Sunday, June 25, 2017

TradeMachines examines the lack of women in engineering

TradeMachines is a search engine for used industrial machinery. Although we personally never see or have contact with the machines listed on our website, machines of all sorts define our everyday tasks. We talk about, look at, and think about machines every single day.

Given our company profile, our international customer base consists of professionals working with heavy equipment, countless of them being engineers just like one of our company founders. It makes sense: who would build a business model around industrial machines if not someone who has a deep knowledge of them? The longer we have been in business, though, the more we see that we work with a large number of engineers and, interestingly, our clients are mostly men. And looking at the statistics, our observation was valid: within the United States, only 13 percent of engineers are women, while in Germany it's 17 percent and France 21 percent, as just a few examples.

Our company is keen on equality, as our  people come from all over the world. Some of our colleagues are German, some are from the United States, and others are from Poland or Uzbekistan, and the ratio of men to women is currently about 60:40. For us, being given the same chance no matter your background is a main value. Considering that engineering has great prospects and guarantees a stable income almost anywhere in the world, we became curious why women are so severely under-represented in this field. Are they just not interested in what engineering has to offer?

We started researching and realized that the answer is a definite “no” and found the reasoning very intriguing and concerning. We decided that the least we can do as a company is summarize our findings in an infographic to underline the difficulties women face when entering the male-dominated field of engineering, hoping we can also trigger further support from others.

Take a look at our infographic yourself, you might be surprised...

Friday, June 16, 2017

Merrick & Company recognized for hydrothermal processing pilot system

Merrick & Company was recognized at the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) annual Engineering Excellence Awards (EEA) gala in Washington, D.C., which honors the year's most outstanding engineering accomplishments. Merrick received a National Honor Award in the energy category for its hydrothermal processing pilot system (HPPS) project, Oil in Hours, Not Millions of Years.

Genifuel Corporation obtained the license from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) for its technology to transform a mixture of 20 percent algae and 80 percent water into bio-crude oil and natural gas. PNNL had proven their process at a lab scale, but Genifuel wanted to build a significantly larger (20 times the previous size) pilot system. Merrick provided lump sum turnkey services for this first-of-its-kind application that included engineering, hazard assessment, cost estimating, procurement, fabrication/assembly oversight, and commissioning.

The HPPS is an innovation that converts something as common as algae into transportation fuel. The system was designed using algae as the biomass feedstock, but almost any biosolid mixed in a slurry can be used. This opens the possibility to take hydrocarbon rich waste from other processes such as agricultural, food processing, or wastewater systems and turn that waste into a usable fuel. Since no solvents or chemicals are used, there is no need to then sequester the solvent or chemical at the end of the process. The use of biomass-produced fuel causes no net increase in greenhouse gases and produces clear, sterile water as a byproduct.

Project winners at the state level EEA competitions were eligible for ACEC’s national EEA competition. A panel of judges representing industry, government, academia, and media rated winning work on the following criteria:
Uniqueness and innovative applications
Future value to the engineering profession and perception by the public
Social, economic, and sustainable development considerations
Successful fulfillment of client/owner’s needs

Merrick & Company, an engineering, architecture, design-build, surveying, planning, and geospatial solutions firm, serves domestic and international clients in the energy and chemicals, national security, life sciences, and sustainable infrastructure markets. The employee-owned company maintains twenty offices in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. For more information, visit

Friday, June 9, 2017 ranks the 20 Most Affordable Online Bachelors in Engineering Degrees

College Choice, an authority in college and university rankings and resources, has published its ranking of the 20 Most Affordable Online Bachelors in Engineering Degrees for 2017.
You can see it at

The United States' transition to a knowledge-based economy and its increased emphasis on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) means lots of opportunities for engineers. As a result, many engineering programs are impacted, and online engineering programs are seen as offering a valuable path to students interested in the field.

"The days when an online degree meant dubious respectability are well in the past, and an online degree can provide a path to a high quality, affordable education that will be taken seriously by employers," Christian Amondson, managing editor of College Choice, says of the ranking. "Nevertheless, because it is difficult to over-emphasize the importance of proper accreditation, we have made sure that all the schools on this list have regional accreditation, and many programs have further accreditation from some of the main STEM accreditation bodies."

The College Choice ranking is based on out-of-state per-credit tuition. Schools may charge additional fees not taken into consideration in this ranking. There may also be face-to-face or lab requirements that necessitate travel.

