WABI (Channel 5) reported on the Big Gig, a program designed to bring together innovators and entrepreneurs in the Orono-Bangor area and offer networking opportunities. The program was started by a partnership between the University of Maine, the towns of Old Town and Orono, and Husson University. The Big Gig includes a series of live pitching events with a chance to win prize money. The first event takes place at Verve in Orono on Oct. 22.
Archive for the ‘Economic Development’ Category
University of Maine College of Engineering Dean Dana Humphrey was quoted in the Maine Public Broadcasting Network article “Maine higher education leaders gear up for bond campaigns.” Humphrey said there are still plenty of STEM jobs to fill in Maine, even with the high placement rate of graduates. He said in the past nine months, there were 1,200 job postings for engineers in Maine.
Growing up in Saco, Maine, Francie Foehrenbach was determined to figure out how things worked.
“I loved to build stuff and there was no toy that I hadn’t ripped apart,” says Foehrenbach, now a senior mechanical engineering major at the University of Maine.
She’s resolutely pursued her interests and strengths. Foehrenbach learned AutoCAD (software application for computer-aided design and drafting) at vocational school and, prior to her senior year at Thornton Academy, she attended Consider Engineering — UMaine’s Pulp & Paper Foundation’s free four-day summer program on campus.
Foehrenbach earned a scholarship to UMaine and is now gaining hands-on training at Woodard & Curran, a 700-employee engineering, science and operations company that specializes in projects for municipalities, industries, colleges, real estate companies, and food and beverage manufacturers.
“It is the best experience you can have and the knowledge gained far surpasses any theoretical knowledge taught in a lecture,” she says of the internship, which has led to a full-time engineering job at Woodard & Curran after graduation.
Dana Humphrey, dean of the College of Engineering, says a key priority of the College of Engineering is to connect students with meaningful internships.
“This allows students to apply their engineering skills in the real world and to ‘test drive’ a company to see if they would like to make their career there,” Humphrey says. “Moreover, the companies get to ‘test drive’ our students.
“Given how many companies come back year after year for more interns, they clearly like UMaine graduates,” Humphrey says. “Companies report that they have 80 percent long-term retention of UMaine engineers who started as interns. This is clearly a win-win for our students and employers.”
And a lot of UMaine students are getting in on the action. In the UMaine College of Engineering, upward of 80 percent of undergraduates are involved in internships and co-ops as part of their academic experience.
UMaine senior Christopher Cronin is part of that 80 percent. He works a few cubicles away from Foehrenbach in Woodard & Curran’s fifth-floor office overlooking downtown Bangor.
“Meeting other engineers, whether they have one year of experience or 30, is extremely helpful because I am able to learn something new every time,” says Cronin, a civil engineering major and construction management minor.
The Canton, Maine, native has participated in a number of projects at Woodard & Curran, including sizing storm water pipes, working on erosion control plans, contacting state agencies and assisting with the renovation of a building.
Sarah Lingley, a 2010 UMaine graduate who mentored Cronin last summer at Woodard & Curran, agrees with Humphrey that internships are beneficial for all involved. She interned two summers at Woodard & Curran before joining the firm full time after she graduated. “The best way to get a job is for someone to remember your face (and) name,” she says.
Internships give students “a chance to explore different areas of civil engineering to see if they have a preference that they would like to specialize in,” says Lingley, who designs, does cost estimates, develops bid documents and oversees construction. “And maybe most important, it provides them with an invaluable networking opportunity.”
Mentors benefit, says the Machias native, because in addition to getting help with their workload, they share knowledge they’ve amassed with interns who are eager to learn.
“It really makes the mentors reflect on how much they have learned since school,” says Lingley. “Also, in my experience, interns have open minds as they have not necessarily been taught how to do everything yet, and when allowed the opportunity, can find better ways to execute tasks than the sometimes old-fashioned way things are typically done.”
And, Lingley says, internships are a marketing tool for companies seeking to hire the best and brightest prospects. “If the students have a great internship, they talk about it at school, and nothing is better than word-of-mouth marketing,” she says. “It takes time and effort to make an internship valuable, but it is worth it for both parties in the end. The intern I mentored worked out so well that he came back again this year.”
Nathan McLaughlin, Cronin’s mentor this summer, is glad Cronin returned. “Chris is a good example of the quality product UMaine produces,” says McLaughlin, a 1998 UMaine graduate from Old Town. “We’re lucky to have him. He’s going to be a great engineer.”
