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Articles from 2013 In May


Slideshow: Anatomy of a Composite-Heavy Jetliner

The first completed A350 XWB widebody jetliner, dubbed MSN001, comes out of the paint shop on May 13, 2013 in Toulouse, France, after its final painting. For the aircraft's exterior, Airbus is using an environmentally friendly, chromate-free primer, and a

Airbus's fanfare a few weeks ago when the first completed A350 XWB widebody jetliner came out of the paint shop was mostly a PR event. At the time, the two things the company announced were that the plane had received its final paint job, and ground tests were about to begin, with flight tests expected some time this summer. This gave us an excuse to check up on the progress of this record-breaking aircraft's production.

The A350 XWB's airframe consists of a bigger proportion of carbon-fiber-reinforced composite structures than any other commercial jet to date: over 53 percent by weight. Carbon fiber composite leader Hexcel is supplying all of the carbon-fiber composites, both prepreg and fibers, used in the plane's primary structures. According to a video made by the company, these include fuselage panels and barrel, wing upper and lower covers, wing spars, center wing box, keel beam, main landing gear door and bay, and the vertical and horizontal tail plane.

But composites are not the only materials story for the aircraft. Titanium and advanced aluminum alloys combine with carbon composites to achieve more than 70 percent of the A350 XWB airframe's weight in non-traditional materials. This plus a new aerodynamic design are aimed at reducing fuel consumption and operating costs by 25 percent compared to other aircraft in the same category of midsized, widebody, twin-aisle passenger jetliners.

This plane has a couple of possible advantages over the problems encountered by its composites-heavy predecessors, the Airbus A380 and Boeing's problem-child 787. In the first case, the advantage is experience: Airbus's chief executive Tom Enders admitted at a press briefing last year that the A380's cracked wings were due in part to not understanding carbon fiber materials and their interface with metals, and not realizing this lack of understanding, as well as a lack of the right design controls. That admission impressed me: Boeing has tended to avoid such public mea culpas.

In the second case, the advantage is also experience, but here it has to do with battery choice. Boeing's much-publicized problems with lithium-ion main batteries led Airbus to promptly conclude that it should abandon its own plan for Li-Ions and switch to proven nickel cadmium main batteries. I conclude that Airbus will probably learn from its own mistakes and the mistakes of its main rival.

Here are some highlights from the evolution of the plane's construction, including its use of composites, from the most recent events back to the project's earlier days. Click on the photo to begin the slideshow.

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Video: Mobile App-Driven Robot Bartender Makes, Shakes Drinks to Order

Video: Mobile App-Driven Robot Bartender Makes, Shakes Drinks to Order

While German researchers have already developed a robot bartender that can serve drinks ordered at a bar, a collaboration between MIT, Coca-Cola, and Bacardi has done one better. They've created a mobile app-driven robotic bartender that can actually mix and serve drinks to order.

The robot -- called Makr Shakr and designed by MIT's Senseable City Lab and CIA Robotics in Italy -- is comprised primarily of three orange robotic arms that can mix and shake up drinks much like a real bartender. The robot made a literally splashy debut at the Google I/O 2013 conference in San Francisco.

Specifically, the robot and its accompanying app work like this: People download an app to their Android or iPhone mobile device, then create both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink combinations. The robot makes the drinks requested with assembly-line efficiency and graceful movements modeled on two professional dancers -- Roberto Bolle, etoile dancer at the La Scala opera house in Milan and principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater; and Italian director and choreographer Marco Pelle.

From a design perspective, the "main goal in functionality was to give the user complete control over a full process with the [drink] ingredients and actions," Yaniv Turgeman, the project leader from MIT Senseable City Lab, told Design News. The technology "also had to be robust, transportable, and cost-effective for the budget," he said.

Turgeman said designers decided on three arms for Makr Shakr, "because we simulated the division of labor and used genetic algorithms to divide the tasks between the robots effectively." The robot could work with any number of arms, however.

As Makr Shakr uses its robotic arms to mix up the drink, its movements are visualized on a display screen behind the bar. These movements "mimic the actions of a bartender, from the shaking of martini to the thin slicing of a lemon garnish," according to the Makr Shakr website. People then can pick up their drinks from the bar's counter.

Makr Shakr's creators said that rather than replace a human bartender, the development of the robot was meant to be a "social experiment that looks at how people might embrace the new possibilities offered by digital manufacturing." To this end, the Makr Shakr mobile app also acts as a social network where users can share drink recipes and photos, as well as connect with each other.

Makr Shakr also can do something that a regular bartender can't do -- at least not accurately: monitor a person's blood-alcohol level, which is intended to promote responsible drinking.

