Why Oregon Needs Secure Networking Engineers

Yesterday, the Oregon University System recently disclosed a news release about a security breach (PDF here) in three of its universities. This security breach means many Oregonians may have had their credit card information stolen, and shows just how necessary it is for Oregon to rely on Oregonian network engineers to keep data safe.

These three universities contracted a box office management service (for things like theatrical events) to a company called Vendini. While it’s easy to blame a whole company for the security breach, we have to ask: who’s really responsible?

Vendini is a company based in San Francisco, where network engineers are hired in the ten thousands and demand is incredibly high. Great, it’s the land of opportunity—but with that many people getting hired, you’re more likely to have a few bad eggs.

What we need are good network engineers living in Oregon, so we can keep services like this local and premium.

But more to the point, what is a network engineer?

Nobody uses laptops with both hands, in pictures. Here's a network engineer.

Computer networking engineers come in two flavors—architects and administrators—and their job is to design/implement or maintain computer networks for many kinds of companies or organizations.

Often, someone is hired to be a network architect, and once the job is done they will become the administrator—that’s why we just call the job “network engineering,” since the job winds up looking like the engineering design process. It also means they often work full-time for the same company, rather than working for a centralized firm and selling their services.

One of the most critical jobs of a networking engineer is to make sure their network is safe and secure. Obviously, the networks for Vendini were not. Does that mean they’re a bad company? Of course not.

But it does mean that their networking engineers have their work cut out for them—because they store credit card information and addresses, they need to keep their data safe from hackers by whatever means possible.

Oh, and as it turns out: Oregon has the highest mean annual wage for network architects, at about $115,520.

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OUS Snags Cash For New Engineering Building (+Blog status update)

Dear reader,

We apologize for the inactivity. Our GetReal staff is hard at work creating special K–12 lesson plans for teachers in Oregon to use. These special lesson plans integrate engineering into regular science lessons, giving young students a chance to learn more about engineering from a younger age. It’s a very exciting project, and we’re giving it our all—as a result, we’ve put the blog on the back burner for a bit. Keep checking for updates!


Enrollment at OSU has risen by over 30% in the last few years, and the College of Engineering is running out of space. In order to address this issue, they plan on constructing a new engineering building that will cost $40,000,000. Forty million bucks.

That’s a lot, even for a university. To help with it, several folks have donated some pretty hefty lumps of cash to help pay for it—and many chose to remain anonymous:

  • $10 million from one anonymous donor.
  • $7 million from OSU engineering graduate Peter Johnson, who now owns a huge company called Tekmax, Inc.
  • $3 million from other anonymous donors.

Oh, and the kicker: the state of Oregon may be matching these donations. If they do, OSU will already have enough money to cover the new building.

The College of Engineering hasn’t named the building yet, but plans on using it to host inter-disciplinary students studying chemical, biological and environmental engineering. The students will work together with faculty to tackle global issues that affect human health, energy, and the environment.

If you’re looking to study engineering—especially if you care about the environment, energy, or human health—this new building means OSU will be even better-prepared to give you a great engineering education.

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Meet an OSU grad who gets to work on one of the coolest telescopes ever.

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elcome back from the break, and we hope everyone is enjoying their winter term of school!

Today, we wanted to give you a great example of an Oregon college graduate who went on to do awesome things—the kinds of awesome things we talk about right here on Get Real!

Michael Thorburn graduated from Oregon State University some time ago, with a degree in mathematics. After that, he got a Ph.D. in electrical engineering.

From there he went on to do a whole slew of awesome stuff, including being named the head of the Department of Engineering for ALMA.

What’s ALMA? It’s what happens when scientists and engineers work together to make a super-telescope, with the power of its 66 combined individual telescopes. We mentioned it a while back. Also, check out this video that ALMA released.

Here's an image ALMA produced—this is what radio telescopes are capable of! Image by European Southern Observatory (ESO).

Here's about what the ALMA radio telescopes look like—these ones are the prototypes, gazing into the heavens. Image by ESO.

It stands for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, because it’s a radio telescope which scans in the millimeter frequencies. As an awesome side-note, ALMA is Spanish for “soul.”

We’ve also talked about the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) which is a lot like ALMA. The differences are these: ALMA is much nearer completion (scheduled to be done in March, as opposed to SKA, whose construction begins in 2016); and SKA is going to be a bit bigger, since it’s newer.

Here's what the completed ALMA will look like. Image by ESO.

Why should you care about radio telescopes? Because you can look back in time—Because only travels so fast, the further away from Earth you can look, the older the stuff you see actually is.

“We can look at stars 13.5 billion light years away,” Thorburn said. “The Big Bang is said to have happened 13.7 billion years ago.”

Awesome engineering.

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OSU’s own Aerospace Club launches

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regon State University has recently launched another great engineering club, giving you one more reason to study there when you go to college. Students Brandon Thoennes and Michael Roos, both of whom are engineering students, got the club off the ground this year with the help of a few faculty advisers—but as a “sponsored student organization” they’re in charge of running it themselves.

This rocket is an example of what OSU's AIAA club will launch in future competitions. Image from Daily Barometer.

Brandon and Michael and the president and vice president, respectively. They make all the decisions for the OSU chapter of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics.

The club plans to build remote-controlled rockets and enter into competitions with other university AIAA clubs, just like OSU’s SAE club currently does.

Currently they’ve got over 20 members, and hope to grow fast. By the time you get to OSU, they may be huge. If rocket science interests you, watch October Sky and join this club when you get to college.

