Archive for August, 2010

ATETV Episode 47: Industry Offers Opportunities and Incentives

Friday, August 27th, 2010

This week, from directly impacting one student’s experience, to networking and sharing resources in professional learning communities and tailoring community college programs to meet critical hiring needs, industry involvement makes a difference everyday in Advanced Technological Education.

First we meet Andrew Engel, a student with a passion for hands-on electronics and an interest in alternative energy. Andrew is currently enrolled in the Electronics Engineering program at Stark State College where he has found an outlet for both in the Fuel Cell Technology program. Andrew reveals that “Since (I was) a kid boy, (I always) tore stuff apart, tried to fix things.” Guided by industry input, this program translates that childhood hobby to hands-on labs like the DC and AC Circuit Analysis. In this lab, Andrew can continue to do more of what he has always loved to do while preparing for a secure and bright future.

Advanced Technological Education programs offered through community colleges benefit from being part of a large network of expertise and shared resources. In the second segment, we visit one example of a program where curriculum is structured with industry input and faculty are trained to be up-to-date with the skills they are teaching- the National Center for Information and Communications Technologies at Springfield Technical Community College in Springfield, MA.

Finally, in the third segment, we see how the close relationship these national ATE Centers and ATE programs at community colleges share with industry professionals is also beneficial to the industries. In the field of Lasers and Photonics Technology, for example, industry is actively seeking to hire more female technicians. Central Carolina Community College offers a special incentive to reach out to more qualified women in response. “One thing that we have is a sex equity grant,” recruiter Gary Beasley tells us. “All females can go to school for free- free tuition, free books. It doesn’t make any difference if they are real poor or real rich. It’s free education. You can’t beat that!”

Nope. You can’t beat that! By collaborating directly with industry, ATE programs at community colleges across the country are able to offer many advantages to students as they prepare them for the high-paying, high-demand jobs of the future.

Getting Off to a Great Start

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Are You Ready for a New School Year?

It’s back to school season, and for students entering their first year of college or those returning to school after a while, that can mean big changes and big decisions. Among the biggest decisions: Selecting classes and creating a schedule. As Lynn Jacobs and Jeremy Hyman, authors of The Secrets of College Success, put it, “For many students, the most striking difference between college and high school is that at college there’s no one there to stand over you and tell you what to do.” In other words, it’s up to you to determine your workload and create a schedule that’s manageable — for you.

We found several web sites offering advice and encouragement on how to go about this seemingly overwhelming task — without becoming overwhelmed! Here are some of the suggestions they offer:

1. Take your time. Carefully review the course catalog and determine which classes are part of the core requirements for your area of study. The College Board website recommends that you get required classes out of the way. Before you register, check to see if you may have already fulfilled core requirements; if, for example, you scored high on placement exams in high school, you may be exempt from some college classes.

2. Don’t overdo it. Be realistic about your time and commitments as you consider your class load. Will you be working part-time while you are in school? How much travel time do you need to allot each day? How much time should you leave for studying? Another consideration, particularly for science students, is the number of classes that will require laboratory sections, which mean an additional time requirement. Check out this article from suite101 for more ideas on carefully selecting your college workload.

3. Use available resources. Many colleges will assign you an academic adviser for your first year – don’t be shy about arranging a meeting with him or her to get input on your class selections. And, keep in mind, that advisers and other services are available throughout the school year to help you succeed.

4. Think ahead. College classes are more challenging than high school classes. As you make your course selections, it’s a good idea to take into consideration your overall schedule and your “studying style.” According to U.S. News & World Report (as part of its annual special issue on education), a typical course load of four or five classes translates into as much as 20 to 25 hours a week of studying time. Check out this article for advice from students on how they developed good study habits (and learn what pitfalls they encountered along the way). Other study tips can be found at www.collegeboard.com as well.

