Archive for January, 2011

The State of the Union: Science and Technology

Friday, January 28th, 2011

The State of the Union: Science and Technology

Science and technology played major roles in President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address last Tuesday night, January 25th, as he emphasized the need for America to maintain its leadership in “a rapidly changing world,” in order to keep our economy on course.

As the President described, “In a single generation, revolutions in technology have [already] transformed the way we live, work and do business.” To continue to maintain this momentum, he explained, the country will invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology, “an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.”

Not surprisingly, training students for careers in clean technologies, green building, biotech, and cutting-edge information technology are also central to the missions of Advanced Technological Education and community colleges across the country. We thought we’d take this opportunity to recap some of the resources available to students and job-seekers in the fields of biotech, IT, and clean energy — the technologies that will help provide our economy’s momentum in the years to come.

Clean energy:

The President has proposed an ambitious plan of generating 80 percent of U.S. electricity from clean energy sources by 2035. ATEEC, the Advanced Technology Environmental and Energy Center promotes and supports environmental and energy technology education, partnering with industry to provide a foundation for the nation’s sustainable future. Sustainable energy draws on resources that will never run out — be it wind power or solar energy — and also focuses on refurbishing existing buildings with renewable materials, and performing energy audits to help businesses and other institutions to reduce waste and pollution. Last year, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) launched the Sustainability Education and Economy Development (SEED) Center an online resource to help prepare workers for the future green economy.

Biotech:

The President’s speech also addressed the need for investment in biomedical research, one of the keys to the future development of new drugs and vaccines.

Since its emergence in the 1970s, the biotech field has already created more than 200 new therapies, diagnostics, and vaccines, including products to treat cancer and diabetes, as well as methods to keep our blood supply safe. Therapies for Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease are among the hundreds more biotech products currently being tested. As ATE’s Bio-Link describes, Associates’ degrees from Bio-Link programs provide students with lessons in the cutting-edge techniques, technologies and equipment related to molecular biology, recombinant DNA, immunology, protein purification and tissue culture — the integral components of the biotech industry. To learn more about job opportunities in the biosciences and genetics, check out Bio-Link’s Career Page.

Information Technology:

Finally, the President also called for new efforts to ensure that the U.S. has the fastest, most reliable ways to move and share data through the high-speed Internet. His National Wireless Initiative will enable business to grow faster, helps students learn more and provide public safety officials with access to state-of-the-art, secure, mobile communications, according to a report on Scicasts. To learn more about the many educational opportunities and career options available in the widespread IT industry, check out the related Advanced Technological Education Centers.

Cyber Security Is Put to the Test

Friday, January 21st, 2011

cyber security

You have just been hired as the network and security administrator at a small company and will be taking administrative control of all information systems. You know very little about the network, what security level has been maintained, or what software has been installed. You have a limited time frame to familiarize yourself with the network and systems – and a hacker has begun to actively attack your company. In the midst of this crisis, you still have to keep up with the needs of the business and user demands while maintaining service level agreements for all critical Internet services.

Does this sound like the ultimate nightmare for an Information Security professional? Well, it could be. But, in this case, it’s actually an opportunity. That’s because this scenario is part of the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC), a sophisticated three-day long security challenge and training event that tests students’ abilities to manage and protect a “commercial” network infrastructure – like the thousands upon thousands of real networks across the U.S.

The competition was introduced in 2005 to provide students with a valuable chance to test – and improve – their cyber security skills. It has the added benefits of bolstering participants’ resumes and introducing them to networking contacts in the job market.

CCDC keeps pace with real-world cyber threats facing companies and organizations around the country. Last year, for example, the Cyberwatch Mid-Atlantic Regional CCDC qualifying competition tested students with a serious cyber threat that often goes unchecked: the inside attack or “the Invisible Intruder.”

As an article in informIt described, students in the competition came face-to-face with “the Intruder,” a “fellow student” who appeared during the competition under the guise that he was interviewing participants for a research paper he was writing. All of the competitors who were approached by the Intruder happily agreed to talk with him, and even agreed to be photographed. After all, he looked like them. He sounded like them. He shared their interests and was enthused about what they were doing. No one noticed that he wasn’t wearing the ID badge required of all competitors. And no one hesitated to answer his increasingly probing questions. The end result: 13 students from five defending teams revealed highly sensitive security information – enough to devastate a business in a real-world situation.

The point of this exercise is clear: While layers of security and policy can help to squelch external attackers attempting to gain access to a company’s internal systems, another threat may be looming in plain sight in the form of a company insider with full access to the organization’s systems and understanding of the environment.

What would you have done in this situation? If you’d like to test your Cyber Security skills or learn more about the growing demand for cyber security technicians, visit CyberWatch, the ATE Center based at Prince George’s Community College.

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Job Search
What do you want to be when you grow up?

No doubt you were asked that question countless times throughout childhood, when an answer of “astronaut” or “President of the United States” would have been greeted with enthusiasm by your parents and other adults.

But now the question is real, and it’s time to figure out a career path. How do you begin?

You might start with an exercise that is known as the “Career Interest Game,” also referred to as “The Party Game” in the job hunter’s bible, What Color Is Your Parachute? This exercise is based on the theory that people and work environments can be loosely classified into six different groups (Conventional, Realistic, Artistic, Enterprising, Social or Investigative) and that different personalities are better suited to different careers and workplaces.

