Archive for February, 2012

More on Wireless Power

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Wireless Electricity

The most recent ATETV video introduces you to WiTricity; the Massachusetts based company known for producing wireless electricity. While you and I marvel at the possibilities, many products are already on the market and a few more are in development.

#1- Inductive Coupling
Anytime that an electrical current moves through wire, it creates a circular magnetic field around the wire. Bending this wire in a coil amplifies this field and the more loops in the coil, the bigger the field. If you then introduce a second wire into the magnetic field you have created, the electrical current will transfer. Simply put, inductive coupling then is the process of using magnetic fields to stimulate movement of a current through a wire.

According to a recent article in Fast Company Magazine, this is the first wireless powering system to market. “It looks like a mouse pad and can send power through the air, over a distance of up to a few inches. A powered coil inside that pad creates a magnetic field, which induces current to flow through a small secondary coil that’s built into any portable device, such as a flashlight, a phone, or a BlackBerry. The electrical current that then flows in that secondary coil charges the device’s onboard rechargeable battery.”

Products include:
Automotive: Companies like Powermat sell these pads and offer wireless solutions to among other industries, the automotive industry to integrate this technology into new cars. Imagine being able to recharge your cell phone, while driving simply by placing it strategically somewhere in the car itself? No cords necessary!

Flashlights: By eliminating exposed metal conductors and the need for unnecessary cords, the Reference ATEX Certified Explosion Proof Torch and Charger uses induction technology to eliminate some of the previous issues that oil and gas industry professionals previously encountered with hand held flashlights.

Cell Phones: HP has created the Palm USA using HP Touchstone Technology. “Charge on Contact. Simply. Magnetically. Intelligently.” – the Web-site announces.

#2- Radio Frequency Harvesting
While less efficient, they work across distances of up to 85 feet. In these systems, electricity is transformed into radio waves, which are transmitted across a room, then received by so-called power harvesters and translated back into low-voltage direct current. In marketable products, a transmitter plugs into the wall, and a dime-size receiver (the real innovation, costing about $5 to make) can be embedded into any low-voltage device.

Products include:
This method of transmitting wireless power is not without its problems still which makes the number of products on the market available, scarce. But at Powercast in PA, you can purchase receivers and transmitters to customize your power solutions.

In the future, this will be available to consumers in the form of a few small appliances like clocks and smoke detectors and wireless sensors; down the road, it will appear in wireless boxes into which you can toss any and all of your electronics for recharging.

#3- Magnetically Coupled Resonance
WiTricity Technology uses magnetic resonance to transfer power over large distances. Following principles similar to the idea of acoustic resonance, which allows an opera singer to break a glass across the room by vibrating it with the correct frequency of her voice’s sound waves, magnetic resonance can launch an energetic response in something far away. According to Fast Company, the difference in this case is that “the response is the flow of electricity out of the receiving coil and into the device to which it’s connected. The only caveat is that receiving coil must be properly “tuned” to match the powered coil, in the way that plucking a D string on any tuned piano will set all the D strings to vibrating, but leave all other notes still and silent.”

Products in development:
Still under wraps!

A few years ago, Marin Soljačić, an assistant professor of physics at MIT, was dragged out of bed by the insistent beeping of a cell phone. “This one didn’t want to stop until you plugged it in for charging,” says Soljačić. In his exhausted state, he wished the phone would just begin charging itself as soon as it was brought into the house. So Soljačić started searching for ways to transmit power wirelessly. His efforts are clearly paying off. While the rest of us are still contemplating the possibilities of a world without cords, batteries, plugs, etc he is one of a few select individuals that are already hard at work turning these ideas into reality. As a result, the future of the electronics industry looks pretty bright!

Meet Network Security Specialist Jerry Gamblin

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Photo of Jerry Gamblin

Do you like working with computers? Interested in both networking AND programming? Well, then a career as a Network Security Specialist might just be for you! This week, ATETV staff caught up with one in person. Jerry Gamblin works as the Network Security Specialist for the Missouri House of Representatives; a position he has been in since 2005.

Here’s what he had to say about his work:

What made you decide to pursue this as a career?
I love problem solving and there is no bigger problem in the networking field then security. Plus I really don’t like fixing printers : )

Tell us about your current position. What does a typical day look like?
I work at the Missouri House of Representatives with 163 state representatives, their legislative assistants and House staff.

