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Bechtolsheim of Sun Microsystems Speaks on Engineering Innovation

November 26th, 2012

Andy Bechtolsheim is one of the greatest engineering alumni to ever attend Stanford University. The school recently inducted him into its second class of “Engineering Heroes,” a distinct group of 16 of Stanford’s School of Engineering’s finest.

Bechtolsheim created the SUN workstation and co-founded SUN Microsystems. He is also one of the original investors in Google. To say he has strong beliefs in the power of engineering innovation would be an understatement. He truly believes in the power of technology to enhance lives and create greater engineering marvels.

“What one can learn from the Apples of the world, the Googles of the world, the Amazons and the Facebooks, is that innovation is the essence of high technology and business,” Bechtolsheim said. “Over the years, the content changes but the underlying processes of how to focus on innovation, how to do the right things, don’t really change.”

In the early 1980s Bechtolsheim studied and created as an engineering graduate student at Stanford. He invented the workstation, a more affordable computer for engineers that mirrored the PC for an average American. It allowed engineers and companies to expand and innovate as they never had before, bypassing the hundreds of thousands of dollars they were spending on expensive IBM, DEC, and Wang mini-computers and mainframes that were the only option at that time.

The SUN (Stanford University Network) workstation was a 32-bit machine that allowed companies to run the same kind of programs they would on a gigantic computer on a smaller machine. It cost around $10,000 compared to hundreds of thousands. Because of this invention, Bechtolsheim was able to split his time between Stanford and XEROX PARC. Bechtolsheim and Stanford built and sold 15 of the workstations together before stepping aside. This was when Sun (a nod to Stanford) Microsystems was born.

Bechtolsheim maintained a strong connection with Stanford, the place that allowed him to birth his ideas and teach him the fundamentals he needed to succeed.

“I wouldn’t have done what I’ve done in my life, if I hadn’t been here,” he said. “Little did I know that I would come exactly to the right place where you couldn’t just learn about how to do this but you could actually then go off and start a company. I was very fortunate.”

Because of his connection to Stanford, Bechtolsheim was one of the first to see, experience and invest in what would be known as Google today. In 1998 professor David Cheriton invited Bechtolsheim over to see what his two students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, had created. Bechtolsheim was immediately won over by the inner workings of Google search, remembering his experience in scientific research and publishing.

Page and Brin shared their revenue model of sponsored links and pay per click advertisements and Bechtolsheim was sold. He went out to his car and returned with a check for $100,000, made out to Google, Inc.

Bechtolsheim is a true engineering hero because not only did he create successful inventions, he recognized great innovations.

Contact The Talley Group finds the best positions for every engineering superhero out there. Call us today.

If you know someone that is looking to be an engineering hero, please refer an engineer today!

Engineering News | Small Wind Turbines in Your Backyard

November 9th, 2012

When one thinks of the traditional wind turbines for wind energy production, the image includes a towering massive structure, taller than the downtown skyscrapers. It has been essential to put these gigantic turbines in areas with much open space, in order to maximize the output in relation to the set up costs.

Up until now, vast stretches of rural farmland or urban wastelands have housed windmills, with sometimes hundreds of them placed creating turbine farms. The owners of these areas receive great incentives and rebates from the government for their efforts.

Now, several companies have created smaller turbines that could possibly even fit in our backyards. These turbines could work to power homes, farms and smaller businesses. The Small Wind Certification Council (SWCC) has approved two small wind turbines with more approvals coming.

The national certification process will generate sales of more of these turbines because now an everyday homeowner will be able to receive the same rebates and financial incentives as those wind turbine farmers. And whereas an older style large windmill cost over $60,000 to install, the investment in a smaller turbine will be more accessible to many.

In order to get certified the SWCC has to review the engineering design. The council looks at the mechanical engineering of the aerodynamics of the blades, and tests them in extreme conditions. These structures need to hold up after many years of pounding winds and weather, which can lead to corrosion.

The first two models to be certified are the Bergey Windpower Excel 10 and the Southwest Windpower Skystream 3.7. The Bergey has been around since the 1980s, and has endured much testing, so it was not difficult to provide certification for this wind turbine.

In order to test the turbines, much attention needs to be paid to the mechanical engineering simulations. The tests being done for the larger blades can also benefit the smaller turbine creators. The National Science Foundation has funded research including a virtual test environment where turbines can be tested through real, extreme weather condition simulations. These are looked at through a high-performance supercomputer platform.

This research will be essential in determining the design challenges for the next generation of these impactful turbines.

Contact The Talley Group for the latest positions in mechanical engineering and wind turbine technologies.

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