Engineering at Nebraska, Spring 2009
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From the Dean Front and Center Features Whole lotta shakin' goin' on NSF Career award aids Schubert's research Self-aligning carbon nanotubes: key to next-generation devices? E-Week Excites Best of both worlds Accomplishments Class Notes Alumni profiles After hours credits Donate Send Us News Archives blank
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E-Week Excites


By Carole Wilbeck

EWeek PhotosE-Week 2009 celebrated 96 years at the UNL College of Engineering with a focus on fun and the future.

The April 20-24 event, co-chaired by seniors Ericka Amborn and Garrett Hummel, started Sunday night with the halls of the Lincoln engineering complex turned into a mini-golf course. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers stole that show with their mini-Baja vehicle converted into a putting challenge.

Other weeknight activities included dodgeball and pitch tournaments, and Thursday night crowned UNL's first "Mr. Engineer" in a competition at the Lincoln campus City Union ballroom (Ms. Engineer contestants were also welcome). From a field of nine entrants representing a variety of majors, three of the finalists were Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering students. (Congratulations to 2009 Mr. Engineer, Keith Rodenhausen, Jr. with CHME!) Scavenger Hunt and Quiz Bowl events completed the schedule.

Food flowed throughout the week with a root beer keg kick-off (and opportunity to "Pi" an engineer), an international dinner, and a Faculty Flip, with professors cooking pancakes for students near the Engineering Library one morning.

The theme for this year's E-Week, Inventing the Future, was strongly displayed at the annual Open House with Senior Projects and Graduate Students' Symposium, highlighting research and developments from the college's Lincoln and Omaha locations that included "smart house" technology, water treatment refinements, and nanomaterials expertise. Friday's Open House also featured keynote speaker Gary Gates, CEO of Omaha Public Power District, on the Future of Power Generation (and how engineering shapes that).

The College of Engineering thanks the 500+ guests who attended, especially groups from local schools who joined in engineering ping-pong ball launchers and egg drop devices. The college also appreciated the event sponsors and student organizers, who help ensure E-Week's success.

OPPD president empowers engineering audience
By J.S. Engebretson

F1f1Gary Gates, CEO of Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), can talk about energy all day. And as the keynote speaker at the College of Engineering's annual E-Week in April, Gates impressed and enlightened the audience with his knowledge.

Gates, who has a master's degree in industrial engineering from UNL as well as an MBA from Creighton University, challenged students to consider a career in the energy field and stressed their roles in the future.

"We're here now raising the issues concerning energy, consumption, and renewables. But we need the students to be the ones asking questions and helping to create solutions," he said. "We set the stage, but you'll [youth] be the closers."

f2Gates has worked at OPPD since 1972 and was named president and CEO in 2004. He pointed out how rapidly changes do occur in the energy field, from differences in consumption and costs to distribution. He noted one of the main issues energy companies are grappling with is when and how to constrain energy consumption.

"Efficiency is the quickest solution to saving energy, but it takes behavioral changes," he said.

Gates discussed the concept of a "smart grid," and noted that many people already assume that some type of smart system for monitoring and controlling energy consumption is already in place. "It's not yet here," he said. "It's an innovation that will take the next generation to get working."

A smart grid system could control individual thermostats in people's homes, Gates said, and while most people would not even notice the small changes in temperature, it would lessen the loads on the system, especially during peak times.

Mostly, this type of system will have to "overcome the psychological aspects" of outside control, he noted, and said he felt the new generation will be more open to these types of controls.

f3Gates' presentation touched on several types of energy and possible innovations. From plug-in hybrid cars, coal, superconductivity cables, wind power, nanostorage, off-shore wind generation, hydro and tidal power, and advanced nuclear energy, he featured ideas that engineers and scientists are pursuing to create better methods for energy use.

Gates closed his remarks by once again encouraging the high school and college students in attendance to choose engineering, "one of the greatest professions."

f4"Our challenge is that the people in the U.S. have so much faith in engineering and technological advances, and they just believe they will happen," he said. "As an engineer, your opinion will be respected, and I can't think of a better position to be in."

"I'm confident that future generations will solve these energy problems and innovate."