Internships give companies the chance to “test drive potential new hires,” says Cindy Daigle, a 1997 UMaine grad and process engineer at Texas Instruments in South Portland. “The program also builds bridges between schools and industry, allowing two-way continuous improvement of curriculums,” says Daigle, who majored in chemical engineering.
Students, she says, see how textbook learning applies in the real world and can be motivated to take specialty classes when they return to school. “It’s also a chance to start building a professional network,” says the Madawaska native.
Lacie Kennedy interned at National Semiconductor (now Texas Instruments) when she was majoring in chemical engineering at UMaine. Since graduating in 2002, Kennedy has worked as a plasma etch process engineer at Texas Instruments, a global semiconductor design and manufacturing company.
“Having internships during college helped confirm that I had made the right choice in my major, and also really improved my confidence level for entering the workforce after graduation,” she says. “I knew that I’d be able to get to work right away and make a contribution to the company because I already had a lot of training behind me.”
And, she says, nothing tops being around other engineers. The College of Engineering felt like one big family,” says the graduate of Deering High School. “It was helpful living on an engineering floor in my dorm the first two years because I was around people who understood my workload, and it was easy to work on projects together and form study groups. Eleven years later, most of my closest friends are people I met at UMaine in engineering classes.”
Kennedy says a similar sense of cooperation exists with her co-workers. “You might not think of engineering as being a very social job, but at a 24-7 manufacturing facility, it is. We constantly have to work with other engineers, manufacturing technicians and equipment technicians in order to solve problems,” she says.
“My group, in particular, has a wonderful camaraderie and we help each other out every single day. TI really promotes teamwork across sites, so I’ve had the chance to work with groups from Texas, Japan and Europe.”
Each year, UMaine’s Engineering Job Fair affords students an ideal opportunity to make connections with firms seeking interns and employees. In 2012, more than 900 UMaine students and nearly 80 companies attended the event. The fair’s popularity has increased exponentially since the inaugural fair in 2000 when 83 students and 13 employers participated.
“Many of the employers who participate in the Engineering Job Fair are alumni of the University of Maine and they enjoy returning to Orono to recruit new talent for their organizations,” says Patty Counihan, director of the UMaine Career Center.
“In fact, we now have participating employers who lined up their first jobs with their companies as a result of attending the Engineering Job Fair when they were UMaine students. Their participation has gone full circle, from being a job-seeking student to being a hiring manager or recruiter for their company.”
David Hart, a 2013 UMaine graduate and a full-time test engineer at Texas Instruments, says attending the Engineering Job Fair was instrumental for him to secure an internship, then a dream job.
“Fall semester junior year, I was taking Electronics I, which was my first in-depth course in semiconductor fundamentals,” says Hart. “I enjoyed the material, which began to interest me in the semiconductor industry.”
At the Engineering Job Fair, the Portland, Maine, resident met Kim Millick, a former Texas Instruments human resources manager. Hart handed her his resume, an interview followed during a school break and he was hired for an internship that summer.
“An internship is a great opportunity for you to get your foot in the door with a company. It may also help you figure out what you do and don’t like, as well as where you may want to work in the future,” says Hart.
“Interning was a great opportunity for me to become familiar with technical things and people I am now working with in my full-time job. It also helped me understand how a large company works, which made the transition into my full-time job that much easier.”
The 2013 Engineering Job Fair is in October at the New Balance Student Recreation Center.
Six students from the University of Maine’s College of Engineering have been awarded Center for Undergraduate Research Fellowships for 2012-13.
The fellowships were developed to enhance and increase undergraduate student involvement in faculty-supervised research, and are supported through a PRE-VUE grant awarded by the University of Maine’s President’s Office. Each fellowship provides a $1,000 award for the student, and up to $1,000 in more funding, if needed, to cover costs associated with the project.
The students’ research areas involve a variety of engineering topics — from studying extreme rainfall and climate change to optimizing power conversion for wave energy converter systems.
Graphene potential: A sophomore in engineering physics with a concentration in electrical and computer engineering, Beauchemin is researching a graphene-based electrochemical sensor. Her research focuses on graphene’s electrical characterization and its potential for use in single-molecule sensors. Graphene is a single-layer graphite — a hexagonal lattice of carbon atoms — and has properties of high conductivity and strength that give it potential in the area of electronics. Beauchemin has produced graphene, and hopes to identify it optically and electrically. She plans to test its possibility as a sensor for nanopore DNA encoding research by her adviser, electrical and computer engineering professor Rosemary Smith.