5. Finally, don’t forget to pursue your passion. Lynn Jacobs and Jeremy Hyman remind new students to select at least one course each semester in a subject “that you’re good at and are really interested in.”

Good luck and have a fabulous new school year!

ATETV Episode 46: Creating Marketable Skills for Cutting-Edge Industries

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

This week, we look at a program that is enabling students to bring their creativity to life, see how older and younger students can learn from one another, and hear from employers how Wind Energy Technology careers are soaring.

In our first segment, we talk with Brian Simpson, a student in the Simulation and Game Development Program at Wake Technical Community College. Brian’s lifelong love of video games is translating into a marketable skill as he studies Video Game Design. “It’s great to actually be doing [video game design] instead of just imagining doing it,” says Brian. “It’s like bringing your imagination to life and it’s just an amazing experience.” Incorporating math skills, programming, graphic design and, yes, imagination, Video Game Design is much more than fun and games — for students like Brian, it’s a promising future.

In our second segment, we visit Sinclair Community College where students in the Green Building Technology program are also embarking on fascinating future careers — some for the second time. As Sinclair’s Bob Gilbert tells us, “We’ve had some people who’ve been [working] in the building industry for a number of years, but when they find out how much they can benefit from weatherization programs [and other new building programs] they’re amazed.”

As a result, the program at Sinclair is made up of a mix of younger and older students who not only learn from Bob and other instructors, but also learn from one another. As 58-year-old student Howard Drucker explains, “I found my experience with the younger students very enjoyable — they’re bright young, excited about getting started. So it’s been very enjoyable, almost inspiring at times.” Adds Bob Gilbert, “The older people bring life experience to the classroom and that adds a lot…it makes things very realistic.”

Finally, in our third segment, we look at another relationship that’s working extremely well, this time between students in the Wind Energy Technology Program at Laramie Community College and area Wind Energy employers in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

“Our relationship with Laramie County Community College began during the construction of our facility,” explains Tom Bailey of Duke Energy Generation Services. “Wind energy is an important career track because of climate change regulations. People are more interested in renewable energy, and [wind energy] is a cutting-edge sort of field.”

It’s also a field full of opportunity, according to employer Mark Guilloz of enXco. “In the last four years or so, we’ve seen exponential growth throughout the industry,” says Mark. “It’s growing so rapidly that the manpower, the knowledge, the expertise that we’re reaching for is very difficult to find.”

But, as both Mark and Tom note, their companies’ close relationships with Laramie have enabled them to find top-notch students with up-to-date knowledge of today’s Wind Energy industry — and given students a chance to literally climb to new heights.

Keeping the (Water) Glass Half Full

Friday, August 13th, 2010

drinking water

If you’re like most of us, you probably take it for granted that tomorrow morning you’ll get up and take a hot shower. And you’ll head to Starbucks (or your coffee shop of choice) for your morning brew. You also might throw a quick load of laundry in the washer or hose down your dusty car.

And if you’re like most of us, you probably won’t think twice about the amount of water that all of these routine activities require. Even more surprising, the water you actually see in the shower, in your coffee cup or in your washing machine represents only a fraction of your use. Consider, for example, that producing a single sheet of paper requires about 2.5 gallons of water, while production of a day’s worth of food requires hundreds of gallons.

And though it may seem plentiful from our standpoint, fresh water is, in fact, in short supply throughout many areas of the world. Even certain areas of the United States, particularly in Florida and other areas of the South, as well as California, have dangerously low supplies of drinkable water at their disposal.

To help address these shortages, many governments and businesses are turning to a water treatment technology called desalination, in which salty sea water is transformed into fresh, clean drinkable water. In this week’s episode, Linda Correia of the Aquaria Water desalination facility in Massachusetts told us that this is a rapidly growing field with tremendous career opportunities. An article last October in Fortune magazine pointed out that there are currently 1,500 desalination facilities in the U.S., and that the $30 billion industry is expected to double in capacity by 2016.

