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NASA Congratulates SpaceShipOne's X Prize Win :: 1 December 04

NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe recently congratulated the SpaceShipOne team on the third successful flight of a private human spacecraft. The team also won the $10 million X Prize competition.

“Burt Rutan, Paul Allen and the rest of the SpaceShipOne team are to be congratulated for this important achievement. They successfully demonstrated a new human spacecraft, a new propulsion system and a new high-altitude airborne launch platform,” said Administrator O’Keefe. “The spirit of determination and innovation demonstrated today show that America is excited about a new century of exploration and discovery. We wish the SpaceShipOne team continued success and many more safe flights,” he added.

Aboard the International Space Station 230 miles up, the Expedition 9 crew, made up of NASA astronaut Mike Fincke and Russian Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, noted that for a few minutes that morning, they were joined in space by SpaceShipOne pilot Brian Binnie. “From Gennady and myself and the International Space Station team, congratulations on a job well done, and we’re really glad SpaceShipOne returned safely,” said Fincke.

The X Prize Foundation created a $10 million prize designed to encourage space tourism through competition among entrepreneurs, engineers and other rocketry experts. The Ansari X Prize was conceived to reward the team, which designed the first private spaceship to successfully fly to a sub-orbital altitude of just over 62 miles (100 kilometers) on two consecutive flights within two weeks.

The competition was modeled after the Orteig Prize, won in 1927 by Charles Lindberg for the first non-stop flight between New York and Paris. All teams had to be privately financed.

Semiconductor Design Industry Faces Potential Roadblock :: 1 December 04

To the average American, the importance of designing semiconductors rests in the hands of the electrical engineer. But when one considers that semiconductors are integral parts of everything from video games to diagnostic medical equipment to security devices, the demand for flawless design is universal.

And inside today’s high-tech appliances, the electronic devices have become increasingly smaller, constantly pushing the envelope for the design engineer. To make sure a complex design works, it needs verification – the insurance that the design was implemented in a correct way that meets the specifications.

This is where the semiconductor industry visualizes a potential problem. The most recent International Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS) report made the observation that “verification engineers outnumber designers, with this ratio reaching two or three to one for the most complex designs.”

The ITRS report went on to say, “Without major breakthroughs, verification will be a non-scalable, show stopping barrier to further progress in the semiconductor industry.”

“We must train students to see that verification is a critical step in the design process,” said Michael Hsiao, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Virginia Tech. “Otherwise too much valuable time is wasted debugging problems in the design.”

Prof. Hsiao’s research group recently announced “key breakthroughs in design verification.” Mathematically, they have been able to reduce the process exponentially.

“In many cases, the number of distinct states a design can hold is greater than the number of protons in the universe,” said Prof. Hsiao.

In response to this need, the National Science Foundation is providing $371,000 to Virginia Tech for the development of new coursework to better prepare students to understand and perform the verification process. Virginia Tech investigators submitted the funded proposal entitled, “Curriculum and Course Modules for Bridging the Verification Gap.”

Prof. Hsiao along with his colleagues, Sandeep Shukla, Dong Ha, and Joe Tront, all faculty members in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech, will collaborate on this coursework development.

ASHRAE Discusses Technical Assistance With Iraqi Officials :: 1 December 04

As Iraqi engineers work to rebuild their country’s roads, bridges, public buildings and houses, they are dependent upon technical information from 20 years ago.

To assist Iraq in obtaining the latest in technical information, including standards, ASHRAE recently hosted a meeting between four senior officials of the Iraq Ministry of Construction and Housing and representatives of major U.S. building codes and standards developing organizations and engineering societies. The meeting was arranged by the U.S. Commerce Department.

The meeting was held to provide the Ministry representatives with information about U.S. standards and for the participating organizations to learn how they might assist the Ministry in addressing its objectives in constructing and rehabilitating Iraq’s roads, bridges, public buildings and houses.

“While the Iraqis’ major focus was on civil engineering related standards and construction issues, they also talked about mechanical, electrical and plumbing standards,” Larry Spielvogel, who chaired the meeting, said. ”Most of the standards they use are American along with some British. Due to the political situation there and the embargo for the past 15 years, the latest information they have is from the 1980s.”

Mr. Spielvogel is chair of ASHRAE’s Presidential Ad Hoc Committee on Homeland Security.

Most of the participating organizations offered to provide access to their publications and information and to invite Iraqi participation in their activities, including standards development.

“As you might expect, there are still many hurdles, and the U.S. State and Commerce Departments offered their assistance in improving communications and relations,” Mr. Spielvogel said.

