Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dan Aucutt joins Fenstermaker as a senior engineer

Bringing over 35 years of experience in geotechnical, environmental, and construction materials consulting, Dan Aucutt recently joined Fenstermaker’s Baton Rouge team as a senior engineer. Before coming to Fenstermaker, he gained experience working as a principal, chief, or project engineer for several other engineering firms. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.S. in Marine Geology and went on to receive his M.S in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois.

Since then, Dan has conducted and managed geotechnical studies in many states throughout the country. His expertise encompasses soil and rock mechanics testing and instrumentation projects, slope stability analyses, foundation design for bridges and tall buildings, bluff stabilization projects, landfill cap design evaluations, sludge disposal studies, geosynthetic studies, geotechnical studies, and geo-environmental design.

Dan is a licensed Professional Engineer in Louisiana, Texas, South Carolina, New Jersey, North Carolina, Mississippi, Indiana, Illinois, and Arkansas. Additionally, he is a registered Water Well Contractor with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR)/Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and a Response Action Contractor with LDEQ.

Progressive Engineer Magazine has posted a new company profile: ReRev, Green Revolution, and Henry Works are developing exercise machines that generate electricity, harnessing a new form of renewable energy.

ReRev, Human Dynamo,
and the Green Revolution

Generating Electricity from Exercise Machines

Psomas - President & CEO
Hudson Harr started with an elliptical machine
and parlayed his invention into ReRev.
By Tom Gibson
Just four short years ago, Hudson Harr was a 21-year-old freshly minted college graduate armed with electrical and mechanical engineering degrees from the University of Florida. He had a vision: to create an exercise machine for health clubs that would generate net electrical power. Operating out of his mother’s house, he amassed a collection of parts and cobbled prototypes together. “I was on a bootstrap budget, and I spent everything I had on ellipticals and inverters,” he recalls.

Where did this vision come from? One day, Harr says, “I thought, we’re trying to harness all these kinetics in the world, and here we have an indoor environment, tons of infrastructure, stable kinetics day in and day out. There are so many things that make for the right kind of application, and it just suddenly hit me that nobody had done this before.”

Harr’s efforts paid off, as he went on to found a multi-million-dollar company ReRev in Clearwater, Florida to produce fitness machines that generate electricity, and he now serves as its president. And he has expanded his reach by applying the same renewable energy technology to commercial solar and wind power applications, creating a second company called Sunquest.

Actually, Harr is one of a trio of entrepreneurial engineers that have started companies in the last four years to develop and market these fitness machines, each taking a unique approach. They find themselves creating a new industry, one that combines physical fitness with renewable energy. Such a concept has been viewed as a novelty for a long time, but now it’s going mainstream and becoming a serious entity. Most aerobic equipment, including stationary bicycles, Stairmasters, rowing machines, and treadmills, can be configured to generate power to the electrical grid as people sweat.
Psomas - President & CEO
The Green Revolution retrofits onto existing machines such as these exercise bicycles in a spinning class.
People argue that an individual machine doesn’t generate enough power to make a difference. But Mike Taggett, founder, R&D director, and president of Henry Works Research and Development in Hurricane, Utah and inventor of the Human Dynamo machine, points out that "a lot of gyms have large spinning group exercises with 30 or 40 or 50 people exercising at the same time, and that's a perfect environment to use a machine like this." With dozens of machines running for 10 or more hours a day, they harvest enough energy to pay back their owners within 8 to15 years, roughly the same payback as solar electric.

Use Existing Technology
Many of us may remember using a generator mated to the rear tire of a bicycle to power front and rear lights as we pedaled along. Generating power in a gym is based on the same principle. New technology enters the picture in the form of inverters and controllers developed for renewable energy applications such as solar and wind power systems. In most cases, existing machines are retrofitted, but some companies have designed new machines from the ground up.

It turns out most exercise equipment already comes with a generator on it to power its display. Increasingly, such machines are free standing in that the generator supplies all their electrical needs. Harr reports, “Gym equipment over the last few years has transitioned from alternators to generator-based drive trains. We make use of the algorithms and control board interface used to load these.” These generators use permanent magnets rather than electromagnetic coils to avoid having to supply a current to the rotor to magnetize it; renewable energy equipment such as wind generators have increasingly converted to this. By their rotating nature, alternators and generators generate AC power, and components within them convert it to DC.
Psomas - President & CEO
Jay Whelan at The Green Revolution has an
industrial engineering background.

“We tap into the power and create another control sequence to feed it back to our equipment,” Harr continues. “So essentially we remove the internal resistance the machine has and give it an external resistance load, which is our equipment and processing units.” Taking place at the individual machine, this increases the resistance inside the generator, increasing the power needed to drive it and consequently the power coming out of it. With this, someone using the exercise machine can vary the difficulty of their workout and the power they produce.

It varies by company, but typically, the DC power coming off each machine is wired to a central processing unit containing an inverter, and this box in turn is connected to the building’s electrical system and ultimately the grid. The power coming off is not clean enough, U.L. approved, or in the right frequency. Harr states, “We actually invert the DC power through the inverter, which cleans it up and exports it back to the utility as a cosine wave with low harmonic interference.”

To give an idea of how much power humans can crank out, a person in decent shape can generate 60 to 120 watts during an hour of strenuous exercise, and an elite cyclist can average 300-400. If a person averages 75 watts (about one-tenth of a horsepower) for an hour, they will produce 75 watt-hours of energy. As a reference, ReRev says 50 watt-hours of electricity can power a CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulb for 2.5 hours, a cell phone charger for six full charges, a laptop for one hour, or a desktop computer for 30 minutes.

