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June/July 2009






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News and Views


First-time, non-engineering competitor captures Rube Goldberg title
Rube Goldberg winners: meet the non-engineers of St. Olaf’s.West Lafayette, IN – Every year high school and college teams compete to design and build the most excruciatingly complex machines to perform extremely simple tasks. The occasion is the annual Rube Goldberg competition, sponsored by Purdue University’s Theta Tau engineering fraternity. This year’s challenge was to replace an incandescent light bulb with a more energy-efficient design in a great number of steps.

In the true spirit of Rube Goldberg, a team from first-time entrant St. Olaf College (Northfield, MN), a school with 3,000 students and no engineering program, was the winner. The school’s team of science-minded non-engineering students built a machine employing mousetraps, magnets, pool balls, lasers and photo sensors, going through 239 steps to turn off an incandescent light and turn on dozens of LEDs triumphantly spelling out “St. Olaf.”

St. Olaf also won the People’s Choice award. Ferris State University (Big Rapids, MI), a former national winner, took third place with a machine called “House of Rube,” based on the classic Goldberg cartoons.

Also competing this year was the contest’s first one-person team. Tyler Luce, a sophomore in ME at the University of Texas, built a machine based on a Jurassic Park theme.

Thorp (WI) High School won the high school branch of the competition.

Sponsors for this year’s event included BAE Systems, Bosch Group, Bose, BP, Lockheed Martin, Lutron Electronics, Omega Engineering, Priio and Rockwell Collins.

The task for next year’s Rube Goldberg contest has already been announced. It calls for dispensing a glob of hand sanitizer, a useful feature for the hardworking winning crew.


Kids learn about space at JPL

Pasadena, CA – In late April more than 500 children visited JPL with their employee parents on “take our children to work” day. They came to see how their parents work on projects like the Mars Exploration Rovers, the Kepler planet-finding mission, the Herschel Space Observatory and the Grace Earth-gravity monitoring mission.

Special kid-oriented, hands-on activities included launching bottle rockets with Mars Exploration Rover project manager John Callas, creating a planetarium, and getting run over by a very gentle eight-wheeled demonstration Rover.

Carnival-style games included the Saturn ring-toss and the planetary black-hole finder. The kids also watched a 3-D movie about the Mars exploration Rovers and enjoyed a talk by Todd Barber, lead propulsion engineer on JPL’s Cassini mission to Saturn.

The JPL event is patterned after the national Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.


SHPE joins White House dialog on Latino STEM education

Rafaela Schwan of SHPE.Washington, DC – Rafaela Schwan, executive director of Advancing Hispanic Excellence in Technology, Engineering, Math and Science, SHPE’s educational foundation, has become an active member of a White House advisory panel on Latino issues.

Even before he took office in January, President Obama invited Schwan and other Latino leaders to begin an ongoing dialog on a variety of issues. Schwan, representing SHPE, will provide input on STEM education for Latinos. “When we met with the president initially, he said he was committed to addressing these issues,” Schwan reports. Now a subgroup is forming to focus specifically on education.

Schwan notes that the White House has launched similar efforts for the Asian, African American and other communities. “This is a president who is making us part of the agenda. He wants to hear from the people with the most direct experience,” she says.

SHPE’s national conference will take place in Washington, DC from October 28 to November 1, and there are plans to involve members of Congress. President Obama has been invited to attend the gala banquet. “Washington realizes the urgent need for engineers in our country, and when we come to DC this fall we will be delighted to showcase the talent our organization has to offer to keep the U.S. competitive in the world market,” Schwan says.


Catalyst presents awards

New York, NY – The 2009 Catalyst awards for initiatives that advance women in the workplace were presented to Baxter International, CH2M HILL, Gibbons PC and KPMG. The awards “represent the business success that bringing women into leadership can deliver across industries and geographies,” says Ilene H. Lang, Catalyst president and CEO.

Medical device maker Baxter-Asia Pacific was recognized for its “building talent edge” initiative, which reached its target of a 50/50 gender balance across management-level positions two years ahead of schedule.