Organizations participating in the meeting include ASHRAE, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the American Concrete Institute (ACI), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM International), the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), the International Code Council (ICC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

East Coast Lacks Necessary Ingredients For Volcanic Activity :: 1 December 04

Why is it that all the volcanic activity in the United States is targeted in the Northwest? Could such activity that we are now witnessing with Mount St. Helens in Washington happen on the East Coast?

That isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, even by geological standards, since the geological conditions on the East Coast lack key conditions necessary for volcanic activity, says R.J. Tracy, professor of geosciences at Virginia Tech.

According to Prof. Tracy, the following conditions must be present for volcanic activity:

•Divergent margins, where the Earth’s plates move apart, particularly those under the ocean, but sometimes on land such as in Iceland, East Africa, and the Rio Grande.

•Convergent margins, where the Earth’s plates collide and one dips below the other forming a volcanic arc that may become active and even violent, such as those that ring the Pacific Plate and such as Mount St. Helens.

•Isolated volcanoes far from plate boundaries caused by hot spots of the Earth’s mantle such as those on Hawaii.

“The active margin of North America is its western margin, and only the northwestern segment of it currently has the right conditions to produce volcanoes like Mount St. Helens,” Prof. Tracy said. “The interior of North America and the East coast lie far from any currently active plate boundaries and therefore are not locales where volcanism can occur.”

There is evidence from the rocks in Virginia that volcanoes have been here, but not for about 200 million years, he said. Roughly 750 million years ago, rift-related (divergent) volcanoes erupted along the axis of what later became the Appalachians, and one remnant of that volcanic zone, with its volcanic rocks, still can be seen in Virginia at Mount Rogers. Prof. Tracy has been researching volcanic rocks since the 1970s and teaches a course on volcanoes at Virginia Tech.

Colonial Reprographics Celebrates Anniversary :: 30 November 04

Colonial Reprographics, a digital reprographic center that serves the engineering, architectural and construction industries, located in Leesburg, VA, recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. Starting in 1999, the company has become a major player in the reprographics industry in Loudoun County with over 150 repeat customers.

According to Steve Harper, Operations Manager for the firm, the company has increased its sales every year by offering superior technology.

ICC Holds Elections :: 29 November 04

The membership of the International Code Council (ICC) elected directors to its Board at the organization’s recent Annual Conference. The Board of Directors also appointed new officers.

Frank Hodge was named President of the ICC Board of Directors. He is the Director of Building and Fire Codes for the town of Hilton Head Island, S.C. Hodge also is a master code professional and a certified building official. He has served on the ICC Board of Directors since 1999.

The ICC’s new Vice President is Henry Green. Green is the Executive Director of the Bureau of Construction Codes for the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth. He was elected to the ICC Board in 2002 and previously served on the Board from 1994 to 1998.

Wally Bailey was appointed Secretary/Treasurer of the ICC Board. He is the Director of Development and Construction for the city of Fort Smith, Ark. A certified building official, Bailey has served on the ICC Board since 2000.

Among board members reelected to the ICC Board of Directors was Bill Dupler. Dupler is a Building Official for Chesterfield County, VA.

Among the ICC Board of Directors is Steven Shapiro, C.B.O., Director of Codes Compliance for the city of Hampton, VA.

ASHRAE Standard Offers Energy Savings :: 24 November 04

Using ASHRAE’s residential energy standard vs. existing provisions in the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) may result in increased savings in national heating and cooling energy costs.

Due to the potential savings, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has proposed that ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 90.2-2004, Energy-Efficient Design of Low-Rise Residential Buildings, be included as an alternate compliance method in the residential energy efficiency section of the IECC, published by the International Code Council (ICC). The IECC is a model code that may be adopted by code jurisdictions in the United States or internationally.

“Standard 90.2 is equal to the current IECC edition and overall is more energy efficient than the IECC provisions contained in the 2004 IECC supplement,” Bruce Hunn, ASHRAE’s director of technology, said.

ASHRAE also has proposed that Standard 90.2 be included in the International Residential Code, also published by ICC. ASHRAE wants the requirements of 90.2 included as an alternate compliance path to comply with the code.

Hunn noted that the standard recently was updated and now includes only the essential prescriptive information necessary to design and enforce energy conservation requirements.

Other changes include removal of complex equations for determining compliance with the envelope provisions; reduction in the number of tables and figures for compliance; removal of outdated information and HVAC tables already covered by federal regulations; and the standard is now written in mandatory enforceable language.

The proposed changes are scheduled to be evaluated in spring 2005 for possible inclusion in the 2006 code. ASHRAE’s proposals can be found on www.ASHRAE.org under ‘code interaction’ in the standards activities section of the technology and standards link.