Building skills: Beauchemin says the fellowship has given her the opportunity to work in a lab with faculty she admires, and has helped strengthen her research and laboratory skills. “I work in the Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology (LASST) in Barrows, and there is a lot of intimidating equipment there, but Dr. Smith has been there to answer all my questions and assist me when needed,” Beauchemin says. “There are times at which I feel less experienced than the graduate students I work with, but I feel lucky to begin building my skills as an undergrad, so when I go to grad school, I will be well-prepared for research.”
Engineering Expo: Beauchemin, from Saco, Maine, cites UMaine’s annual Engineering Expo in Gorham and Orono as the springboards for deciding to study engineering at UMaine. “It is a great display of the diversity of programs at the school and is a great way to get children interested in science and engineering,” she says. “I have always loved math and science, and engineering is a great way to apply my interests.”
Future plans: Graduate school for electrical engineering is in sight for Beauchemin, who is interested in solid state physics and semiconductors. She hopes to work in the field of semiconductors.
Extreme rainfall: A sophomore in civil and environmental engineering, Dandy is working on climate change adaptation for his research project, “Extreme Rainfall in a Changing Climate: Developing New Methodologies to Inform Infrastructure Design.” He is analyzing past extreme precipitation and hurricane data for the East Coast, and is writing computer programs to help predict future extreme flood events to inform better infrastructure design. ~
Challenging himself: The Los Angeles, Calif., native chose engineering because he has always excelled at math and likes a challenge. “I enjoy challenging myself with course material that interests me,” says Dandy, noting that he chose UMaine for its reputation as an engineering school.
Pursuing research: Dandy says the fellowship gives him the opportunity to pursue research in the field that he finds most interesting. “It is very interesting to observe the entire process involved, and see everyone’s input toward a project,” says Dandy, who works with civil and environmental engineering professor Shaleen Jain. Dandy has presented his research at the National Council for Undergraduate Research Conference in LaCrosse, Wis., and published a research article.
Graduate school: Dandy plans to study water resource engineering or hydrology in graduate school.
Genetic sequencing: A sophomore in electrical and computer engineering and a student in the Honors College, Nolan has been working on a nanopore gene sequencing project in the Microinstruments and Systems Laboratory. “Our objective is to translocate single-stranded DNA through a nanopore and electrically identify individual nucleotides as they pass through,” Nolan says. “If we could fine-tune the process well enough, it has potential to replace traditional methods of genetic sequencing, as it is a faster and cheaper alternative to current commercial approaches.” Nolan says the bulk of his research has been in “optimizing the recipe we use to make the carbon nanoelectrodes for our electrical measurements.”
Invaluable asset: Nolan, from Camden, Maine, says he did not imagine that he would have this kind of opportunity to do research as an undergraduate. “I was excited to earn a lab position here at the university, pleased with the cutting-edge facilities and meaningful projects, and thrilled to subsequently receive a research fellowship,” he says. “It has been an invaluable asset to my research, and I greatly appreciate the opportunity.” He says research has been “an enjoyable, meaningful way to work during the summer and supplement coursework during the academic year.”
Combining strengths: When deciding where to attend college, Nolan knew he wanted a school with a solid curriculum and scholarship opportunities. “With UMaine’s renowned engineering program, merit scholarships and research positions, it offers a great balance between quality education, professional opportunity and affordability,” Nolan says. He views engineering as a chance to learn interesting, dynamic material while combining his strengths. “It is a discipline where I can combine my natural creativity with my knack for science and mathematics, and the way engineering continues to be shaped by — and to evolve with — the modern world, ensures that it stays relevant and integral to our society,” he says.
Role models: Nolan says his research would not have been possible without the guidance of Institute for Molecular Biophysics research engineer Justin Millis and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Rosemary Smith. “Justin has shown me the ropes in the clean room and consistently provided great project advice,” Nolan says. “Rosemary always manages to find the time and the patience, despite her busy schedule, to sit down with me and explain the answers to all of my questions.”
Continuing education: Nolan says he plans to attend graduate school after completing his undergraduate studies. “I strive to become the best engineer I can be, and after graduate school will probably look to move into industry,” he says. Nolan says he is interested by both the electrical and computer aspects of his major, but sees himself leaning toward computer engineering.
Power conversion: A senior in electrical engineering, Nuzzo is working on optimizing power conversion for wave energy converter (WEC) systems. He has been designing printed circuit boards that will be used with a mechanical prototype WEC designed by the Mechanical Engineering Department. Nuzzo’s work, which involves converting DC power to AC power using an inverter he designed, will help convert power produced by WEC, as well as control it to optimize system performance. The research is an example of multiple departments at UMaine working together to find new methods for harnessing renewable energy resources, Nuzzo says.