CH2M Hill was recognized for “constructing pathways for women through inclusion.” Lee A. McIntire, president and CEO, says, “We are proud that our initiative is the first in engineering and construction to win the award, and even more proud of what this means for our industry overall.”

At Gibbons PC, “the women’s initiative: driving success through diversity investment” is critical to the law firm’s branding in the marketplace, and generated more than 6 percent of the company’s annual revenue in 2007.

The “great place to build a career” initiative of KPMG LLP uses diversity and inclusion to create a culture of career growth, mentoring and accountability.

The awards conference was sponsored by Campbell Soup and Coca-Cola. For more information visit www.catalyst.org.


Boeing grant supports Engineers Without Borders

An EWB engineer and her many helpers tackle a water project in Uganda.Boulder, CO – Boeing recently awarded Engineers Without Borders-USA (EWB-USA) a grant to back engineering projects and establish a development fund. EWB-USA organizes 12,000 volunteers, both university students and professional engineers, to do important engineering work in the developing world. The group partners with remote communities in forty-seven countries on projects for low-cost, sustainable water, energy, sanitation and more.

“The grant and campaign resulted in EWB’s most successful drive to date,” says Cathy Leslie, EWB-USA executive director and a civil engineer. “These funds are already being invested to harness the skills of EWB volunteers, and they will continue to support the growth and operating strength of the organization.”

EWB-USA projects, she notes, may help deliver alternative energy to schools, medical clinics and community centers or bring clean water systems to rural locations around the world. For more information about EWB-USA check out www.ewb-usa.org.


Peace and prosperity through engineering

Northampton, MA – Two Iraqi women educators will spend next year at Smith College as part of an initiative to strengthen their role in shaping their nation’s postwar future by educating and empowering the next generation of women engineers.

The Picker engineering program at Smith is the nation’s first and only accredited engineering program at a women’s college. Smith is a lead institute in the Iraqi Women’s Fellowship Foundation (IWFF), which plans to offer sixty fellowships to Iraqi women faculty and students in the next five years. Smith College is joined in the first year of the program by Stanford, Johns Hopkins and the University of California-San Diego.


Grand Rapids school wins engineering prize

Alexandria, VA – Each year the National Engineering Design Challenge (NEDC) asks high school students to design and build an assistive device for use in the workplace by a person with a disability. Five top teams traveled to Washington, DC to demonstrate their devices.

First place went to Grand Rapids (MI) Catholic Central. Students Nick Rudell, Seth Holton, Nick Lannes, Anthony Tross, Madalyn Esch, Kevin Greene, Joe Gorman, Jen Zarzecki, Dan Klimas and Ann Schumar, and their teacher/coach Jeanine Gasper, created the Handy Typer, a prosthetic with two protruding “fingers” that can type on a standard keyboard. They designed the device to help a teacher at their school who lost his hand in an accident.

The adaptive engineering contest is organized by the Junior Engineering Technical Society (JETS) which promotes technical careers for America’s youth, and the AbilityOne program which works to create jobs for people with severe disabilities.

For more information about the competition and a complete list of winners, visit www.jets.org/nedc.


DuPont recognized for female leaders

Ellen J. Kullman, DuPont CEO.Wilmington, DE – DuPont is included in a list of the top fifty companies for executive women in National Association for Female Executives (NAFE) magazine. The companies are named based on the number of women in positions with profit-and-loss responsibility and company strategies to boost women’s achievement.

DuPont was recognized for increasing the number of women in leadership positions, including the appointment of Ellen J. Kullman as CEO this January. Kullman has a BSME from Tufts University. She joined DuPont Medical Imaging in 1988 and has worked across the company.

Women represent 26 percent of the employee base at DuPont and hold 24 percent of key leadership positions. DuPont leadership development training and employee networks support women throughout their careers.


Monique Berry gets BEYA award

Monique Berry of BDPA.Philadelphia, PA - At this February’s Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA), Monique Berry, president of the Philadelphia BDPA chapter, was named a modern-day technology leader: a person of color who shapes the future course of engineering, science and technology.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be recognized nationally,” says Berry. “My goal is to get minority youth interested in technology by showing them how challenging, fun and exciting the field of IT can be.”

