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Intelligent Infrastructure Systems and the Technician

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Two-Year College Special Topics Potpourri

Tagged Division

Two Year College Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.936.1 - 22.936.15



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Paper Authors


Gary J. Mullett Springfield Technical Community College

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Gary J. Mullett, a Professor of Electronics Technology and Co-Department Chair, presently teaches in the Electronics Group at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) located in Springfield, MA. A long time faculty member and consultant to local business and industry, Mullett has provided leadership and initiated numerous curriculum reforms as either the Chair or Co-Department Chair of the four technology degree programs that constitute the Electronics Group. Since the mid-1990s, he has been active in the NSF’s ATE and CCLI programs as a knowledge leader in the wireless telecommunications field. A co-founder of the National Center for Telecommunications Technologies (now the ICT Center) located at STCC, Mullett also played a principle role in the development of the innovative and long running Verizon NextStep employee training program. The author of three text books, Basic Telecommunications – The Physical Layer, Wireless Telecommunications Systems and Networks, and Electronics at the System Level, Mullett did both his undergraduate and graduate work in the ECE Department at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst where he also taught the undergraduate sequence of courses in electromagnetics. He has presented at numerous regional and national conferences and also internationally on telecommunications and wireless topics and on the status of the education of electronics technicians at the two-year college level. His current interests are in the transformation of electronics technician education to incorporate a systems-level approach and applications of the emerging field of networked, wireless sensors.

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Intelligent Infrastructure Systems and the TechnicianMany have written about the next transformative convergence of technologies that will surelyeffect how humankind will live, work, play, and age. Futurists have referred to this pendingdevelopment as the “Internet of Things” to illustrate the broad concept involved. Academic andindustry experts in various technical fields have coined terms like the “Smart Grid”, machine-to-machine (M2M), vehicle-to-x (V2x), where x might be other vehicles (V2V) or road-sidenetworks (V2R) or infrastructure (V2I), e-health care, and infrastructure health, among otherterms, to describe discipline specific implementations of this type of technology. Essentially,through the use of networked embedded controllers (known as ambient intelligence) andcomplex sensors and actuators (i.e. sensor networks) the goal is to create intelligentinfrastructure systems that will enhance the efficiency, safety, and security of human endeavors.The Smart Grid initiative has focused attention on the question of where the technical workers ofthe re-engineered grid will come from. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Actof 2009, the Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded millions in funding for initiatives thatwill seek to address this question. The real question for engineering technology educators at thetwo-year college level should be, are there common elements to applications of intelligentinfrastructure systems? The answer is an emphatic yes! Networking (both wired and wireless),network security, embedded controllers, sensors and actuators, signal conditioning, and dataacquisition and fusion are the enabling technologies of the vast majorities of these systems.Today, very few engineering technology programs cover these topics. An examination ofABET’s present criteria for engineering technology programs finds that several of these topicstend to be mutually exclusive, belonging only in one technical program or another. Many of thetopics are included in electronics/electrical/electromechanical technology programs, some othersare covered in instrumentation and control systems technology programs, and networking andsecurity is limited to computer technology type programs. One might consider many of thesetopical areas to belong to the so-called “physical layer” of the OSI seven-layer model thatdescribes computer networking since they are the technologies that make up the hardware of thesystems. Networking topics like transmission control protocol (TCP) and Internet protocol (IP)and the associated networking hardware (e.g. routers, switches, etc) and security concepts arepart of the next three layers of the OSI model (that reside above the physical layer). Theconvergence of communications (networking) and computing technologies gives rise to a newskill set that is needed to deal with the hardware of the Internet of Things. This paper willpropose an innovative two-year multi-interdisciplinary program that addresses the educationalneeds of a technician capable of dealing with emerging intelligent infrastructure systems.

Mullett, G. J. (2011, June), Intelligent Infrastructure Systems and the Technician Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18291

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