A Program Management Information System for Managing Urban Renewals

By: Sara Chauvette

Photo by: Patricurcio

This paper is available for 1 PDH credit towards your PE license

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Out to Sea: Wind Turbines and the Ocean Breeze

By: Kaylee Verhoeven

Wind energy has been used for more than two thousand years. Since its discovery, wind energy has been crucial to farmers and ranchers that use windmills for pumping water and grinding grain. Today wind energy is mostly used to generate electricity through the use of turbines. The need for environmentally safe renewable energy has led engineers to research and develop large-scale wind farms. The very first offshore wind farm was installed off the coast of Denmark in 1991. Since that time, commercial-scale offshore facilities have been operating in shallow waters around the world. Offshore winds tend to blow harder and more consistently than on land with the highest wind speeds occurring further out to sea and at greater depths. The current bottom fixed offshore turbines, with foundations in the seabed, have depth restraints and cannot harness the higher wind speeds found further out to sea.

Harnessing deep sea wind requires engineers to develop new foundations so the turbines can reach greater depths. Turbines must be able to withstand hurricane-force winds, storm waves and in some cases-ice flows. Several construction approaches have been established but there is yet to be a stand out development. To get deep sea platforms up and running quickly, one common strategy has been to build the structures at onshore shipyards. This boosts local economies as well as lowering the cost of production by using local resources. The turbines can then be towed out to deep water and once on location, can then be hooked up to pre-installed mooring chains. A single connection point and power transmission cable allows the platform to be connected and running quickly with little disruption to ocean life.

Seafloor ecosystems have been monitored closely during the whole process of introducing stationary wind turbines to each location’s environment. Current research has determined that the largest impact has been during the construction phase. Stationary turbines use pile driving to install poles into the ocean floor, which causes marine mammals to leave their habitats due to the loud sound pulses. This is remedied by conducting construction on land for the floating turbines which lower environmental effects considerably. Researchers say it’s still too early to draw conclusions but by disturbing the ocean floor less, floating wind turbines will be the go-to for future wind farms.

https://horizon-magazine.eu/article/offshore-wind-farms-test-business-deep-water.html


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Thermogalvanic Effect: Harnessing Waste Heat

By: Kaylee Verhoeven

The discovery of fire was a turning point in human history, it offered portable warmth, light, protection, and a new way of preparing food. It was also one of mankind’s most successful attempts to harness energy. Because energy is almost always lost in the harvesting phase, researchers around the world have spent decades seeking ways to harness this wasted energy.

Researchers at MIT and Stanford have found a new way to transform waste heat into electricity. Electricity is considered high-grade energy because it can be converted into other forms of energy for use and storage without significant losses. Thermal energy is low-grade energy, which means that attempts to transform heat back into other forms of energy is costly and inefficient. Most of the time, thermal energy is written off as waste heat and released into the environment. Converting low-grade energy back into high-grade energy is an uphill battle, but there are new thermoelectric products that could be our best bet. Efficient and low-cost thermal energy-harvesting systems are needed to utilize the tremendous low-grade heat sources.

The new technology uses available materials and could be used to recycle the large amounts of wasted heat generated in industrial processes and electric power plants. The new system allows waste heat to raise the temperature of a battery, and thanks to the thermogalvanic effect, the battery can now be charged at a lower voltage than would normally be required. The battery is then cooled down, and because the charging voltage is lower at high temperatures than at low temperatures, once it has cooled the battery can deliver more electricity than what was used to charge it. That extra energy, of course, does not just appear from nowhere: it comes from the heat that was added to the system.

Imagine the potential of thermoelectric-powered devices, Engineers are working diligently to find the most cost-effective approach and I don’t know about you but just the possibility of charging a cell phone by using body heat is something to look forward to!


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The Future of “Big Data” Engineers

By: Kaylee Verhoeven

Data scientists have been the statistical wizards in the software world for years. They are the ones working with data sets, doing feature engaging and building features. These high demand professionals are what companies need to get into the world of “Big Data”. Recently companies have added data engineers to the ranks as their skills are necessary to complete the chain of work for data scientists. Data engineers manipulate, transform and clean the raw data so that the data scientists can use it. The demand for professionals with these skills is astronomical and there just isn’t enough supply to meet the demand. Companies are having to get creative and re-imagine job objectives and requirements.

For many companies, the ideal ratio is 2 data engineers for every 1 data scientist, which is nearly impossible to achieve in the current job market. The supply does not fulfill the demand which means those that have the skill set are making big bucks with starting salaries in the $100,000 and above range. Companies are realizing they are not just paying to save time, but also paying for expert assurance that there isn’t anything wrong that could go unnoticed. If the company doesn’t have the engineers they need and only have data scientists, they are not going to have full usage of the data they collect. The typical issue is that a data scientist might build an algorithm in a development environment, but they’re not able to run it on a cluster in a large data set. Therefore, someone else needs to create the tools that don’t already exist, which is why the role of a data engineer is essential.

Organizations often assume they will pick up data engineering experience as they work their way through a project, but they’re usually wrong. In response to the shortage, companies started looking for a completely new type of engineer. Enter machine learning engineers, a cross between a data engineer and data scientist. Companies that are looking for machine learning engineers want someone who is not only good at the data science aspects of machine learning but also good at building and running systems. They will need specific hard-earned, on-the-ground experience with building a data pipeline, data management systems, data analytics, and all of the intermediate code to make the data available and accessible. They must also assure that the data is correct. Desperate companies hope that combining the two specialties will solve the shortage problem and streamline the work to be done. Only time will tell.


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A Bi-Directional Method for Bionic Design

By: Kaylee Verhoeven

This paper is available for 2 PDH credits towards your PE license

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