Among other initiatives, Berry’s chapter supports Philadelphia’s Black Family Technology Awareness Week. This year the mayor’s commission on technology recognized BDPA-Philadelphia with a proclamation thanking the organization for ten years of support. BDPA events include school visits, family technology night and more.


NRC’s Paul Ricketts is honored

Paul Ricketts of the NRC.Washington, DC – In March, Federal Computing Week recognized Paul Ricketts for distinguished service in overseeing compliance of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) with the Federal Information Security Management Act. Ricketts is senior IT security officer in the NRC office of computer security.

Ricketts was previously IT security officer for NOAA’s national centers for environmental prediction. Before NOAA, he worked at the Bureau for Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as a supervisory IT specialist in charge of enterprise operations and systems disaster recovery management. Ricketts has a 2003 MA in IT from American InterContinental University and is a certified IS security professional. He also teaches computer IS and engineering technology at Prince George’s Community College, Largo, MD.


L’Oreal and UNESCO award Women in Science fellowships

Ishrat Bano: L’Oréal-UNESCO honoree.Paris, France – In 1998, L’Oréal and UNESCO founded the L’Oréal-UNESCO program for Women in Science to help doctoral and post-doc researchers from countries where opportunities are limited. The fellowships support women’s research in the life sciences; fifteen two-year grants were awarded this year.

The 2009 recipients include Ishrat Bano of Pakistan for development of magnetic nanoparticles for use in drug delivery; Fina Kurreeman of Mauritius for the study of genes associated with rheumatoid arthritis; Nonhlanhla Dlamani of South Africa for work using African traditional medicine in the treatment of Kaposi’s sarcoma; and Paula Villar of Argentina for development of a computer-based model of the heart in 3D.

For more information, see www.loreal.com, “for women in science.”


Scientists and students develop Axel, a new rover robot

Meet Axel, the versatile rover. Pasadena, CA – Engineers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) teamed with students at the California Institute of Technology to design and test a versatile, low-mass robot designed to cover terrain that defeated previous rovers. The new machine, named Axel, has applications to our own planet as well as off-Earth. In addition to helping robotic spacecraft explore and investigate other worlds, Axel might, for example, assist in terrestrial search-and-rescue operations.

Clockwise from top left: Issa, Jeff, Jian Yuan, Pablo, Axel and Sri.Axel can operate upside down as well as right-side up. It uses three motors, one to control each of its two wheels and a third to control a lever. The lever can scoop up material for scientists to study, or adjust the robot’s two stereo cameras, which tilt 360 degrees.

The design and test team included JPL staffer Dr Srikanth Saripalli, grad students Jeffrey Edlund and Pablo Abad-Manterola, and undergrad students Johanna Cecava, Nam Nguyen, Kevin Noertker, Thomas Oliver, Chun-Che Peng and Albert Wu, with special help from Jian Yuan Thum.


RIT wins moonbuggy race

A team from Huntsville Center for Technology tours the grounds in style. Huntsville, AL – In early April the Marshall Space Flight Center hosted NASA’s 2009 Great Moonbuggy Race. Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT, Rochester, NY) won the college division; Erie, KS High School, team two and the Huntsville, AL Center for Technology, team two, tied for first place in the high school division.

In the contest, students design, build and race lightweight, human-powered buggies over a course simulating off-world terrain. Teams build their vehicles from the ground up.

More than a quarter of participants this year were teams and schools new to the race. In all there were sixty-eight teams from twenty states, Puerto Rico, Canada, Germany, India and Romania.

Race sponsor Northrop Grumman awarded the winning college team $5,700. The first-place high school teams received $500 and a week at Spacecamp, courtesy of race sponsors ATK Launch Systems.

Major corporate sponsorship is provided by Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Teledyne Brown Engineering and Jacobs Engineering. Check out moonbuggy.msfc.nasa.gov.



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