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Oregon’s move towards tidal energy—Starting at OSU

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aves are one of our most ignored sources of energy. Think about the fact that tides are made up of water (very massive, compared to air for wind turbines) and move constantly and predictably—always constant, thanks to the gravitational pull of the moon.

The world is quickly catching on by investing in ways to harness this energy (like America’s first tidal turbine in Portland, Maine). Oregon scientists, green as this state is, are not far behind. As it turns out, OSU may be building a tidal energy testing facility in the next few years.

Right now the two locations being discussed are Reedsport, about two thirds of the way down Oregon’s coastline, and Newport, in the middle. OSU’s NNMREC is the group that will build it, and the facility will be called the Pacific Marine Energy Center (PMEC).

Probably the most familiar-looking form of tidal power collector, the tidal stream turbine basically looks like a wind turbine.

The plan is to decide on a location by the end of this year, and build as soon as NNMREC can secure funding. If all goes well, that means it may be built by the time you’re in college.

As you’ve probably heard in high school, and won’t hear the end of in college: the way we’re living right now is simply not sustainable. We’re driving head-on into the end of the world as we know it and, without renewable energy alternatives, some bad things might happen once we run out of coal and oil.

But it’s not all doomsday. “Greengineering” is one of Oregon’s most focused-on subjects in engineering, because Oregon cares about the environment and we’re known for being on top of this whole environmental sustainability thing.

This is the world's first commercial-scale tidal turbine: SeaGen, in Ireland. It's a tidal stream turbine, with two huge turbines underwater. It reliably generates 1.2MW of power for 18-20 hours per day.Wind turbines are made to have that capacity too, but due to wind patterns they usually produce only 10% of that.

Besides being able to design cool stuff like wind or tidal turbines, or solar-power collectors, or any other creative ways to live sustainably, if you like DIY projects you’d easily be able to build something similar for your own home (hello, free electricity!). If you care about helping protect Earth while simultaneously protecting our species and solving problems, think about making greengineering your job.

And if it’s not your thing, applaud Oregon for being so awesome that we’re among the first states move towards tidal energy, one of Earth’s best sources of power.

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OSU can help you climb to the top

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hen people think of engineering schools that will get you places, they often think of far-away schools. Usually Ivy-league ones. Right?

The Gaulkes donated some spare cash to OSU's CoE. Mike Gaulke is chairman and former CEO of the engineering/consulting firm, Exponent Inc. Photo from Portland Business Journal.

That might be a common preconceived idea, but the fact of the matter is that we’ve got a great school right here in the state: Oregon State University.

Recently, a couple alumni of OSU donated $3.5 million to the College of Engineering. An awesome move which is gonna help OSU’s CoE grow and become even better.

But think about this: that the Gaulkes have this kind of cash to throw around means they’ve really made it. They’re successful!

And they’re from little ole’ OSU? Sometimes OSU is seen by Oregonians as a humble in-state university for sciencey types. And while it specializes in the sciences, for sure, it’s certainly not humble. It’s one of the top 100 engineering schools in the U.S.

There are students at OSU from all 50 states, and from 90 countries outside the US. In fact, in 2010 more than one third of the students were from out-of-state, and over 1,500 of them were from outside the US.

And what do you think they’re all coming for? Humanities, physical sciences, social sciences, engineering, and math are the top five. And though only one of those is explicitly engineering, remember that all of them but humanities and math are inquiry-based, and almost all of them will somehow help an engineer.

Because remember, engineering isn’t about what you major in, but what you do. Engineers solve problems. Engineers make. And engineer Mike Gaulke and his wife certainly solved some problems at OSU by donating, and made an impact for future students.

You will be able too, if you stick with engineering and work hard. You can become as successful as these folks, if not more so. Keep at it!

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Want to help people? Engineer in Kenya through OSU

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t GetReal we always push the idea that engineering is all about helping people. That robots and stuff are cool, but the real reason any of us become engineers is to make the world better in some way. To either “increase the awesome” of something (robots, for example) or to “decrease the suck” of something else.

The women and children of Lela have to walk to a nearby town to get their water, during the dry season. That cuts into time they have for school and work, things which would ultimately make the town more successful.

That last one has less to do with impressive robots and more to do with finding solutions to real, tough problems. Problems that Oregonians like us might not even have to think about. Like “how do we get clean water?” Oregon definitely doesn’t have to worry about water. Especially in the winter.

But Africa does. And that’s why Oregon State University is part of an awesome group called Engineers Without Borders. This program is all about helping decrease the suck in places that aren’t as easy to live in as Oregon–whatever the reason.

This year, an OSU student named Zachary Dunn is coordinating the trip to Kenya (to where they’re flying this month) to do the first “implementation trip” of the project.

The project itself have been active since 2008, but so far all of the trips have been tests and assessments; they weren’t installing anything until this year. Now, Zach and his team are going to Lela, Kenya to install a water well for the town of 2,000 people–who have in the past had to walk miles, every day, just to get drinking water to survive.

Having a big well like this will help the people of Lela be self-reliant during the dry season.

We think this is the epitome of engineering. This is what it’s all about. And we can’t recommend this program highly enough. If you think you might go to OSU to study engineering, email the president (or another officer) of OSU’s chapter of EWB and ask about it. You can also sign up for their mailing list.

Engineering projects like this are the reason a lot of people become engineers. If you have a strong desire to help, think about joining EWB at Oregon State University when you enroll to become an engineer.

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