Not that Easy
But while the benefits of exercise machines that produce power in a group situation may seem obvious, developing and marketing them has proven an uphill battle. Harr cites expensive hardware as an obstacle. Jay Whelan, founder and CEO of The Green Revolution in Ridgefield, Connecticut, the third company in the trio of those pursuing the market, relates, “It’s a combination of two things. One is that it’s brand new equipment; we’re almost creating a new industry that didn’t exist two years ago. The other thing is, it takes awhile for gym owners to understand how enthusiastic their club members are about sustainability and renewable energy.” Previously a partner at Accenture, Whelan received a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology and an MBA from Boston College.
Psomas - President & CEO
Henry Works founder Mike Taggett (left) and his
machinist Carlos Esqueda show a system they’ve
developed for sending power generated by a
machine to the electrical grid through a wall outlet.
“It’s kind of funny how it evolved,” Whelan says in telling how The Green Revolution came about. He recalls, ”While working out one day, I started to calculate the amount of energy expended at the gym. Stationary bikes create resistance and through this friction, heat is produced. The industrial engineer in me said, ‘What a waste! There’s got to be a way to capture and use this energy.’” He continues, “Mark Sternberg, a friend and millwright, had a ten-speed bike, and he put the rear wheel up on a platform like a triangular-type structure. Then we attached a car alternator to the back wheel – very rudimentary.” They used a DC dimmer switch to increase the field coil currents to draw more power, increasing the resistance level. But they found that the ten-speed bike wheel just didn’t have enough mass from an inertia standpoint. So Sternberg found one of those big metal turning wheels from a lock on a river that weighs 80 to 100 pounds.

Their original concept was to build bikes with the generators on them, but when they held focus groups with club owners, the owners made it clear they didn’t want to buy all new equipment. They decided to build an attachment. Whelan reports, “We saw that spinning bikes, or the indoor cycles, have a 55-to-60-pound flywheel on the front, so we didn’t have to change a thing. We attach it right to the front wheel of the indoor cycles.” Green Revolution employs a 24-volt system with two 12-volt batteries in series. When a user starts pedaling, the batteries charge, and when they hit 28 volts, the inverter kicks in and sends power to the grid, converting 24-volt DC to 110-volt AC.

For engineering, The Green Revolution uses Gyre 9, an outside consulting firm in nearby Oxford, Connecticut with which they’ve forged a strategic partnership. The full-service engineering firm knows electronics for building circuit boards and electricity for the generators and grid-tied equipment.

Trade Show Attraction
Mike Taggett at Henry Works grew up in Arizona and went to the University of Arizona. “I bounced around in liberal arts and ended up in Latin American studies,” he recalls. He worked as a river guide and started a business making an eyeglass retainer he invented in the off-season called Chum, a little tubular fabric retainer with elastic in the ends. In the late 1980s, “I had the idea for our trade show booth to have a converted exercise machine that would generate electricity so we could power a blender or lights or something just for fun. We made smoothies and stuff.”
Psomas - President & CEO
Human Dynamos connect by a shaft to a single
generator to become a Team Dynamo.

Taggett later came up with the Human Dynamo design, which has a few unique twists. For starters, they added hand cranks to go with the leg cranks to provide a rigorous upper-body workout and generate additional electricity. They’re chained together in the drive train, so the arms and legs spin at the same speed to turn the bike’s 18-inch flywheel. An average person spins the pedals about 60 times a minute, according to Taggett, and this translates to 300 rpm in the flywheel.  A belt then connects the flywheel to the generator, taking the speed up to 1500 rpm.

As another unique aspect, Taggett is testing a way of connecting the machine’s output directly to the power grid without going through the wiring, conduit, and boxes found on other systems. This system is called the Firewheel Inter Grid Generator (FIGG). When a person first gets on a Human Dynamo, the FIGG acts like a motor, taking a small amount of electricity from the grid to power up the bike. Once the pedals begin spinning, the FIGG turns back into a generator, and the controls convert DC power from the generator to AC power, as usual. The twist: power flows through a wall socket into the grid, like plugging in a normal appliance.

Their inverter scheme incorporates silicon-controlled rectifier (SCR) regenerative control, according to Taggett. “These are off-the-shelf control modules used on things like conveyor belts or elevators where the elevator going up is motoring and using power, but the elevator coming down is braking and producing power, but instead of shunting the power to a resistor load bank, the DC power is chopped up into something close to a sine wave and put back into the grid.”

But Taggett likes to talk about perhaps the most innovative concept with his machines, one that has multiple machines driving a single generator -- the team approach. “You really cut down expense and maintenance because you have one big generator and one electronics package for up to 10 machines.” Known as the Team Dynamo, the machines bolt together with a common driveshaft that propels the generator.
Psomas - President & CEO
The generator, inverter, and controls
on the Team Dynamo

Henry Works uses two electronics engineering consultants in designing the Human Dynamo machines, one for circuit board layout and buildup and the other to handle software code (C++). Taggett has worked with industrial designers on the aesthetics of the machines and with another engineer or two on SolidWorks CAD modeling.

In detailing ReRev’s operations, Harr says the firm has a 15,000-square-foot production facility staffed by15 employees, including Keith Beaver, a mechanical engineer, and Dave Desilva, an electrical engineer. They now have 150 machines installed at more than a dozen gyms around the country. They have installed systems at many colleges, with their largest fleet, 30 machines, at Texas State University.

The outlook for electric-power-generating exercise machines looks bright, according to Harr. “It’s been really exciting to see the feedback in the marketplace. I think we’ve got a lot of growth ahead of us.” He actually likes the competition from the other two companies. “Whereas we may be competitors, at the same time, they’re proving a concept out there in the market. It’s just good to have company so we don’t feel alone in the world.”


Clearwater, FL
The Green Revolution
Ridgefield, CT
Henry Works Research and Development
Hurricane, UT

Developers of exercise machines that generate electrical power

Types of engineers they use:
Mechanical and electrical

Outlook for hiring engineers:
ReRev: Hudson Harr, president, reports, “We use a lot of outside consultants, mainly P.E.s that sign and seal drawings or give us an independent review.” Will they hire more engineers? “Oh yeah. That’s a big part of our business, not only new product development and R&D but also making sure our solution fits the space. I can foresee a lot of new hires.”
Henry Works: Mike Taggett, CEO, says he has started a new division called Griffin Materials to make products from recycled rubber and plans to hire engineers more for that than exercise machines. “Our focus now will be more towards chemical engineering and process-related stuff.”