The ranking for the 20 Most Affordable Online Bachelor's Degrees in Engineering for 2017 finds the American Public University System in the top spot. Kennesaw State University is in second, and University of Southern Mississippi rounds out the top three. The entire ranking in alphabetical order:

American Public University
Bemidji State University
Brigham Young University - Idaho
Daytona State College
Eastern Kentucky University
Eastern New Mexico University
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Excelsior College
Indiana State University
Kennesaw State University
Morgan State University
National University
Old Dominion University
Southern Illinois University - Carbondale
Thomas Edison State University
Trine University
University of Alabama
University of Massachusetts Lowell
University of Southern Mississippi
Western Carolina University

College Choice is an online publication dedicated to helping students and their families find the right college. The site publishes rankings and reviews that make finding the best colleges for different interests easier and more fun. They also publish resources to help students get into, pay for, and thrive at the college of their choice.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

John Pfisterer named senior VP at M&J Engineering

John Pfisterer has been named a senior vice president at M&J Engineering, PC (M&J). He comes to M&J following a distinguished career of over 20 years with MTA Bridges and Tunnels (MTAB&T), culminating as the deputy director of electrical, mechanical, and commissioning groups at the agency’s headquarters. During his tenure at MTAB&T, he also served as the facility engineer at the Queens Midtown Tunnel, where he oversaw both the capital and major maintenance programs.
Pfisterer directed efforts on groundbreaking new technologies including the introduction of EZ Pass, LED lighting, fiber optics, and in-tunnel wireless communications. He also was involved in the agency’s recovery efforts after the 9/11 attack and Superstorm Sandy.

As part of the restoration efforts after Superstorm Sandy, Pfisterer managed the $270 million rehabilitation of the tunnel walls, roadways, and Manhattan Exit Plaza. Other complex assignments under his management at the Queens Midtown Tunnel included the comprehensive facility-wide electrical upgrade and ventilation buildings switchgear and motor control center replacement and the exhaust fan replacement.

Prior to his MTAB&T career, Pfisterer was employed at Burns and Roe Enterprises, where he worked on a wide range or projects including weapons decommissioning and satellite transmission systems (STS) as a systems engineer. Pfisterer holds a bachelor of engineering degree from Pratt Institute as well as a bachelor of science degree from St. John’s University.

“We are thrilled to have John as part of our team” said Maqsood Malik, M&J’s President and CEO. “His extensive knowledge of tunnel systems and project management will contribute greatly to M&J’s continued growth and capabilities in these vital areas, particularly throughout the New York metropolitan area.”

M&J Engineering is a certified minority (MBE), disadvantaged (DBE), and small business (SBE) enterprise as well as a multi-disciplinary consulting engineering firm with over 100 employees.  Since its founding in 2004, M&J has grown into a provider of design, environmental, construction management/inspection, naval architecture, aerospace engineering, and technology services to a range of clients including federal, state, city/local agencies, private owners, architects, other engineers, and contractors. With offices in NY; NJ; CT; PA; FL; VA; and Washington, DC, the firm currently is the prime contractor for the $236 million Construction Management and Resident Engineering/Inspection of the MTA’s Queens Midtown Tunnel.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

FSU’s High-Performance Materials Institute to play major role in deep space exploration

Florida State University’s High-Performance Materials Institute (HPMI) and the Florida A&M University–Florida State University (FAMU-FSU) College of Engineering are joining a major multi-university project funded by NASA that will focus on developing technologies crucial to human exploration in deep space.

“We are really happy to participate in a project that supports NASA and its future work,” HPMI Director Richard Liang says. Vice President for Research Gary Ostrander adds, “This is a wonderful opportunity for our faculty researchers and students to participate in a project that pushes the boundaries of science and will have a major impact on space travel and exploration. FSU’s High-Performance Materials Institute was designed to explore the possibilities and uses of next-generation materials, and this project will allow them to apply their expertise in an exciting way.”

The work is part of an overall initiative from NASA to create the first-ever Space Technology Research Institutes (STRI), including one on biological engineering in space and one on next-generational materials. Each institute will receive $15 million over a five-year period that will be distributed among the partner universities.

HPMI is a multidisciplinary research institute at Florida State University largely staffed by faculty from the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. Both FSU and FAMU will receive funding from the STRI focusing on next-generation materials and manufacturing. The money will help fund multiple graduate students at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and one postdoctoral researcher.

“The High-Performance Materials Institute is a leader in developing advanced nanocomposites and additive manufacturing that will be critical for man’s extended presence in deep space,” FAMU-FSU College of Engineering Dean J. Murray Gibson says. “Because of this grant, our students will have unique opportunities to participate in an exciting future major space program.”

Also a professor at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, Liang will serve as principle investigator at the college and an area leader for the STRI. Six faculty from the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering will participate in the project. The STRI will be led by Professor Gregory Odegard at Michigan Technological University.

At HPMI and the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, scientists will specifically work on the development of carbon nanotube-based structural materials that can help create next-generation space vehicles, power systems, and potentially even habitats. “It’s exciting to know that I could have a student who could get experience here on this project and then potentially work on the mission to Mars in the future,” says Tarik Dickens, an assistant professor at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering who is also working on the project.

HPMI’s mission is to develop next-generation materials that can be used in a variety of technologies and industries. It has been designated as an Industry/University Cooperative Research Center by the National Science Foundation and as a Center of Excellence by Florida’s public university governing body, the Florida Board of Governors.

