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Three Rivers' Students Showcase Tech Capabilities at Expo

The 4th Annual Tech Expo and Sustainable Energy Fair at Three Rivers, sponsored by Continuing Education, Norwich Public Utilities, Next Generation Manufacturing Center, and SOAR (Sustainable Operations: Alternative and Renewable Energy) Grant was a tremendous success. Industry as well as educational participants attended including Solar Heat and Development Co., Coventa Energy, the University of New Haven, Lantern Energy, Partners in Healthy Communities, AgriFuels, R&W Heating, and more.

Approximately 200 students from regional high schools traveled to campus for the expo. They were able to experience technology first-hand thanks to activities run by S.P.I.E. (International Society for Optics and Photonics) and OSA (Optical Society of America), both student-run organizations at Three Rivers. The student members of S.P.I.E and OSA showcased the capabilities of the state-of-the-art equipment on campus by leading tours and directing the lab activities.

TRCC students mentored the high school students showing them a 3D printer as it “printed” on plastic. (This new form of manufacturing, called additive manufacturing, can be used to make everything from plastic parts to replacement joints by adding one layer at a time, creating 3D parts from 2D drawings.)

The high school students then saw the practical application of the college’s laser engravers. Lasers are used to cut everything from the metal for automobiles and appliances to the delicate patterns in tiny tubes, or stents, used to keep arteries open. Three Rivers’ 45-watt CO¬2 produces about as much light as an incandescent bulb, but when the light is focused it can cut through wood and engrave wood, plastic, glass, and stone.

Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT) provided activities supporting what a simple wind turbine can power and electrolysis and fuel cells, displaying what is needed for water to carry electrical charge and find out the pros and cons of different electrolytes and electrodes.

The key note speaker, Dr. Michael Larson was also sponsored by S.P.I.E/OSA. He earned his PhD from MIT in 1992, his M.S. from the University of Michigan and his B.S. from Tulane University, all in Mechanical Engineering. He now holds the El Pomar Endowed Chair of Engineering and Innovation and is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Dr. Larson also co-founded two companies, one based on a medical device he invented and another based on a consumer product, a laser board game called Khet. New Orleans' City Business magazine named him 2005’s "Innovator of the Year" for founding and directing a studio for creative design.

Larson led a morning KHET tournament in TRCC laser labs and then spoke to a packed room. He encouraged students to try to live in a zone of best practices and to think outside the box, creatively, so they can choose answers that are not preset. He also advised students to understand how things work.

“If you notice a need for something, someone else has probably noticed that need as well,” he said. He called upon students to use those moments to innovate.

Thanks to everyone who helped make the Tech Expo and Sustainable Energy Fair an eye-opening experience.

December 2011




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