Contact for submitting resumes:
The Green Revolution: Ed Gilchrest, president of Gyre 9,
Henry Works: Mike Taggett, CEO,

Monday, May 14, 2012

Skelly & Loy adds licensed site remediation professional to its staff

Skelly and Loy has hired Robert Kowalczyk, P.E. and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP), to work in the firm’s Geo-Environmental Services Group.

Faced with the challenge of ensuring that more than 20,000 contaminated sites in New Jersey are properly remediated in a timely manner, the NJDEP worked closely with the New Jersey legislature and stakeholders to develop legislation that will dramatically change the process used to conduct environmental investigations and cleanups. On May 7, 2009, New Jersey’s governor signed the Site Remediation Reform Act (SRRA) into law. SRRA established a program to license professionals (LSRPs) with the responsibility to oversee the investigation and remediation of contaminated sites in New Jersey. Effective May 7, 2012, persons responsible for conducting remediation must retain an LSRP and proceed with remediating the site in accordance with the SRRA regulations. Under SRRA, NJDEP approval is no longer required to proceed with remediation, resulting in contaminated sites being cleaned up more quickly and providing a greater measure of environmental protection to the citizens of New Jersey, ensuring that development of underused properties are returned to the tax rolls more quickly.

An environmental engineer with more than 33 years of experience, Kowalczyk has expertise in facility compliance evaluations and managing Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) pre-remedial projects including site inspections and remedial projects such as remedial investigations/feasibility studies, remedial design, and remedial action oversight. Kowalczyk also has experience with road construction projects including conducting environmental studies to identify properties considered environmental concerns, investigations to identify areas of soil and groundwater contamination, preparing remedial action work plans and soil reuse plans, and preparing environmental plans and specifications for the design portion of transportation projects.

Kowalczyk earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Engineering from Pennsylvania State University. In addition to being a NJDEP Licensed Site Remediation Professional, he is OSHA certified for Hazardous Waste Operations & Emergency Response, and is a New York Asbestos Project Designer. Kowalczyk holds Professional Engineer registrations in PA, NJ, DE, MD, and VA.

Celebrating its 43rd year in business, Skelly and Loy is a mid-sized engineering-environmental consulting firm with 6 Mid-Atlantic offices. The firm provides mining, geologic, engineering, environmental, waste management, water resources, and cultural resources services to private and public sector clients throughout the United States and abroad.

Baxter & Woodman promotes Sean O'Dell, P.E. to head of its Infrastructure Department

Baxter & Woodman, Inc. Consulting Engineers has promoted Sean O'Dell, P.E. to manager of the firm's Infrastructure Department. He will take on an expanded role that includes guiding the technical development of infrastructure department staff and providing public sector clients with proactive solutions to underground infrastructure challenges.

O'Dell has 10 years of experience and assists the firm's clients with infrastructure planning and rehabilitation.  He is a member of the firm's Trenchless Technology Committee and has played an integral role designing projects using various methods of trenchless technology over the past five years.

O'Dell is a licensed Professional Engineer in Illinois and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Bradley University. He is nearing completion of a Master of Science degree in Environmental Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology. 

Baxter & Woodman is an employee-owned design firm that provides planning, design, construction, and technology services for water, wastewater, stormwater, and transportation facilities for municipalities, counties, and state agencies. Environmental, geographic information systems (GIS), water and wastewater operations, and advanced technology needs complement the firm's civil engineering expertise. Clients are served from nine regional offices in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.

McMahon Associates hires new project manager for its Taunton, MA office

McMahon Associates, a transportation engineering and planning firm established in 1976, announces the addition of Christine Palmer, P.E., PTOE as a project manager to its New England Transportation Design Department.  A resident of Greene, RI, Palmer draws on over 25 years of professional experience with expertise in transportation and traffic engineering.  With the addition of Palmer, McMahon continues to grow its transportation engineering services and serve client needs throughout the New England market.

Palmer’s engineering experience includes design of roadway reconstruction and rehabilitation projects in both urban and rural settings.  These projects range from complete reconstruction of arterials, including drainage and intersection geometric and signalization improvements, to pavement rehabilitation projects.  Her expertise also includes the evaluation and design of transportation systems using computer technologies and programs.

Palmer is a graduate of Old Dominion University with a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.  She is a professional engineer registered in Rhode Island and Massachusetts as well as a certified Professional Traffic Operations Engineer (PTOE).

McMahon Associates is located in Taunton and downtown Boston, MA with eight additional Mid-Atlantic and Florida regional offices, including the corporate headquarters in Fort Washington, PA.  McMahon’s primary services include transportation planning/traffic studies, highway design and permitting, transit planning and design, traffic signal design and permitting, intelligent transportation systems, geographic information systems, expert witness testimony, land surveying, and construction services for both public and private clients.

Lighting Science Group launches ultra-efficient LED RoadMaster street light

In the global shift towards sustainable LED lighting solutions, Lighting Science Group has announced the launch of its high-performance and feature-rich RoadMaster street light. Currently being installed throughout Puerto Rico, the company's new street light reduces energy costs during its extended operating life, helping governments and communities avoid soaring energy and maintenance costs associated with traditional high-pressure sodium (HPS) street lights. The RoadMaster pays for itself by avoiding just one HPS lamp replacement, let alone the 4-6 traditional street light lamp changes it is expected to avoid over its rated life.

In an historic partnership with the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, approximately 4000 HPS 100- and 150-watt street lights will be replaced with RoadMaster street lights, resulting in a reduction in energy use and maintenance costs of up to 50 percent. The RoadMaster joins Lighting Science Group's full line of roadway products that have been installed around the world, including in Mexico City, Salt Lake City, Sydney, and Washington D.C.