Here are some more facts about this thirst-quenching technology:

*Saline water is defined as water that contains a significant amount of dissolved salt. Measurements are expressed in “parts per million,” with fresh water containing less than 1,000 ppm while ocean water contains about 35,000 ppm of salt.

*Desalination is actually an ancient science — civilizations have used this water treatment process to convert sea water to drinking water aboard their ships

*There are two main ways to desalinate water: The first is called thermal technology (or distillation) and involves turning water into steam and leaving the salt behind. This method is effective but it’s also expensive, both in dollars and in energy usage. The second method is called reverse osmosis, which is a filtering process that’s cheaper — in both cost and energy expenditure. Check out this U.S. Geological Survey website to learn more about how how salt is removed from sea water.

*According to the International Desalination Association, the market continues to grow, with “more desalination plants with more capacity brought online during the past year than ever before.”

*What makes for a good job fit in this field? Aquaria Water’s Linda Correira told ATETV that she looks for employees who are analytical and detail-oriented, in addition to having a basic understanding of water treatment processes. And Water Treatment Technology student Mike Poitras pointed out that the field requires a lot of data collection, and some equipment maintenance (maintaining valves and pumps, for example).

*To learn more about educational opportunities in this field, you might start with these programs: Gateway Community College; Linn-Benton Community College; and Mountain Empire Community College and/or check in with your local community college to find out more about what is available near you.

Remember, fresh water will always be in demand. And evolving water treatment technologies such as desalination will help ensure that the glass stays half full.

ATETV Episode 45: Safeguarding the Future

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

This week, we look at the many ways that emerging technologies are protecting our futures — from supplying safe, clean drinking water and new energy sources to guarding our computer information.

In our first segment, Linda Correira of Aquaria Water, LLC, describes how Water Treatment Technology systems successfully treat salt water and turn it into clean, thirst-quenching drinking water.

“Everyone needs water and we have limited supplies [on earth]” explains Linda. “But if you have the ability to take salt water — which we have much more of — and convert it into drinking water, then there’s [an important resource.]” As Linda further explains, the desalination process puts salt water through a treatment process to remove any bacteria and then salty, high-conductivity water goes through a “reverse osmosis” system to remove dissolved salts. From there, water is disinfected and — voila! — the glass is half full of drinkable water.

In our second segment, we talk with a student at Springfield Technical Community College whose work in the school’s Information Security Program will have an impact on lots and lots of people.

“[Almost all of your personal information] is stored on a computer system somewhere,” explains Sean Coughlin. “People might think, ‘Oh, I don’t use online banking, I don’t put my credit card information into websites, so [computer security issues] don’t affect me.’” But, in fact, says Sean, everyone is affected because businesses put their information on computer systems — and your information is their information.

The growing need for Cyber Security professionals, and a lifelong love of computers, has brought Sean from an 18-year career as a commercial flooring contractor to a new “position” as an Information Security student at Springfield. And he couldn’t be more satisfied. “Every single job you look at, [employers] want to see that you have experience in addition to classroom work. [Through the program at Springfield Technical College] I’ve actually worked on devices and reconfigured them…that’s the solid foundation that employers want to see.”

Finally, in our third segment, we take a look at the cutting-edge field of Fuel Cell Technology and learn how students at Stark State College are not only responding to industry needs — they’re staying ahead of them!

“A student who studies fuel cells is going to have a wide range of opportunities available when he graduates,” says Justin Ruflin of Contained Energy, LLC. “Fuel cell technicians are needed within the lab itself to help build the technology, while scientists are busy figuring out how to solve the challenges within the fuel cell industry and managers are running the companies.” So whether a person is interested in building fuel cells, understanding the properties of fuel cells or creating new materials to increase fuel cell performance, there’s likely to be a job opportunity available — and it’s likely to be a good-paying job offering employees a lot of responsibility.

LEED-ing the Way

Friday, August 6th, 2010

leed_certification

What is LEED?