The other universities participating in the project are the University of Utah, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Minnesota, Pennsylvania State University, University of Colorado, and Virginia Commonwealth University. Industrial partners include Nanocomp Technologies and Solvay, with the U.S. Air Force Research Lab as a collaborator.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

McMillen Jacobs Associates names regional manager and construction management practice lead

ohn Kaplin, CCM, has stepped into the position of California regional manager. The region includes offices in San Francisco, Walnut Creek, Pasadena, and San Diego. Kaplin has been with McMillen Jacobs for three years, most recently serving as the firm’s construction management (CM) practice lead. He has 30 years of experience in geotechnical investigations, design management, and construction management of underground and heavy civil projects. He has worked in leadership positions on projects with a wide variety of delivery methods including design-build and CM at Risk. Kaplin holds an M.S. in Engineering Geology and a B.S. in Geology from Colorado State University.
Sarah Wilson, PE, CCM has assumed the construction management practice lead position. She currently serves as resident engineer on the Central Subway project in San Francisco. Wilson is a senior associate and has been with McMillen Jacobs Associates for 17 years. She has served in project management roles on a wide variety of underground construction projects from planning through design and construction. She has focused on construction management roles for the last 12 years. In her new role, she will provide day-to-day support for CM staff, overall leadership to the CM practice on operational matters for existing projects, and collaboration with senior management on development of new business and talent for our construction management projects. Wilson received an M.S. in Geotechnical Engineering from UC Berkeley and a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Drexel University.
Based in Seattle, WA, McMillen Jacobs Associates is an employee-owned environmental, engineering, and construction company providing an array of technical services to the heavy civil, underground, and water resources markets. The firm has offices on the U.S. west and east coasts as well as in New Zealand, Australia, and British Columbia, Canada. For more information, visit

Friday, April 28, 2017

NC State and UNC biomedical engineers develop paper pumps

A hydraulic battery pumping fluid through a simple microchannel

Biomedical engineering researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have developed inexpensive paper pumps that use capillary action to power portable microfluidic devices, opening the door to a range of biomedical tools. Microfluidic devices manipulate fluids that have a volume of one microliter or less – substantially smaller than a single teardrop. These devices hold promise for use in applications ranging from biomedical diagnostic tools to drug testing technologies.
“One longstanding challenge to the development of portable, real-world microfluidic device technologies has been the need to find a cost-effective way to pump fluids through the device when outside the lab,” says Glenn Walker, co-corresponding author of a journal article on the work and an associate professor in the joint biomedical engineering program at NC State and UNC. “Portability is important because it makes new applications possible, such as diagnostic tools that can be used in the field. Electric pumps, and tubing to connect them, are fine for a laboratory environment, but those aren’t easy to take with you.”
Now Walker and his collaborators have developed a new way to not only pump fluids through microfluidic devices, but to exert substantial control over that flow. They can stop and re-start the flow, control the rate of the flow, and control how long the flow lasts. “And, because our approach is a new twist on an age-old technology, our pumps are extremely cost effective,” Walker says.
The age-old technology he’s referring to is paper. The researchers call their pumping system a hydraulic battery, but it doesn’t involve electricity in any way. Instead, the battery draws its pumping power from capillary action.
If you’ve ever seen a paper towel soak up a spill, you’ve seen capillary action at work. Broadly speaking, capillary action is the tendency of liquids to be drawn into small spaces by surface tension. In the context of the hydraulic battery, it is the tendency of water – and aqueous liquids, such as blood – to be drawn into the pores found in a piece of paper.
“Our system uses pieces of paper 125 microns thick, little more than the width of a single hair,” Walker says. “Capillary action pulls a liquid into the paper. And by changing the shape of the paper, we are able to control how much liquid is pulled through an attached device – and how quickly that happens.” The shape can be changed in two dimensions by simply cutting out the paper. But it can also be manipulated in three dimensions by stacking multiple pumps on top of each other. “By stacking the paper we are able to create more complex flow profiles, depending on the needs for any given application,” Walker says. “And any one of these hydraulic battery pumps costs less than a dime.”
There are other portable means for pumping liquid through a microfluidic device, but Walker feels that the paper pumps his team has developed hold several significant advantages. “Our hydraulic battery is small, lightweight, very inexpensive, easy to connect to a device and disposable,” Walker says. “In addition, our paper pumps could be saved for later evaluation, such as to run secondary, lab-based tests to confirm on-site diagnoses.”
The researchers have filed a patent application on the paper pump technology and are currently looking for industry partners to help bring it to the marketplace. “We’re optimistic that it could make a difference in both public health and advancing fundamental research,” Walker says.
The paper, “Modular pumps as programmable hydraulic batteries for microfluidic devices,” is published in the journal Technology. Lead author of the paper is Brian Cummins, a former postdoctoral researcher in the joint biomedical engineering program. Co-corresponding author of the paper is Frances Ligler, Lampe Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering at NC State and UNC. The paper was co-authored by Rukesh Chinthapatla and Balaji Lenin, both of whom are undergraduates at NC State. The work was done with support from the NC State University Chancellor’s Innovation Fund.