Lighting Science Group Corporation designs, develops, manufactures, and markets LED lighting solutions that are environmentally friendlier and more energy efficient than traditional lighting products.  Lighting Science Group offers retrofit LED lamps in form factors that match the form factor of traditional lamps or bulbs and LED luminaires for a range of applications including public and private infrastructure for both indoor and outdoor applications.  Lighting Science Group's Advanced Projects Group business unit designs, develops, and manufactures custom LED lighting solutions for architectural and artistic projects.  Lighting Science Group is headquartered in Satellite Beach, Florida; the Company's European operations are based in Goes, The Netherlands; and, the Company has a sales office in Sydney, Australia.  Lighting Science Group employs approximately 600 people. More information is available at

Editor's note: See a feature article we ran on Lighting Science Group in Progressive Engineer Magazine at

Michaels Engineering named a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Business by the League of American Bicyclists

Just before Earth Day, the League of American Bicyclists recognized Michaels Engineering as a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Business (BFB). With the announcement of 67 new BFBs, Michaels joins a visionary group of more than 400 businesses, government agencies, and Fortune 500 companies across the United States that are transforming the American workplace.

"Michaels Engineering is at the forefront of a movement to make American businesses more competitive, sustainable, and attractive to the best and brightest employees," says Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists. "An investment in bicycling enhances employee health, increases sustainability, and improves the bottom line."

Bicycle-friendly businesses improve the workplace, contribute to the community, and improve their overall earnings. Being a bike-friendly business means that Michaels encourages employees to include healthy activity in their daily routines. Even on the busiest days, a bike commuter still gets a dose of exercise. Bike riders also reduce congestion during rush hour and have a minimal impact on roads. Michaels Engineering encourages bicycling and provides 
amenities such as a bike rack in a covered and locked location, a shower and changing room, and a maintenance station for employees to use to keep their bikes in good condition. 

"Biking to work is the perfect way to combine exercise, transport, and a bit of unwind-time into one activity," says Chris Pinkowski, a mechanical engineer at Michaels Engineering. "I can bike right up to the office door and park in the building. No parking fees. No parking tickets. A speedy glide through morning traffic. No fuel costs. And at the distance I bike, I'm sure that I could not drive any faster." 

Moving forward, Michaels Engineering will have access to a variety of free tools and technical assistance from the League to become even more bicycle-friendly. 

The League of American Bicyclists promotes bicycling for fun, fitness and transportation, and works through advocacy and education for a bicycle-friendly America. The League represents the interests of America's 57 million bicyclists, including its 300,000 members and affiliates. For more information or to support the League, visit

Michaels Engineering is a group of engineers and scientists with offices in St. Paul, La Crosse, Madison, and Green Bay, WI. Michaels offers expertise in building-related sciences to building owners/operators, governments, schools and colleges, utilities, architects, engineers, and builders.

Jacobs Associates Promotes Four to Principal

Jacobs Associates has announced the promotions of Isabelle Lamb, Gregg Davidson, Dan Dobbels, and Mark Havekost to the position of principal.

Isabelle Lamb, LG is the firm’s first female principal. Her career as a practicing engineering geologist spans more than 20 years and includes tunnel design and geotechnical consulting projects in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. Isabelle is based out of Seattle and is currently serving as project manager for the North Link Light Rail project and Project Director for NTP JV in the ongoing design support of the University Link Light Rail project. She joined Jacobs Associates in 2003 and is a vice president of Jacobs Associates New Zealand Ltd.

Gregg Davidson, PE, CEng has worked in the firm’s Seattle office since 2003 and has 24 years of experience in design, program, and construction management of tunnel and underground projects around the world. These projects have covered transportation, water and wastewater conveyance, and hydropower schemes, using various types of excavation methods. Gregg is currently project manager for the Gorge 2nd Hydropower Tunnel project and works full time on the final design phase of the North Link Light Rail project. He serves as a vice president of Jacobs Associates Canada Corporation.

Dan Dobbels, PE has 28 years of technical and management experience in planning, design, and construction of a variety of geotechnical and underground engineering projects. His experience covers conceptual-level planning and feasibility studies, implementation and reporting of geotechnical investigation programs, detailed design studies and preparation of contract documents, construction phase services, trenchless technology, and claims analysis and evaluation. Dan is project manager for the Ottawa Light Rail Transit project and vice president of Jacobs Associates Canada Corporation. He joined our Boston office in 2009.

Mark Havekost, PE has 19 years of underground industry experience. Mark has extensive project management experience and expertise in design and geotechnical engineering in both rock and soil; pipeline evaluation and design; and conventional tunneling, microtunneling, and directional drilling. He joined Jacobs Associates in 2000 and opened the firm’s Portland office in 2007, where he has been involved in design and construction of several underground components of the City of Portland’s CSO Program. Mark is active in the development of the firm’s hydropower services and currently leads the engineering teams on several hydropower projects, including the Lower Baker Unit 4 Powerhouse, the Gorge 2nd Hydropower Tunnel, and the Boundary Dam Rockfall Mitigation Project.

Jacobs Associates is an engineering firm that provides solutions for difficult underground projects in the water, wastewater, and transportation sectors. With an emphasis on tunnels and shafts, they offer design and construction management capabilities. They also offer the broader heavy civil construction industry claims and dispute resolution services. Jacobs Associates has offices in San Francisco; Seattle; Boston; Pasadena; Portland; New York; Walnut Creek; San Diego; Vancouver, Canada; Auckland, New Zealand; and Melbourne, Australia. For more information, visit

Society of Manufacturing Engineers unveils its annual innovations list

Recognizing that advancement in the way things are made is critical to the success of manufacturing, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) announces its 2012 list of Innovations That Could Change the Way You Manufacture. Selected by SME’s Innovation Watch Committeethe new and emerging technologies on this list are already being used in manufacturing settings and have shown successful implementation. It is expected that many other manufacturers will see the value and will begin adopting these materials and processes into their products in the near future.

“Innovation keeps U.S. manufacturing strong. By constantly re-inventing itself, developing new materials, technologies and processes, manufacturing increases its productivity while creating products that enhance our lives,” says LaRoux Gillespie, 2012 president of the society. “That is why SME is seeking out, acknowledging, and sharing these innovations with the larger manufacturing community.”

The Innovations That Could Change the Way You Manufacture will be a featured session track at the SME Annual Conference June 3-5, 2012 in Cleveland. The conference brings together manufacturing professionals and leaders from throughout North America and beyond who are interested in innovations and exchanging ideas in one place.