Practical experience: The fellowship has helped Nuzzo gain practical experience in the power electronics field. The Litchfield, Maine, native says, through the fellowship, he has developed significant skills in printed circuit board design that are essential for his engineering work.
Early fascination: Nuzzo says he chose to study engineering because he has always been interested in building. “I’ve known since I was young that I wanted to study electrical engineering because it would allow me to understand how all my toys — that I took apart — worked,” Nuzzo says. He has since become interested in renewable energy and he sees electrical engineering as a key to innovation in that area. He chose to study at UMaine because of its “well-regarded engineering program and its financial benefits for Maine residents.”
Difficult but rewarding: Nuzzo, who has been working with electrical and computer engineering professor Nathan Weise, says research as an undergraduate is a fun, different type of work than what you do in the classroom. “Working on research between classes can be difficult but also rewarding,” Nuzzo says. “I enjoyed working closely with my professor and learning the tricks of the trade rather than working problems from a book.”
Working in the field: After graduation, Nuzzo says he will be working full time at Pika Energy, a start-up company in Gorham, Maine, where he interned last summer and learned about inverter design.
Improving usability: Osti, a junior in computer engineering from Kathmandu, Nepal, is researching alternative ways to interact with visualizations walls. Visualization walls are made up of many monitors that act as a single monitor and are usually used to display scientific data. Osti’s research mainly involves using Microsoft’s Kinect to find alternative input devices in place of a mouse or keyboard. “Since the total screen size of visualization walls is big, using a keyboard or mouse would mean that the user would have to stay close to the screen and would not be able to see much because of the size of the wall,” Osti says. “This creates a need for a different kind of input device that allows users to easily navigate the huge screen as would a mouse in a single-monitor screen.” Osti says the plan is to build a wireless device for users to navigate the walls.
Solving problems: Osti says he has long been interested in computer programming and creating things to solve problems. He transferred to UMaine from a Tennessee school during his first year because of the College of Engineering’s well-known academic programs. “I felt that I would get more opportunities and greater exposure here,” Osti says.
Valuable experience: Osti, who has been working with electrical and computer engineering professor Bruce Segee, says the fellowship has allowed him to learn a lot beyond the classroom through research as an undergraduate.
Implementing knowledge: Osti is undecided about his plans after graduation. “I would love to work on something interdisciplinary that requires implementing my knowledge of engineering in a different field like medicine or chemistry,” he says.
Detecting explosives: A junior in electrical engineering from Nashua, N.H., Pugliano is researching the optimization of a lateral field excited (LFE) sensor that she hopes will be able to detect peroxide-based explosives. “An LFE sensor is basically a wafer of AT-cut quartz crystal with electrodes deposited on one side, leaving the other side of the crystal bare,” she says. “The electrodes excite the crystal’s transverse shear mode with an electric field. Using equipment like a network analyzer, the crystal’s response can be measured. The response can be affected by the environment, such as gases and liquids that come in contact with the bare surface. This indicates that the LFE device may be sensitive enough to detect the gases emitted by dangerous chemicals.” Pugliano also is working to find a new method for measuring the LFE device’s response.
Strength to persevere: “The fellowship means that other people believe in me and my research, which is encouraging,” she says. “While research can be exciting, it can also be frustrating. When I am frustrated, I remember that there are other people who have faith in me, and it gives me strength to persevere.”
No place like UMaine: The Electrical and Computer Engineering Department is what drew Pugliano. “I visited several places and none of them really compared to UMaine,” she says. “UMaine has a lot of great opportunities, a beautiful campus and an impressive College of Engineering.”
Real-world applications: Pugliano chose engineering because it’s a challenging yet rewarding field that gives her the opportunity to solve real problems and improve the lives of others. “Also, I can’t say no to those big engineering paychecks,” she says, adding that undergraduate research “isn’t just about getting paid, it’s about applying knowledge from the classroom to real-world problems.”
Helping hand: Pugliano has been working closely with her adviser, electrical and computer engineering professor John Vetelino. “I started doing research for him in summer 2012 in the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) program,” she says. “Dr. Vetelino has been a wonderful adviser and has given me many opportunities.”
Teaching others: After graduation, Pugliano plans to gain experience by working with companies before returning to school to obtain her doctorate in electrical engineering. Her long-term goal is to become a professor.
