreeing on ideas.

Usually, the “A” students are the most reluctant to rely on others.

Steven: Teamwork is a big part of the ATE program here at Florence-Darlington Tech. In real-world engineering situations, we are going to be a part of a team working together. Team projects prepare us for our future careers. At first I was concerned that a bad teammate could possibly affect my grade, but everyone here is serious about achieving his or her goals and is really dependable when it comes to work required for projects.

Brian: I am sometimes an individual when it comes to certain things, wanting to accept my total reward for my work without sharing the lime light. I have also been in groups where everyone didn’t carry their weight as a team player, making it harder for others in the group, and affecting the team’s grade, or accepting recognition for work they did not do. Florence Darlington 5

Even the students who dislike working in teams, recognize its value. They know that the skills that come from being a part of a team will be useful to them in their next big venture — the workplace.

India: Teamwork is an essential asset in today’s workforce. It allows individuals to obtain better communication skills, complete the job faster and meet new people.

Thanks to Laura Floyd and all of the Florence-Darlington students in her ATE English 260 class for their comments and insights — great teamwork!

ATETV Episode 29:Alternative Paths to a Technical Career

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

This week, we look at alternative programs at community colleges that help high school students to get a head start on their studies — and others that are providing individuals with the opportunity to make career changes later in life.

In our first segment, we look at dual-enrollment programs, which enable high school students to earn college credits. Michael Bucklew, a student at Stark State College studying Electromechanical Engineering, took advantage of this option.

“I took a lot of my core classes while in high school,” explains Michael. “Through the early college program…I took a class learning about different types of energy, and thought it was interesting.” This early exposure helped Michael decide to pursue studies in Fuel Cell Technology at Stark State. “My dad’s an electrician, and he taught me how to enjoy working with my hands, how to build things and take them apart.” At Stark State, Michael is similarly learning the mechanics that lie beneath fuel cell technologies — by taking things apart and putting them back together.

“I would [eventually ] like to see myself working for NASA,” says Michael. And starting with Stark State’s dual enrollment program, Michael has taken his first step on a career path in Space Aeronautics.

In our second segment, we meet student Howard Drucker who, after 35 years running his own company, decided to forge a new career path — with the help of Sinclair Community College.

“I’m 58 years old, studying Architectural Technology and planning a second career,” explains Howard. “My friends were very impressed because quite honestly, they couldn’t believe that at my age I would go back to school. They didn’t think I could do it.”

Howard has not only proved his friends wrong, he’s found a whole new source of inspiration in his classmates at Sinclair. “I found my experience with the younger students very enjoyable. They’re bright, young, excited about getting started.”

Finally, in segment three, we look at a program that helps students find their way — literally and figuratively!

The Geographic Information Systems Technology Implementation Project courses at Del Mar College provides students with opportunities to learn the many applications of GIS and Geospatial Technologies.

” [Students studying GIS] can look at a wide variety of career possibilities,” explains Del Mar’s J.J. Nelson. “Agra, marine sciences, marketing, sales, law enforcement, communications — there’s a geospatial application to [all of these].”

And besides offering a multitude of industry choices, GIS also provides students with options in terms of the type of work environment they would like — whether it be indoors or outdoors, in front of a computer or at a park or a ball field. “When people need to know where things are in a world that’s getting smaller, geospatial technologies and GIS are the way to go,” says J.J.

No matter the course you decide to take, ATE centers can help point you in the right direction. And as this episode has shown, there’s more than one route to your final destination.

Vaccines Are Safeguarding America’s Health

Friday, April 2nd, 2010
Image provided by CDC/ Judy Schmidt

Image provided by CDC/ Judy Schmidt

The chances are very good that you’ve never had diphtheria. And that you’ve never known anyone who had diphtheria. You may not even be familiar with the word “diphtheria.”

But in the 19th and early 20th centuries, this bacterial disease was responsible for more deaths in the U.S. than cancer, striking hundreds of thousands of people. Contrast that with today’s statistics: In the 1990s, an average of only three diphtheria cases were reported each year.

The almost complete eradication of diphtheria is just one of the major success stories of preventive vaccines. And, today, like whooping cough (pertussis), measles, mumps and German measles (rubella), the diphtheria vaccine is part of children’s routine immunizations.

It’s always better and more cost effective to prevent a disease than to treat it once it’s already developed, which is one reason why vaccines continue to be a key ingredient in our overall health care plan — just think about last year’s urgency to develop a vaccine against the H1N1 virus. And as the Washington Post reported late last year, the U.S. government continues to focus on identifying new ways to get vaccines developed and into the marketplace — quickly.

So, how are vaccines created?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), once scientists have identified the microorganism (such as bacteria or virus) or toxin that is causing an illness, they embark on a number of different strategies to develop a vaccine. But no matter which specific strategy they wind up using, all approaches to vaccine development focus on the immune system, the body’s natural defense mechanism against foreign invaders.

Vaccines provoke the body’s immune system into responding to an invader, thereby creating an “immune system memory.” That way, the next time the body encounters the bacteria or toxin, it “remembers” it and is prepared to do battle with the intruder. Here’s how it works: A weakened form of the disease germ is injected into the body. The body makes antibodies to fight the “invading germs.” Then, if and when the actual disease ever attacks, the antibodies are still in place to launch their battle and keep the individual from getting sick.

Today, scientists are working to develop vaccines for a wide range of diseases — besides tackling new strains of influenza, laboratories are working hard to develop vaccines that would guard against the HIV virus, tuberculosis and even cancer. Advances in genetics and a host of new technologies are providing researchers with new and improved strategies, and steps are being taken to develop vaccines to help guard against the threat of bioterrorist attacks.

And perhaps one day, vaccines will make all of these diseases as unfamilar as “diphtheria.”