Posts Tagged ‘engineering technology’

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.”

ATETV Episode 26: Growing a Competitive Workforce

Monday, March 15th, 2010

This week, we learn about an agriculture curriculum and an Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Center of Excellence that are helping to promote growth — literally and figuratively!

In our first segment, we meet Dan Miller, a student in the GPS and GIS program at Kirkwood Community College who is studying to be a “cutting-edge” farmer.

“I grew up on a farm with my father, and that’s what started my interest in the field of agriculture,” says Dan. And, through Kirkwood’s GPS/GIS program, Dan is preparing to work in in the emerging geospatial technology industry. As one of only a handful of precision agriculture programs in the nation, Kirkwood’s curriculum provides students with courses in computers, GPS (Global Positioning Systems), ArcView and data collection, in addition to agronomy and agriculture economics.

GPS technology has complemented Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for a number of years. “GPS is used in a lot of tractors, but also has a lot of other applications,” notes Dan. “There’s an infinite amount of options to use in the field of agriculture right now. This program has opened my eyes to all of the programs that are available to use in our family farm operation or to help me create my own business.”

Even if Dan decides not to pursue a career in farming, the skills he’s gaining through this program can translate into numerous other careers, including construction, natural resources or other agricultural careers. But for now, Dan says, “Once I graduate my passion is to go back home and farm with my Dad. That’s what I’ve always enjoyed and that’s what I really want to do.”

In our second segment, we visit the South Carolina ATE Center of Excellence at Florence-Darlington Technical College, which has developed proven models and successful practices to improve education — and ensure a competitive, technologically savvy workforce for the future.

“We have worked one-on-one with a number of educators and other organizations around the country to develop practices and strategies that we know will increase the quantity, quality and diversity of engineering technicians and support economic development,” explains Elaine Craft. And she adds, all of today’s education research is pointing to the value of hands-on, inquiry-based learning.

“Without a hands-on experience that puts things in context and forces students to grapple a bit, the information doesn’t stick and students don’t know how to use the information the next time they encounter it,” she notes. At Florence-Darlington, a series of changes that were initially implemented to meet the learning styles of a particular group of students,are now being used to make learning more meaningful for all students.

“We entirely changed the way we approach the first year of study, integrating mathematics, physics, technology and communications,” adds Elaine. “We also have an internship program, so we can now provide students with opportunities to work while they’re enrolled in school.” Known as a “Grow-Your-Own” approach, the internship enables students to “grow up” with an industry during their two years of school, ultimately producing a good match between the graduate and the job.

The South Carolina Advanced Technological Education Center (SC ATE) is now working with community colleges and industry partners on improving Engineering Technology programs at two-year colleges not only in South Carolina, but across the country. As this week’s episode demonstrates, today’s technology students can grow and thrive in many different ways!

Small is the New Big Idea

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Fuel Cell Technology: Small is the New Big Idea

Imagine a fuel source that can run on natural gas and propane — or soybean oil and used cooking oil. Or even farm waste.

Well, it’s not just an imaginary scenario, it’s a real and thriving industry known as fuel cell technology, and it’s being used today to create locally generated electricity in rural farm areas, military battle zones and other hard-to-reach places beyond the range of the standard electrical grid.

The subject of a recent report on the CBS News program, “60 Minutes,” the promise of fuel cell technology lies in its ability to generate the equivalent of a “power plant in a box,” replacing massive power plants and the transmission line grid in the same way that laptop computers have partially replaced desktop computers or the way cell phones have replaced many land-line phones.

A fuel cell is a two-inch disk made of ceramic that converts fuel into electricity and heat using an electrochemical process many times cleaner, quieter and less polluting than engines and turbines. Because a single fuel cell generates about 0.7 volts of electricity, hundreds of fuel cells are combined in a “stack” to generate enough energy to power a motor.

Fuel cell systems decrease our carbon footprints and provide important alternative energy options. By generating electricity through an electrochemical reaction, rather than from a combustion process as would occur in an automobile engine, there’s no need for burning or combustion and no need for power lines from an outside source. Compared to a battery, which uses an electrochemical reaction to produce a finite amount of energy, fuel cells produce electricity continuously as long as they are provided fuel — whether it be diesel, kerosene or vegetable oil. (For an interactive explanation of how fuel cells work, visit the General Motors Education website.)

Technology Management, Inc. (TMI) has been developing fuel cells for the past two decades, and according to their website, fuel cells provide a unique source of power generation for several important reasons: 1) They are modular. Unlike solar, wind, diesel or natural-gas generators, fuel cells are compact in size and can be placed anywhere there is a fuel supply. 2) They are clean. Compared to generators, which produce noise, odor and air pollution — including lethal carbon monoxide — fuel cells are clean, quiet and safe for indoor use. 3) They are efficient. Fuel cells are at least twice as efficient as a gas engine or turbine at producing electricity. In addition, fuel cells produce clean heat which can be used for cooling as well as heating. 4) They are scalable. Fuel cells are modular which means that each individual system enjoys the same high efficiency regardless of size and can be used as “energy building blocks.” You simply add more to get more power, demonstrating that bigger is not always better.

Today, in partnership with Stark State College and Lockheed Martin, TMI is developing a fuel cell military application that promises to greatly reduce the need for a front-line unit to transport and secure large quantities of gasoline or diesel fuel on the battlefield. Delivering this fuel is expensive and dangerous, but by reducing the need for petroleum at outlying military installations, the long truck convoys required to deliver fuel (which are especially vulnerable to enemy attack) can be reduced, saving costs as well as safeguarding soldiers’ lives.

TMI is also developing a small-scale fuel-cell-driven power system that could be placed on thousands of small farms in rural America or tens of thousands of rural villages in the third world to bring power to customers in remote locales. As TMI CEO Benson Lee puts it, “Small is the new big idea.”

To hear a presentation by Benson Lee about the role of fuel cell technology in today’s marketplace, including its role in solving global social problems, click here.

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!

ATETV Episode 15: From Protecting the Environment to Protecting Data Online

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009



This week, we’re looking at three fields that are absolutely vital to our modern infrastructure. This is the stuff that has to work so the rest of us can get to work.

First, we visit the Engineering Technology program at Bristol Community College, where students can specialize in Environmental Technology – “essentially, any type of technology designed to enhance or protect our environment,” according to BCC’s Anthony Ucci. That includes working on the wastewater and freshwater treatment systems that keep our water supply clean and drinkable.

Next we head to the College of the Mainland to learn more about Process Technology – “taking material and turning it into something useful,” according to program director Jerry Duncan. Process Technology covers everything from making oil into gasoline, or malt and hops into beer. Student Zachary Bundy is doing an internship through the Process Technology program there; he considers it an extended job interview for a position after he graduates.

If Environmental and Process Technology each keep our physical infrastructure humming, then Information Security is what keeps our virtual infrastructure safe and online when we need it. That’s one of the majors offered at Springfield Technical Community College. With more data going online – including financial transactions – Information Security is a growth industry. And according to STCC’s Andrew Maynard, the sensitive nature of the information being protected means that security jobs are less likely to be outsourced than others.

Check back next week for the next episode of ATETV. Until then, have a happy new year!