Sunday, October 26, 2014

Contech lab

Field trip to contech.  


To:                   Tom Szymoniak
From:                Duc Ly
Date:                October 23, 2014
Subject:           ConTech Office Visit

Team Delta from the CE111 Introduction to Civil Engineering class visited Contech Engineered Solutions at 11835 NE Glenn Widing Drive on Wednesday, October 23, 2014.  The purpose of this visit was for students to learn the different types of work civil and environmental engineers do in a company.  Our host was Travis, a civil engineer project manager.  The visit lasted approximately one hour.  Travis presented a Power Point presentation.  His presentation focused on Contech storm water products and services,  The engineering team behind the business and the education of a well-rounded engineer.  We then briefly toured the lab with lab manager Debbie Beck and Jim Lenhart.  Observation and discussion are presented below.       

Observations and Information

Travis began the presentation with the hydrological cycle.  Contech Company produces pumps, storm filters, and other items to control flooding in parking lots, housing developments and a variety of different sites.  The company makes green-water harvesting apparatus, “tree in a box”, storm filter, hydro trash separator.  Their focus is on hydrodynamics, treatment and detention.  Multiple products work together on the same site to control, recycle, and mitigate environmental impacts.  Contech also provides field monitoring. 

Contech engineering team does product research and development, testing of products; invent new machines to perform the job more efficiently through value engineering.  Their engineers provide a resource to potential clients to help them select the right product for the right job.  The engineers often work with the city to improve or upgrade the code for stricter environmental regulation.  The office has a few scientist, three or four environmental engineers and geotechnical engineers. 

Travis showed two slides of skills not learned in school that he saw lacking in recent graduates and interns.  He emphasized written and verbal communication, presentation, time managements and teamwork.  He sees business these essential skills are just as important as engineering skills.  Jim also express hands on experience such as construction, operating and logistics as an important part of a project completion, installation, and maintenance of products used to mitigate the water resource. 


One main theme of Travis’s presentation was the diverse set of skills that is necessary to succeed as an engineer.  Even though Contech’s emphasis is on selling products and improving profits, there is an engineering team behind the product doing research which in turn provides a better and more innovative storm pump to help clean up the environment. 

Jim Lenhart demonstrated his invention for a storm pump which uses basic fundamental knowledge of hydro static pressure to create a more efficient pump.  It is refreshing to see that not all engineering work is codes and calculations.  To be a well-rounded engineer requires business skill as well and creative vision to make better products.  Debbie Beck pointed out that because Contech is a private company, she doesn’t have to write grant proposals for research and development like some public and academic institutions.  Business is the driving force behind the research and the environment can benefit.  Business and sale has had a negative connotation in the engineering field.  Both Jim and Travis commented that as a consultant engineer, they both engage at a sale and service level.      


Overall, the visit to Contech office was very useful for increasing my understanding of how business, sales, and product intertwine in the engineer’s profession.  I also learned more about other skills sets that I would need to succeed as an engineer in the business world.  The trip would have been even more educational if I had learned more about what an intern or a recent graduate daily work routine. 


Concrete mix

PSU green house

Sunday, October 5, 2014

SE Division


This memo describes the ASCE Geotechnical Meeting that took place at the Crown Plaza on October 1, 2014

This memo describes the ASCE Geotechnical Meeting that took place at the Crown Plaza on October 1, 2014.

Meeting Description          
Bruce Macdonald from Tre Canada presented a lecture about InSARTM technology his firm uses to measure surface Deformation.  Interferometric synthetic aperture radar, abbreviated InSAR or IfSAR, is a radar technique used in geodesy and remote sensing.  He began the lecture with a image of a satellite that orbits the earth.  The satellite is position at one place, a point on the earth’s meridian.  It gathers information.  The earth rotates. 
DInSARTM is differential InSARTM.  DInSARTM has a precision in Centimeters.  It is capable of gathering information of a 3m x 3m earth surface.  Previous image provides 2321/Km2 points density.  The new image provides 17,000/Km2 resolution.  As advertised on the website, SqueeSARTM has identified many more ground points.  This increases the overall understanding of surface displacement occurring in an area of interest.  SqueeSARTM uses algorithm that offers significantly increased coverage of ground points especially over non-urban areas.   

Tre Canada mines the data from different government agency satellites.  The satellites are not their own.  However, obtaining the data and correlating the data to the specific client need is a highly time consuming and technically difficult task.  Deformation of the earth surface is a serious issue for the environment and the safety of the community.  Oil companies have to be monitored by the government to meet the safety standards as they mine the surface of the earth which causes deformation.  This technology is also used
to monitor landslide activities hazardous areas.  The whole country of Italy has been monitored by satellites for their frequent and ongoing land deformation, inventory of existing cases of landslides and stabilizing program monitoring.            

Lessons Learned
I learned a great deal of information during Bruce’s presentation.  Improvements are rapid.  TRE introduced SqueeSARTM in 2010.  There are companies that mine these free satellite data to make a great profit.  The cost for monitoring a small plot of land of 3m x 3m can in as much as $100,000 USD.  The data needs to be processed.  Alogorithms are used to make sense of the data and organized into coherent presentations that are useful to the client.   

The field of GIS and satellite imaging is fascinating.  The presentation display multi disciplines and techniques.  There is a bit of math in the algorithms, a bit of geography, surveying, environmental, geotechnical and business.  Engineering field is comprehensive and complex.  Computer technology has provided new techniques to better understand the planet earth.  The future will benefit more from these improvements and hopefully lower the costs of these satellite monitoring to provide us information for studying the earth’s surface and provide a safer living environment.        

Attachment A – Figure 1

Attachment A.  
Figure 1 shows a schematic representation of the PSInSAR approach.