This week, Sinclair Community College student Senya Oji-Njideka described the school’s Civil Engineering Technology program, which emphasizes energy conservation and energy analysis. In the course of his description, he mentioned several national programs being implemented to help save energy. One of those is the LEED building certification program — we did a little more homework to find out what LEED is all about and why it’s critical to Architectural Technology students — or anyone who is interested in buildings, and in the future of the planet.

LEED actually stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The voluntary certification program was at the forefront of the energy conservation effort, established in 1998 by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). If a building has been “LEED-certified” it means that it is environmentally sound, constructed with materials and methods that are water-efficient and energy-efficient. It also means that it was designed with an eye to reduced carbon emissions and improved indoor air quality.

Within the U.S., more than 15,000 buildings have been LEED-certified, and that number is increasing as businesses and institutions become more concerned with the environment. Certification is based on a point-based ranking, and a building gains points based on seven different categories: Energy and Atmosphere; Sustainable Site; Indoor Environmental Air Quality; Materials and Resources; Water Efficiency; and Innovation in Design. Points are given for such things as using low-emitting materials in painting, flooring and adhesives to reusing existing materials during a reuild to creating a water efficient landscape.

So, what does this all mean to Senya and other students interested in careers in the building industry?

It means that, going forward, a thorough knowledge of LEED requirements is extremely useful — and often mandatory — for careers in Architectural Technology and Civil Engineering. The USGBC offers “LEED Professional Accreditation” to demonstrate a person’s expertise and ability to guide a building project through the LEED certification process. Exams are given in several categories, including the LEED-NC (New construction/major renovation), LEED-EB (Existing Building) and LEED-CI (Commercial Interior).

Check out the USGBC website where you’ll find plenty of background on green building initiatives as well as LEEDS-related laws and incentives that are being implemented in communities throughout the country to promote environmentally responsible building projects — both commercial and residential. The website also goes into more detail regarding LEEDS certification requirements and can direct you to exam-prep courses and other instruction to help prepare for LEEDS accreditation testing.

ATETV Episode 44: Impacting the Future, One Experience at a Time

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

This week, we visit a community college that has designed its Civil Engineering program with direct input from local industry, and talk with a student who is paying attention to energy conservation in his classroom work – and in his personal life.

In our first segment, we talk with Tressa Gardner of the South Carolina ATE Center, who describes the relationship between Florence-Darlington Technical College and the region’s area industries. It turns out that it’s mutually beneficial.

“We have great industry in this area, and it’s very important that we supply these [businesses] with the workers that they need,” says Tressa. As a result of this forward-thinking approach, Florence-Darlington graduates have many job opportunities to consider, be it as an engineering technician for a welding and cutting products company, a career in automation or a future as an “E and I” tech working in electrical and instrumentation technology.

As Tressa explains, a big reason why these job opportunities are available is the “hands-on” training that Florence-Darlington’s engineering students receive.

“The Pythagorean Theorem makes no sense if you just [work on it all day] without any real-life context,” she says. But, she adds, Florence-Darlington students discover that if they wind up working in power distribution for Progress Energy company, they’ll actually use the Pythagorean Theorem every day.

In our second segment, we learn that a similar “reality check” is in place at Sinclair Community College, where Civil Architectural Technology student Senya Oji-Njideka is applying new energy conservation skills to his classroom work, as well as to his own future.

“I have gotten more interested in energy analysis and energy conservation since I’ve been at Sinclair,” Senya explains. “Energy analysis is taking into account all the resources that you’re using at [one] time…and then making sure that you’re using what you need and only what you need, and not wasting at all.”

Senya finds that this mindset is not only good for his education, it’s just plain good. “I constantly find myself making people aware of how they’re using energy and how much it really costs, not just to their pocketbook, but also to the environment…. This is the future of technology. Everybody on the planet is going to have to [start conserving]. You’ve got to start somewhere.”