It is really hard to describe a typical day but it is always going to include checking access logs, catching up on industry news and responding to emails. Then I will spend some time catching up with other people in our office about the projects they are working on and how they impact our security posture. After I get that done I am on call to help fix or answer any questions that might come up.

Also… you will get a call after hours a couple of times a week. This is NOT a 9-5 job.

Why would students today be interested in this career path?
It is a good hybrid field for students who like networking and programming. You get to use your analytical skills that programming helps to develop while being able to work on a lot of varied projects that seem to draw people to networking.

What qualities would make them successful?
You have to want to always learn. If you are not willing to completely turn over your skill set every 3-5 years this isn’t going to be the field for you. You have to spend a lot of time reading, learning and talking to your peers.

What do you see as the biggest types of security risks that they might face in their careers?
The ones they are not thinking about. Most of the time security risks come from servers that you don’t know exist or haven’t audited. That is why having a good relationship with all the members of your team is so important so you don’t get left out of the loop on projects.

What advice do you have for people considering this as a career
Learn how to communicate. Security is a lot about being able to take an abstract security idea and turn it into something that you can make your customers care about. You can have all the technical knowledge in the world but you won’t be successful until you can share it.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, to prepare for a career as a Network Security Specialists, individuals commonly earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information science and management information systems (MIS), but a degree in any field, supplemented with computer courses and experience, may be adequate. You can also prepare for jobs in this field by pursuing an associate degree or professional certification, along with related work experience.

And for the rest of us? Well, it is good to remember that everyone has a role to play in keeping their computer systems safe. “Security…” Jerry said in a in a recent interview with the National Conference of State Legislatures, “.. is everyone’s business.You’re just as responsible for security as your IT person. You have a link in the security chain and you can blow it up pretty quickly.” So take the time to regularly scan your computer with your anti-virus software, to continually update your passwords and to pay attention when programs ask for personal information. For these tips and more,visit the National Cyber Security Alliance.

Edible Car Contest Provides Students With Valuable Engineering Lessons

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

edible car

National Engineering Week is upon us, once again. From February 19-25 this year, the week will celebrate the positive contributions engineers make to society and is a catalyst for outreach across the country to kids and adults alike.

As part of this week, the Illinois Valley Community College (IVCC) hosts an annual competition designed to help students get a taste of engineering. This popular event, engages students of all ages in various aspects of STEM studies by bringing together groups to craft and develop model cars that are judged on design, speed, and creativity, among other categories.

And, as the name reveals, what makes this program unique is that all of the automotive entries are made entirely of edible food.

“We knew that designing vehicles from food would challenge students to solve problems and be creative, skills that are critical in [the field of] engineering,” IVCC’s Dorene Perez recently told As Program Coordinator of Computer Aided Engineering and Design at IVCC, Perez is one of the contest organizers who first introduced the event to IVCC in 2006. Since then, the IVCC team has not only overseen seven contests (winning entries have included a cucumber-based vehicle that broke track records for speed and a Twinkie-mobile that nabbed design kudos) but have gone on to put together a “how to” handbook and led national workshops to encourage and assist other educators and schools in developing and launching their own Edible Car Contests. Besides cucumbers and Twinkies, car bodies entered in the contest have been constructed from hot dogs, ice cream cones and a loaf of bread, while wheels have been crafted from pinwheel pasta, cookies, Moon Pies and carrot pieces.

The contest has included as many as 130 students on 35 different teams, providing a wide range of learning opportunities, from calculating ratios, wheel sizes, body size and weight for the vehicle to calculating the car’s cost effectiveness and determining its nutritional value. Following the contest’s conclusion, students analyze and discuss both why the car performed as it did in speed or distance and how these features could have been improved.

Whether it’s velocity, acceleration or nutrition, the opportunity to introduce theoretical concepts is a key component of the event. Assessments have included the wheel performance of the Oreo cookie and the aerodynamic properties of miniature marshmallows. (Student designers of last year’s winning entry in the speed category, the aforementioned cucumber model, gained a significant advantage by keeping the car’s peppermint stick axels wrapped in plastic to protect them from moisture until racing time. They also made use of cooking spray on the axels go gain their final competitive edge.)

IVCC has been nominated for a prestigious 2012 Bellwether Award for the Edible Car Contest. The national award recognizes outstanding and innovative community college programs. The award finalists were recognized at the Community College Futures Assembly in Orlando, Florida just last weekend. The 2012 Edible Car Contest will be held at IVCC on February 22.