CE News Salutes Three Virginia Firms :: 22 November 04

Judges for the fourth annual CE News Best Civil Engineering Firm To Work For Contest ranked three Virginia engineering firms in their list of the top 50 best firms to work for. AES Consulting Engineers, based in Williamsburg was ranked No. 28; Delta Airport Consultants, based in Richmond was ranked No. 37; and Schnable Engineering, Inc. based in Glen Allen was ranked No. 44.

This contest was developed by CE News to provide readers with a meaningful ranking concerning human resource issues in the civil engineering industry, as well as to assist firms in their recruiting and retaining activities.

USMC Earns IAS Accreditation :: 19 November 04

The United States Marine Corps (USMC) recently became the first federal agency to receive a Certificate of Accreditation from the International Accreditation Service (IAS) during a ceremony at their base in Quantico, VA. The Certificate of Accreditation to ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 17020 standard was presented to the Marine’s Ground Quality Control Program, the division that helps to keep Marines shooting straight, moving quickly, communicating effectively—and doing it safely.

On hand to present the certificate was IAS chairman Majed Dabdoub, IAS president Chuck Ramani, IAS lead assessor Hershal Brewer, and ICC Vice President Henry Green.

“Inspections play a critical role in business, industry and national security,” said Mr. Ramani. “The Marines have proven their competence in conducting inspections by going through the evaluation process and successfully meeting the standards for accreditation. It is an honor for IAS to present this certificate of accreditation to the U.S. Marines.”

The Marine’s Ground Quality Control Program is a Web-based auditing tool used to verify the implementation, effectiveness and efficiency of quality practices at all Marine Corps calibration facilities. It has reduced administration time by one half and greatly improved the quality programs capability.

IAS accreditation provides proof that inspection agencies operate under a quality system that is fully documented, effectively implemented and regularly monitored to ensure its continuing suitability and effectiveness; employ qualified, experienced personnel with thorough knowledge of inspection requirements; have the proper facilities and equipment so inspection services can be carried out efficiently and that the equipment is properly calibrated and regularly maintained; use approved and documented procedures for its inspections; and comply with ISO/IEC 17020, the internationally-recognized standard for inspection agencies.

The International Accreditation Service, a subsidiary of the International Code Council®, assesses and accredits competent inspection agencies, testing and calibration laboratories, building
departments and fabricator inspection programs. In operation since 1975, IAS is one of the oldest accreditation bodies of its type and is a nonprofit, public benefit corporation recognized worldwide. To learn more about IAS and its accreditation programs, visit www.iasonline.org.

Long Range Transportation Plan Approved :: 18 November 04

The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) has approved Virginia’s long-range transportation plan called VTrans 2025. It is Virginia’s planning effort to create a more integrated, convenient and efficient transportation system that incorporates all modes including highway, transit, rail, air, pedestrian, port and bicycle facilities.

“The 2025 vision for the Commonwealth is a transportation system that is safe, strategic and seamless,” said Transportation Secretary Whitt Clement. “Before we can realize this vision, however, the state must adopt policies that ensure adequate investment in the transportation network. Currently, the gap between needs and investment is growing at a distressing rate.”

According to the VTrans 2025 report, transportation needs for all modes over the 2005-2025 period are expected to exceed $203 billion. Best estimates of available revenues are $95 billion, resulting in unmet needs exceeding $108 billion.

By 2014, state highway funds will be insufficient to match federal highway funds, preventing the state from making full use of available federal dollars and reducing the overall amount of funds. By 2018, all of state construction funds will be used for maintenance. Federal highway funds will have to be used for maintenance beginning in 2019, further decreasing the funds available for construction purposes. For highways alone, a minimum of $925 million per year is needed to prevent transfers of construction dollars to the maintenance fund.

Mr. Clement added, “Although investment in transportation is crucial, we must continue to seek new ways to be more efficient and effective in how we use our limited transportation dollars. VTrans2025 identifies policies and procedures that will help guide Virginia through the next 20 years.”

The report identifies the need to:

Increase transportation revenues, increase support for transit and establish a sustainable source of funding for rail.

Improve the alignment of transportation and land-use decision-making by considering state versus local roles and legislatively address the transportation/land-use conflict.

Give priority to projects that connect travel modes and incorporate transit, pedestrian, bike, and rail-friendly design features in major reconstruction and new construction projects.

Use objective criteria for all modes to measure and compare the merits of proposed projects.

Establish a Commission to make specific recommendations on how to meet the Commonwealth’s long-term transportation funding needs and address other legislative issues.

The General Assembly directed the CTB to develop a multimodal long-range transportation plan with a statewide focus. Mr. Clement established the VTrans2025 team made up of the four state transportation agencies. The public also participated in developing the plan through a series of meetings.

With CTB approval of the plan, it will go to Gov. Mark Warner and the General Assembly.

The report is available online at www.vtrans.org.

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