The Career Interest Game has been adapted specifically for the agriculture industry by AgrowKnowledge, the National Center for Agriscience & Technology Education. So, if you’re interested in the field of agriculture, but aren’t certain what type of job you might like, the AgrowKnowledge Interest Inventory is a great place to start investigating career options.

Here’s how it works: Users review three categories of questions and check off all the answers that are applicable to them. So, for example, the first category, which focuses on 35 separate personality traits, asks participants if they are “helpful,” “outgoing,” “friendly,” “athletic,” etc.

The next category also has 35 possible responses, this time focusing on an individual’s particular skills (Can you….“lead a group;” “teach/train others;” “use a computer;” “solve mechanical problems,” etc.)

Finally, the third category gauges users’ general interests with 35 questions that begin “Do you like to…..” Options include such interests as “be physically active,” “read fiction, plays and poetry,” “participate in meetings,” or “tinker with mechanics.”

Once you have responded to all three categories of questions, the AgrowKnowledge Interest Inventory Results will calculate how you match up with the six different groups we talked about earlier, and offer a list of careers in the agricultural industry that might be a good fit for you.

For example, if your inventory results were primarily in the “Realistic” category, AgroKnowledge suggests a comprehensive list of different career options, including Agriculture Product Assembler, Fisheries Technician, Forest and Conservation Worker, and GPS Technician, for starters. Or, if you scored highest in the Social category, AgroKnowledge suggests jobs such as Park Manager or Extension Agent. Descriptions of each job are included.

This simple — and fun — exercise could wind up paying off. As Richard Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute? recently noted in the 2011 edition of the guidebook, job searches take time and energy no matter what — so you may as well look for a job that really fits “you” and gets you excited about getting up in the morning!

Fourth Generation (4G) Technologies

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

ATETV adviser Gordon Snyder oversees the Telecommunications Technology program at Springfield Technical Community College, which concentrates on the numerous technologies that deliver information — in the form of voice, data, video or a combination of these.

Today, federal deregulation, growing security requirements, and rapidly changing developments in the areas of fiber optics, ATM, DSL, LAN/WAN technology, Cisco networking, and wireless technology, have all helped to make telecommunications and network technicians highly sought after in the marketplace.

In this week’s blog, Gordon brings us up to speed on some of the latest developments in wireless technology.

I’d like to thank the folks at ATE TV this week for the re-airing of episode #34 to coincide with our Winter 2011 ICT Educator Conference and for allowing me to post here on the ATETV blog. The episode covers why internships are important to employers and employees, the future of Information and Communication Technologies, and Biotechnology career options.

These days, most of us are carrying some sort of mobile device with the expectation of continuous connectivity and availability. With all of the advertising we’re seeing lately from providers like Verizon Wireless, AT&T Wireless and Sprint I thought it would be interesting to write a little bit about 4G wireless technologies.

4G is short for fourth generation and is a successor to third generation (3G) wireless technologies. 4G includes both LTE (Long Term Evolution) and WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access), and sets peak mobile download speeds of 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) and 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) for fixed services. An example of a fixed service would be an antenna used for wireless access on top of your house.

You may be wondering – if both are considered 4G technologies and both offer the same bandwidths, what’s the differences between LTE technology used by providers like Verizon and AT&T and WiMAX used by other companies like Sprint? Is one technology better than the other? Why would one company decide on LTE while another decides on WiMAX to deliver next generation services? If they are very similar – what makes them different?

Here’s some quick answers taken from a few of my recent blog posts:

LTE is the 4G technology of choice of the larger mobile carriers like Verizon Wireless (launched LTE last month) and AT&T Wireless (scheduled to start LTE rollout this year). These carriers already have LTE spectrum and the money to buy more spectrum. They will also tell you that LTE more easily supports backward compatibility with earlier cellular technologies. LTE uses Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) spectrum.

WiMAX is the choice of carriers with Time Division Duplex (TDD) spectrum (launched by Sprint in 2008) and also makes sense for for green-field situations where backward compatibility is not needed.

So, LTE uses FDD spectrum and WiMAX uses TDD spectrum – what’s the difference? Here’s a quick explanation from three-g.net:

Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) and Time Division Duplex (TDD) are the two most prevalent duplexing schemes used in broadband wireless networks. TDD is the more efficient scheme, however, since it does not waste bandwidth. FDD, which historically has been used in voice-only applications, supports two-way radio communication by using two distinct radio channels. Alternatively, TDD uses a single frequency to transmit signals in both the downstream and upstream directions.

Basically, FDD (LTE) uses two channels and TDD (WiMAX) uses one channel for two-way communications.

Which technology will dominate? It looks like LTE in the United States but….. there are already issues with expensive and crowded spectrum. There’s also a lot more TDD spectrum available than FDD spectrum and TDD spectrum is cheaper.

Now, if LTE is preferred by the larger carriers in the United States and spectrum is in short supply, wouldn’t it make sense to try and develop a version of LTE that could use TDD spectrum? That’s what an emerging technology called TD-LTE does – it uses TDD spectrum for LTE transmission. Does it work? It sure looks like it. Last July, Ericsson and China Mobile demonstrated an end-to-end TD-LTE solution that achieved a single user peak downlink rate of 110Mbps and on Friday (December 31, 2010) China Mobile announced it had finally received approval from regulators and will start large-scale testing of domestically developed TD-LTE technology. This is going to be really interesting to watch!

Want to find out more? Watch (and search) places like ATETV.org and Gordon’s Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) Blog (my blog!) for more on emerging information and communications technologies like 4G along with the different kinds of great technical career opportunities community colleges can provide.