Matthew Edwards was involved in diverse electrical and computer engineering internships throughout his undergraduate and graduate student years at the University of Maine. Internships offer innumerable opportunities, he says. And perspective.
“Academics are very different than the industrial working world,” says Edwards, a recent graduate working as a software engineer with Kepware Technologies in Portland, Maine. “Internships give you the opportunity to understand the value of what you’re learning, and the chance to interact day-to-day with colleagues and bosses. You also get a lot of good feedback, and the results have tangible, real effects.
“The experience is what you end up remembering, and what you learn is more valuable than the money given.”
Edwards, from Glenburn, Maine, majored in electrical engineering and was a teaching assistant in seven engineering classes. He also helped in the microelectronics lab and, in his first semester of graduate school, led the robotics laboratory.
Edwards was a member of the University Volunteer Ambulance Corps and UMaine’s Senior Skulls honor society. And he sang bass in a number of campus groups, including University Singers.
After his first year at UMaine, Edwards spent the summer as a project engineering intern with Sappi Fine Paper in Skowhegan, Maine. He worked with more than a dozen project engineers responsible for installing machines and process oversight.
“It was overwhelming in a good way,” he says. “I was handed way more responsibility than I expected, including responsibilities for projects that cost $10,000 and helping with million-dollar projects. It was great. I loved it. It gave me an idea of what’s expected of me on graduation — the responsibilities of engineering in the future.”
In his next project, funded as part of a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates program, Edwards worked with UMaine climate scientist Sean Birkel in the Climate Change Institute. Edwards assisted with coding the Climate Reanalyzer, an online software program used for visualizing climate and weather forecast models. His key contributions included porting MATLAB scripts to C, and developing an HTML/PHP interface template.
In 2011, Edwards received his undergraduate degree and launched his graduate research focused on a power industry-related project involving intense computation and streamed data of synchrophasors.
In summer 2012, Edwards was in Dayton, Ohio, for an internship with LexisNexis Special Services Inc. As a software design intern for the 10-week stint, Edwards focused on big data and visualization of identity resolution designed to understand the relationships between people.
“This built on my prior skills, but there also were specific subsets I used,” Edwards says of his third internship. “You leave understanding much more about a specific process. Then, in another internship, you drill down in another direction,” learning even more.
The Bangor Daily News reported members of the University of Maine’s Forest Bioproducts Research Institute took part in a forum held by the Sustainable Bioplastics Council of Maine at the Old Town Fuel and Fiber mill. Growing bio-based manufacturing jobs was the focus of the forum which was attended by about 75 industry members and educators.
Big Gig, a program designed to bring together innovators and entrepreneurs in the Orono-Bangor area and offer networking opportunities, was featured in an article in The Maine Edge. The program was started by a partnership between the University of Maine, the towns of Old Town and Orono, and Husson University. The Big Gig includes a series of live pitching events with a chance to win prize money. The first event takes place at Verve in Orono on Oct. 22. Jesse Moriarity, coordinator of UMaine’s Foster Center for Student Innovation, said the Big Gig was initially just about creating networking events, but the “pitch-off” was added as a fun way to get everyone involved in the event.
The Bangor Daily News editorial titled “Maine blows it with Statoil. Hopefully entire offshore wind industry isn’t next,” says that it’s now up to the University of Maine and its partners to help the state become a hub for the evolving offshore wind energy industry following Statoil’s decision to pull the plug on its $120 million pilot project in Maine.
The Associated Press, Bangor Daily News, Maine Public Broadcasting Network, Renewable Energy News, WVII (Channel 7), Mainebiz and Portland Press Herald were among the news organizations to report on Norwegian company Statoil’s decision to pull the plug on its $120 million offshore wind pilot project in Maine. The University of Maine’s proposal is now the only project being considered for a state contract. Maine Aqua Ventus, the umbrella company that includes UMaine and its partner companies, said in a statement that it will continue pursuing its contract and remains committed to developing Maine’s offshore wind potential. The Huffington Post, Boston Herald, WLBZ (Channel 2), WABI (Channel 5) and Sun Journal carried the AP report.
The Bangor Daily News reported the University of Maine is collaborating with the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce, The Target Technology Incubator and Mobilize Eastern Maine to start a localized “angel investing” effort to grow local industry. Angel investing refers to executives, business leaders and residents who help fledgling companies grow into larger-scale employers in exchange for potential big returns. John Porter, president and CEO of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce, said UMaine recently has been increasing its focus on research and development, resulting in commercial products that have the potential to expand into businesses that will increase employment and bring good-paying jobs to the region.