Sensors on the high seas
contribute to the Modular Advanced Composite Hull-forms project
involving composites design, computer modeling and sensor
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Computer chips and sensors are turning
up in unexpected places — saw mills, dairy barns and now, as the result
of a University of Maine engineering research project, in the hull of a
prototype U.S. Navy ship.
Four undergraduates in the Department of Electrical and Computer
Engineering are working on a computerized system that will be embedded
in a new generation of ship hulls made of composite materials. The
system will keep track of stresses encountered by the hull panels, and
alert the crew to problems and the need for maintenance.
Under the guidance of Associate Professor Bruce Segee, the students are
programming a computer chip to communicate with standard temperature
sensors. They are conducting their study using Internet-related software
to gather sensor information and display the data on a Web page.
The work is part of a larger UMaine project known as Modular Advanced
Composite Hull-forms, or MACH, led by Vince Caccese, associate professor
of mechanical engineering. The U.S. Office of Naval Research provided a
$2.24 million grant in 2001 to develop the composite panels.
Binaya Acharya of Nepal, a junior on the team, says the project gives
him and his peers a taste of real engineering practice. "In the
classroom, we cover theory and use textbooks," he says. "There is no
textbook for this. It gives us an opportunity to tackle a real-life
project. We have to write the programs to make the sensors and computer
boards communicate with each other."
With built-in wires, sensors and computer chips, the panels are like an
electric blanket, says Segee. "We have to make the electronics small and
efficient. Our challenge is to develop microcomputer technology to drive
the sensors and communicate with the outside world with a minimum number
The goal is to get useful information to the ship's crew. "I can imagine
that the bridge might have the equivalent of a gas gauge that starts out
in the green, goes into the yellow and eventually into the red to
indicate that hull maintenance is due," says Segee.
The principal's office
Julie Dube has taken only one semester off from The University of Maine
since beginning her undergraduate studies in 1988. Learning to
successfully balance multiple responsibilities and schedules proved to
be good training for the educational leader.
Now in her second year as principal of Medway Middle School, Dube is
among a dwindling number of young educators willing to take on the daily
challenges and stress of running a school. Tremendous management
responsibilities, fragmented roles, conflicting expectations and high
public accountability contribute to an increasing turnover of K-12
principals and superintendents nationwide and in Maine.
In response, UMaine is assisting aspiring and current K-12
administrators like Dube with professional development options,
including the state's only doctorate program in educational leadership.
After earning a bachelor's degree in education and a master's in
literacy, Dube is now pursuing an Ed.D.
"Administration is a rewarding job, but it's like the general practice
of education. The assumption is often that we are or should be
specialists in everything. The public and policymakers need to respect
the position and understand that it takes time to constantly learn new
things. And it takes support," she says.
Dube spent her first seven years at Old Town High School, where she
taught English and served in her first administrative post as dean of
student activities. Then came the opportunity to take over the
leadership of Medway Middle School, near her hometown of Lincoln, Maine.
Dube says she enjoys the chance to be innovative and create opportunity,
to deal with different types of people and to figure out how to best
work toward common goals. Her goal as a principal is to give every
student the best possible opportunity to learn and to make learning
meaningful. Being organized, well-read and receptive to other people's
ideas are key. Shared leadership, she says, is essential.
Dube says she may one day consider a superintendent position, as well as
consulting and writing a book on women and school leadership.