2012 Innovations That Could Change the Way You Manufacture

Biomimicry: Manufacturing Inspiration from Nature
Biomimicry takes ideas from nature to inspire designs and processes so that products can be made better and more sustainable. Think of nature as the ultimate engineer. Biomimicry is behind many developments including synthetic gecko tape, strong coatings and materials inspired by abalone, coloration with nanophotonic crystals inspired by peacock feathers, and an artificial leaf that harnesses solar energy. Another example of biomimicry is the hummingbird-inspired nano air vehicle (NAV) that could provide surveillance in many environments. The vehicle demonstrates hover stability in wind gusts, continuous hover without external power, transition from hover to fast forward, and many other abilities of the hummingbird.

Transistors Go 3-D for Greater Performance and Energy Efficiency
The 3D Tri-Gate transistor represents a fundamental departure from the traditional "flat" two-dimensional gate. Using three gates wrapped around the silicon channel in a 3-D structure, current flow is controlled on three sides of the channel rather than just from the top. Because these fins are vertical, transistors can be packed closer together. The new technology enables innovative microarchitectures, system on chip (SoC) designs, and new products. They will first appear in Ivy Bridge-based ultrabooks. Designers will also be able to continue growing the height of the fins to get more performance and energy-efficiency gains.

Economic Machining of Hardened Steels and Super Alloys with Hyper-Carbide Cutting Tools
Hyper-carbides are sintered, metal-matrix composites that differ from traditional carbides in their binder composition. By replacing the traditional binder metal (cobalt) with others such as Re, Mo, Ni and Cr, the composite achieves a much greater hot hardness and thermal resistance, giving the tool an ability to withstand the extreme temperatures and pressures of higher-speed cutting. The resulting performance allows machining at 10 or more times the usual material removal rates. Yet, hyper-carbides are produced using the same basic methods as other carbide tools, resulting in similar tool production costs.

Artificial Body Parts Replaced with Synthetic, Grown Types
Nanotechnology has played a critical role in the first synthetic trachea transplant. A patented nanocomposite was used to form a scaffold exactly the same size and shape as the patient’s own windpipe, which was then seeded with adult stem cells from the patient’s own bone marrow. This innovation is in addition to other methods that are being used to grow or print new body parts. While the list of parts that can be built is limited (bladders, heart valves, etc.), it is imaginable that new parts could be built eliminating the need for things like dialysis machines, artificial hearts, and artificial joints.

Tighter Tolerances on Leading and Trailing Edges with Automated System
An automated profiling system has attained precision levels never reached before, reducing the need for manual inspection and increasing performance and efficiency with tolerances within 50 microns. This also reduces the abrasive material consumption up to 75 percent and allows designers to define more complex shapes on the leading and trailing edges. This adaptive automated process is yields high repeatability, and the system has been benchmarked to eliminate the typical manual final inspection of the edges. The system is currently being used in the production of jet engine parts and is well suited for gas turbines used in generators.

Green Steel Technology Using Scrap Rubber Tires
Traditionally, in electric arc furnace (EAF) steelmaking, scrap is reprocessed using large amounts of nonrenewable fossil fuel. Polymer injection technology mixes plastic and rubber waste, reducing the reliance on coke. The technology reduces carbon emissions, requires less electricity, and reduces the amount of plastic and rubber that ends up in landfills. One Steel, in collaboration with the University of New South Wales, has seen a 3 percent energy reduction, 3 percent productivity improvement, and 10 percent reduction in carbon emissions in test plants. Expanding this to all plants, they estimate the reduction in carbon dioxide would be the equivalent of removing approximately 4,000 cars from the road.

More Good Batches at Lower Cost Using the Model Predictive Control
For batch processing, a multivariate-based model allows for a more accurate analysis and provides process insights not available from other approaches. Using available online multivariate analytics, the model predictive approach can provide immediate and substantial benefits including an increase in the consistency product quality, greater throughput through better yields, and decreased cycle time and outages. During Lubrizol’s first trial at a plant in Rouen, France, 18 input variables, 38 process variables, and four output variables were used. They realized numerous and ongoing benefits including uncovering a fault in the process that went unnoticed through traditional monitoring systems, quickly solving problems and avoiding extended downtime.

Technology that “Sees” into the Future for Lower Energy Production Costs
A predictive header pressure controller adjusts boiler loads to maintain header pressure several minutes into the future. Controlling more like an operator, the system anticipates a change in header pressure, makes an adjustment, waits, then tweaks. The result is substantially reduced fuel costs, which will benefit every energy consumer as well as the environment through efficient consumption of fuels. Through use of the technology, a major pulp mill in Western Canada reduced fossil fuel costs by more than $500,000 per month and reduced electric power imports by $60,000 per month. These savings resulted in a 2.5-percent reduction in pulp production costs.

In reviewing submissions for the Innovations That Could Change the Way You Manufacture, the committee also highlights an Innovation Watch List. These technologies are showing great promise but, as yet, are unproven in the manufacturing setting. This year’s list includes:
  • Fiber optics replacing metal wiring between computer components
  • Quantum locking
  • New methods of color mixing for LED production
  • Semi-solid flow cells for electric cars
  • Artificial photosynthesis to turn sunlight into liquid fuel
  • Aerovoltaic wind technology with no moving parts

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Purdue students' device creates guitar "wah" effect without physical pedal

Electric guitar players soon may be free to walk anywhere on stage during a performance or rehearsal and still activate "wah" pedal-type distortion effects by using technology created by eight Purdue University students. For their senior project, students from Purdue's School of Mechanical Engineering developed the Ghost Pedal, a wireless device that uses sensors attached to the guitar player's foot to create the distortion effect. The conventional wah pedal alters the tone of an electric guitar to create a distinctive effect that mimics the human voice. The Ghost Pedal team includes Garrett Baker, Will Black, Matthew Boyle, Brett Hartnagel, Christine Labelle, Adam Pflugshaupt, Nick Sannella and Robbie Hoye. The students graduated from Purdue in 2011 with Bachelor's degrees.

Hoye says traditional wah pedals limit where guitarists can perform during a concert due to demands of the music. "During a performance, the guitarist uses and changes audio distortions by stepping on pedals. While vocalists and other band members can move around the stage to interact with the audience and each other, the guitarist is often restricted to the space around the pedals," he says. "Because Ghost Pedal is wireless and does not have a physical pedal, guitar players can activate and use their wah distortion effect anywhere on stage at any time. They also have the ability to deactivate the effect whenever they choose."

Hoye says Ghost Pedal is made of two sensors attached to the guitarist's ankle. "The variable resistor sensor records what the user is doing with their ankle, and a sustain sensor either accepts the transmission feed or ignores/sustains it. These signals are conveyed to a microcontroller that uses them to control resistors within the wah circuit, which affects the wah effect. Ghost Pedal uses a digital potentiometer to bridge the gap from a digital circuit to an analog circuit, so audio signals from the guitar always stay in their original analog format. This allows the guitarist to maintain the clearest sound possible." Once Ghost Pedal is turned on, the user enters a 10-second mode during which the variable resistor calibrates the ability to flex the foot from the floor in a normal pedal motion. After calibration mode, the guitarist enters freeplay mode. "During freeplay, the user actively manipulates the wah level by changing their foot's angle from the floor."

While in freeplay mode, the guitarist can hold the resistance level at a constant by tapping the sustain sensor with the other foot. This allows the guitarist to move on stage - jumping, running, spinning - without changing the wah effect. Tapping the sustain sensor a second time puts the guitarist back in freeplay mode, which allows the wah level to be manipulated again.

Hoye says using Ghost Pedal is intuitive. "The calibration mode adapts itself to modify the resistance sensor to each user and their foot flexibility at the touch of a button. Ghost Pedal and traditional wah pedals use the same motion to activate the wah effect; the guitarist doesn't have to learn a new motion. Activating and deactivating the effect by tapping the sustain sensor can be mastered after a few practice attempts."

Although Ghost Pedal was designed with wah capabilities only, Hoye says the device's functionality may be developed further. "Companies that sell distortion effect devices will have the ability to modify Ghost Pedal to play off of any effects unique to their business from stomp box effect pedals to volume control pedals."

The patent-pending Ghost Pedal is available for licensing through Eric Lynch, project manager in the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization, at 765-588-3477,

A video about Ghost Pedal - including Will Black, a member of the Ghost Pedal team, performing with the device - can be viewed at

University of Pittsburgh receives $22 Million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation

The Center for Energy in the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering has received a $22 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, one of the largest private foundation grants in Pitt’s history. The gift will accelerate the research and education efforts of the center, which is dedicated to improving energy technology development and sustainability through the work of more than 70 faculty members and their research teams.

“This region and its citizens have benefited from the transformational impact of the Richard King Mellon Foundation’s philanthropy for more than 60 years,” says Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg. “The foundation’s well-targeted investments in education, conservation, and healthcare, among many other areas, have strengthened Southwestern Pennsylvania’s economy and improved the quality of life in our home community. We at Pitt are deeply grateful for this most recent extraordinarily generous gift from an internationally renowned philanthropic institution that continues to dedicate private support to the public good. Finding ways to deal more effectively with a wide range of energy issues has become both a national priority and a key to regional prosperity. With the support of the Richard King Mellon Foundation, our Center for Energy is well positioned to contribute to our shared progress in this important area.”

The majority of the Richard King Mellon grant will be used to create new faculty positions and graduate fellowships and to establish a fund for spurring innovative research. The grant, which also will support research infrastructure and center operations, is designed to bolster the center’s position as a powerful leader in energy research. “The level of our investment reflects our confidence in the academic and administrative leadership of the University,” says Scott Izzo, director of the Richard King Mellon Foundation. “The center has tremendous potential to make an impact in Pittsburgh, as energy will be the major driver of our regional economy for years to come.”

“After graduating from Pitt’s engineering school, I immediately went to work for Westinghouse and credit much of my success over the course of a long career in the energy industry to the education I received at Pitt,” said Stephen Tritch (ENG ’71, KGSB ’77), chair of the University’s Board of Trustees. “As President and CEO of Westinghouse, I came to more fully appreciate the broader impact of the University, both in developing a well educated work force and as a powerful research partner. The fact that Pitt re-invested in nuclear engineering, a field that most engineering schools had largely abandoned, was an important factor in the decision by Westinghouse to build its new corporate headquarters in Southwestern Pennsylvania, rather than relocating to another part of the country. This remarkably generous grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation will help position Pitt to expand its energy programs in ways that also will advance this region’s strong and growing energy industry.”

 “Energy will be the defining technical, social, and political issue of the next century,” says Gerald Holder, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering at Pitt. “While there are enormous pressures to reduce energy consumption, there will continue to be significant growth in the worldwide demand for energy. The gap between energy consumption and energy production must be met by advances in energy-related technologies, improvements in energy efficiencies, diversification of energy sources to reduce the impact of carbon-based fuels, and training of the scientific and engineering workforce to create the technologies that will address these issues. In that environment, the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Energy is committed to building from its current strengths to be an internationally prominent, university-based energy program, continuing the University’s and the Swanson School’s 100-year tradition of energy-related research.”

Established in 2008, Pitt’s Center for Energy is dedicated to pursuing studies in energy delivery and efficiency, advanced materials for demanding energy technologies, carbon management, and energy diversification. “With this funding, we will be in a much better position to attract top-notch faculty and students to our region,” says Center for Energy Director Brian Gleeson, the Harry S. Tack Chair in Materials Science and a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science in the Swanson School. “This will advance our creative and productive partnerships with regional and national companies, and with national laboratories, particularly our region’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL).”

According to NETL Director Anthony Cugini, NETL has enjoyed a particularly strong collaborative partnership with Pitt’s Center for Energy. “NETL is charged with advancing energy options to fuel our economy, strengthen our security, and improve our environment,” says Cugini. “We are a proactive supporter of educational initiatives at all levels, funding hundreds of research and development projects at U.S. universities to advance energy science and technology and provide a trained workforce for the energy industry of the future. Pitt and the Center for Energy are among our most active collaborative partners in this effort.”   

Expanding on the impact of the Richard King Mellon Foundation’s gift, Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development says, “Pittsburgh is the new center of innovation in American energy. This region is implementing a new model for collaboration across business, government, and academia to maximize its competitive advantages in energy and related industries. Pitt’s Center for Energy has played a key role in these efforts, and we applaud the Richard King Mellon Foundation’s investment in enhancing the University’s capabilities.”

To date, the Swanson School and University of Pittsburgh have invested $50 million in facilities and programs, and faculty members in energy-related disciplines have attracted more than $35 million in sponsored research. Funds from the Richard King Mellon Foundation grant will be payable over three years.

Established in 2008, the Center for Energy is dedicated to improving energy technology development and sustainability, including energy delivery and efficiency, advanced materials for demanding energy technologies, carbon management and utilization, and energy diversification. Joining the Center for Energy is a team of more than 70 faculty members already working in energy research from the Departments of Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Geology, and Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, for the purpose of leveraging their work and expertise. The Center for Energy’s key goals include attracting more world-class faculty to Pitt, training high-level engineers and scientists to work in key areas of energy research, facilitating technology transfer related to energy for economic development, increasing energy support, and raising the stature of our region as a leader in energy.

For more than 60 years, the Richard King Mellon Foundation has invested in the competitive future and quality of life in Southwestern Pennsylvania and in the protection, preservation, and restoration of America’s environmental heritage. The foundation was created in 1947 by Richard King Mellon (1899–1970), president and chairman of Mellon Bank, a conservationist, and leading figure in the financial and civic life of Pennsylvania. With assets of more than $1.7 billion in 2009, the Richard King Mellon Foundation has built on the vision of these founders. The foundation’s current giving priorities primarily serve Southwestern Pennsylvania with a program focus on regional economic development and conservation, along with education and human services and nonprofit capacity building.

The University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering is one of the oldest engineering programs in the United States. The Swanson School conducts basic and applied research in energy systems, bioengineering, microsystems and nanosystems, computational modeling, and advanced materials development. Approximately 120 faculty members serve more than 3,200 undergraduate and graduate students in six departments, including bioengineering, chemical and petroleum engineering, civil and environmental engineering, electrical engineering, industrial engineering, and mechanical engineering and materials science.

Governor Rick Scott appoints William Bracken to Florida Board of Professional Engineers

The Florida State Senate has approved Governor Rick Scott's appointment of William Bracken to the state's Board of Professional Engineers.  A Tampa resident, Bracken is the president and principal engineer of Bracken Engineering, Inc. He fills the vacancy created by the death of H. D. Wallis and is appointed for a term that ends October 31, 2015.

Bracken's career and experience spans more than 23 years and has centered on the practice and instruction of structural engineering and building codes. Within this field, Bracken has conducted and directed design, analysis, and engineering of various types of projects. He has also served as lead investigator on various forensic engineering projects.

As an instructor for the International Code Council, Bracken teaches structural and non-structural code-related classes throughout the world. He is also a subject matter expert to the State of Florida and has developed and taught classes on various building and building code related matters. Bracken works with local and state fire services acting as an Urban Search & Rescue Structural Specialist and continues to work closely with the University of South Florida to promote its College of Engineering. "I am honored and excited at the opportunity to serve on the Board at a time when our profession is at a crossroads," Bracken says. "I look forward to working with such a committed team to build upon their momentum and the successes they have achieved."

Bracken Engineering provides a broad range of consulting solutions with expertise ranging from forensic, geotechnical, and structural engineering to construction and disaster support. Their team of experts work with a wide range of property types, including commercial, residential, municipal, industrial, and agricultural. They address building code, public safety, cost, and risk management issues for the insurance, legal, construction, and real estate industries. For more information, visit

The Florida Board of Professional Engineers was established under Chapter 471, Florida Statutes and consists of eleven members. The Florida Legislature found it necessary, in the interest of the public health and safety, to regulate the practice of engineering in the State of Florida and created Chapter 471, Florida Statutes, and the Engineering Registration Law.  Under this law, the Florida Board of Professional Engineers is responsible for reviewing applications, administering examinations, licensing qualified applicants, and regulating the practice of engineering throughout the state. All members are appointed by the Governor for terms of four years each.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

New profile posted: Rich McFarland invents the Draft Simulator to test furnace pressure switches and starts a company to market it

Rich McFarland

HVAC technician invents an instrument to test pressure switches in furnaces and goes entrepreneurial with it

Rich McFarland

Rich McFarland has worked in the HVAC Industry for 30 years as an installer, service technician, and manager, and he has owned heating and air conditioning companies. “In my background, I trained mostly from the military -- schematics, electronics,” he reveals. “I’m not an engineer per se, but I am an engineer at heart. I’ve been inventing stuff all my life.”

This eclectic mix of skills has led McFarland, 59, on a parallel path to engineering and set the stage for him to parlay his knack for inventing to becoming an entrepreneur marketing a product he developed. Good Day Tools, a new company in Cincinnati, Ohio, has started production of its Draft Simulator, invented by McFarland and co-owner Gene Warren. Along the way, McFarland has made the business a family affair, as Gene is his son-in-law and son Matt works as an IT person and bookkeeper.

The trio predicts the device will have major implications in the world of furnaces and boilers. There may be a few naysayers, but McFarland reports, “it has been extremely well received. It’s just unbelievable. We’ve gotten a lot of kudos across the United States. It’s grown fast in popularity.”

Just what is a Draft Simulator? The hand-held, battery-operated instrument can calibrate adjustable pressure switches and test switches, procedures that until now involved crude tests such as the breath test and using a syringe to simulate vacuum. The instrument produces a sustainable vacuum pressure from 0 to 100 inches of water column with the twist of a knob. This allows HVAC technicians to simulate the pressures draft inducers produce on induced draft furnaces while determining when pressure switches open and close, all without a furnace running. To use the Draft Simulator, you connect cables and hoses from the instrument to the pressure switch and a digital manometer, which measures pressure. This can be done with the switch mounted on or separate from the furnace.

A furnace pressure switch, which has a diaphragm and microswitch inside, serves a safety function by sensing pressure inside the furnace and only letting electric current flow when the pressure is normal. If the pressure should reach a dangerous level, the switch will shut off the electrical current to prevent damage. As an example of what can happen, if a furnace runs while the flue or heat exchanger is partially blocked, carbon monoxide poisoning or a deadly fire can result. Furnaces may contain several different types of pressure switches in residential, commercial, institutional, and industrial applications.

“I’m a military brat. I grew up everywhere. I was born in El Paso, Texas,” McFarland says in detailing his background. He too went in the military. “I was trained in aviation ordnance, so we built bombs and missiles. Had a great time with that.” After that, he attended San Bernardino Valley College in California for heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration. He didn’t stay the course, though, because he was young and married, and he ventured east and got his first job in heating and air conditioning in Virginia. He went to various other schools and got on-the-job training. He owned two companies, Alpine Heating in Cincinnati and All Seasons in Portsmouth, Ohio, and also worked for other companies.

Design Arises from Frustration
Work on the Draft Simulator started in 2003 when, McFarland recalls, “I became frustrated with the number of pressure switches we had. We had at least 50 pressure switches on our truck, and it took up a lot of space. It never failed; you’d always have the wrong one.” Working with a couple of local HVAC supply warehouses, he determined that there was no way to set a universal pressure switch. “So I thought, ‘there’s got to be a better way.’ I started designing a device to calibrate adjustable pressure switches.”
With co-owner and co-inventor Gene Warren looking on, McFarland demonstrates the Draft Simulator on a furnace.
With co-owner and co-inventor Gene Warren looking on, McFarland demonstrates the Draft Simulator on a furnace.

Gene Warren got involved then, helping McFarland with the design. An auto mechanic who worked a short time at Ford Motor Company, Warren is mechanically inclined and proved instrumental in developing the tool. Work took place in their shop and Gene’s basement.

“We actually started with an aquarium pump and reversed it to create a vacuum.” McFarland says in recalling their design methodology. “We had to regulate that flow, as that is the most important part of the tool.” This allows you to maintain pressure, which is hard to do when you’re drawing a vacuum. “It was trial and error to figure out exactly the right size tubing, connections, orifice, and everything inside to get this to work right. It took quite some time.”

McFarland was working for Potts Heating and Air at the time, and he and Gene approached his boss Bill Potts to demonstrate the tool and see if he wanted in on the action. They needed someone to pay for their venture, and Potts said yes, so they started looking for ways to build and sell the tool. They hired an attorney and started patent procedures.

With the concept proven, designing the Draft Simulator for production became a daunting exercise in juggling all the components, often against cost. This included the pump, enclosure, valve for adjusting airflow, and batteries. They tried units with and without a digital manometer built in, finally settling on a design without it. “It’s funny, every time we feel like it’s going to sell or work out, it fails. At times, we gave up and tried to put it to bed, but this thing has a mind of its own,” McFarland says.

Having accomplished the next level of design, McFarland and Warren set out to sell their concept to a tool manufacturer, approaching several in the process. Some would express interest at first but then back out later for various reasons. One manufacturer required that they buy 1000 units. Bill Potts was tapped out, having invested over $30,000 trying to get this up and running. Then they met another investor. They found a company near Cincinnati to manufacture the units, and McFarland points out that most of the parts are made in the United States, including the molded plastic housing.

Offers Several Advantages
In telling what the Draft Simulator offers, McFarland explains, “You will always have the right pressure switch, even in the middle of the night. You can reduce inventory by stocking just adjustable pressure switches and a few OEMs for the warranty furnaces.” He continues, “Pressure Switches are the most misdiagnosed controls in today's furnaces. In fact, we had one manufacturer of furnaces state that over 90 percent of pressure switches returned under warranty tested fine. You consider that quantity, we’re talking millions of dollars in loss with pressure switches.” HVAC contractors and wholesalers can save time and money in the entire supply chain by reducing callbacks and finding faulty pressure switches that appear to work fine.

While most pressure switches can be adjusted, they are only meant to be factory pre-set to a particular brand of furnace. “You could have dozens upon dozens of OEM pressure switches. It’s a nightmare stocking all these or going to get them,” McFarland says.

A truly adjustable, or universal, type of pressure switch does exist, but it is only meant for emergency use. You can install one in the middle of a cold night for the furnace to run, say, until you can come back and replace it with the right switch. McFarland says this can be dangerous because you don’t know exactly what pressure you set the switch for. With the Draft Simulator, you can set the switch exactly where it’s supposed to be and forget it. You don’t have to come back. “You can now use an adjustable pressure switch like a regular preset switch because you can set it accurately.”

Pressure switches commonly see use on induced draft furnaces. A furnace draft inducer blower is a relatively new component of modern furnaces that became part of heating units after the government mandated efficiency standards. A typical draft inducer blower lies in the gas burner compartment of a furnace and consists of a motor-driven wheel assembly or fan. The flame originates at the burners and is drawn into the heat exchanger by the negative pressure produced by the draft inducer. A pressure switch attached to the draft motor by a small tube senses the negative pressure created by the draft inducer. By improving the quality of air moving through the furnace, the draft inducer blower helps improve efficiency of the system.

McFarland and his partners got a patent on the Draft Simulator three years ago and lined up an investor last year. They’ve attended a host of trade shows to spread the word about it. A handful of supply houses in the United States and Canada carry the Draft Simulator, and they’ve gotten interest from other countries.

In reflecting on the process, McFarland says, “It’s very exciting to see something come to fruition, especially when you look back to nine years ago, on the drawing board, sitting there trying to figure out how to make it work.” With his ex-boss Bill Potts as one of his partners, McFarland now concentrates fulltime on his entrepreneurial endeavor, hoping to reap the rewards and leave a big mark on the HVAC industry.

For more information on Good Day Tools and the Draft Simulator,