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Japan Extracts Natural Gas From Methane Hydrate Deposits

Japan Extracts Natural Gas From Methane Hydrate Deposits

In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, Japan has been on a focused mission to supplant their nuclear energy with safer alternatives (more like, non-radioactive alternatives).

It's been announced that a Japanese drilling ship has successfully extracted natural gas from a frozen methane hydrate deep beneath the Nankai trough seabed. Though the offshore extraction was only an experimental and non-commercial production of the energy-dense gas, the achievement is marked as a notable step in the research and development of methane hydrates as a valuable energy resource.

Methane hydrate deposits consist of an ice-like material of methane molecules surrounded by water molecules that thrive in low-temperature, high-pressure locations. Thus, much of the substance is generally allocated deep below the ocean floor, or under permafrost areas.

The news comes in the wake of Japan's recent nuclear turmoil that prompted Japanese government officials to immediately focus efforts on alternative and renewable energy sources. The methane hydrates located deep below the Nankai trough are said to contain enough energy to meet Japan's energy demands for the next 100 years! In fact, the company JOGMEC reports that the energy contained in a given volume of methane hydrate is 164 times the amount of energy contained in the same volume of conventional gas. What is even more astounding is that the amount of energy available from all of the world's methane hydrate deposits is far greater than the collective amount of energy that can be extracted from all other conventional sources.

To extract the gas, a Japanese company drilled a 300-meter-deep hole into the Nankai trough seabed. With direct access to the methane hydrate deposits, surrounding water was pumped out of the way and a pipe was placed above the hydrate. This effectively lowered the pressure above the hydrate and allowed the gas to escape upwards toward the ship. The gas was then tested on a burner on board the ship that caused a pair of propellers to spin upon successful extraction.

Of course, with such intrusive methods of hydrate energy extraction, there are still plenty of environmental challenges to be addressed before commercial production can become a reality. Work still needs to be done that will prevent the powerful greenhouse gas from escaping into the atmosphere. Deep offshore drilling could also potentially weaken the seabed floor, making landslide incidents a high possibility.

For now, the prospect of methane hydrate as an energy source is already moving countries into action. The US and Russia have already begun researching ways to harvest hydrates embedded under each country's respective permafrost region.

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Advantech, Aerotech Release Automation Control Panels

Advantech, Aerotech Release Automation Control Panels

Both Aerotech and Advantech have released control panels optimized for laboratory and industrial animation, respectively.

Aerotech's Ensemble LAB control platform is a full-color touchscreen display aimed at the laboratory and light industrial markets, featuring an intuitive tabbed interface to provide access to set-up and operation screens with one finger press, the company said.

Meanwhile, Advantech's TPC-1771H is a 17-inch touchscreen display that complements an existing line of 6-inch, 10-ich, 12-inch, and 15-inch version's of the Intel-based control panel for industrial and machine automation applications, the company said.

As factory and laboratory automation networks become more sophisticated, engineers need an easier way to manage the different aspects of the network, and easy-to-use touchscreen control panels are an integral part of that system.

Ensemble LAB includes a number of features that make it a good fit for leading research facilities, according to Aerotech. In addition to its touchscreen display, the control panel features an integral rubberized front-panel interface that provides tactile feedback for jogging and manual positioning operations. It also includes a front-panel USB port to connect a keyboard and other peripherals to achieve complex program sequences.

The display also includes full compatibility with both EPICS and TANGO distributed control protocols, which are used at leading light source or synchrotron facilities, as well as other government laboratories. This support allows the display to integrated seamlessly into other applications at major research facilities, according to Aerotech.

Ensemble LAB also features simplified programming, using a BASIC-like syntax rather than the two-letter mnemonics that other competitive products use, the company said. The display can be programmed offline with a GUI in Windows, after which programs can be downloaded and stored on the controller for use at a later time.

Other features of the display include plug-and-play capability, as well as a multitask function that allows Ensemble LAB to run up to four programs at the same time. This allows for easy portioning of complex operations -- for example, one task could be used for motion while other tasks are reserved for process control, according to Aerotech.

While Aerotech's new display has been optimized for laboratory and light industrial facilities, Advantech's most recent addition to its display line is more for heavy-duty indstrial use. To support this, the TPC-1771H features a choice between a PCI-e or a mini-PCIe expansion slot that can expand the panel's functionality through add-on cards, such as the industrial communication module, WiFi, 3G, Profibus, CANOpen, PROFINET or Ethernet/IP, according to Advantech.

The panel also features an integrated digital input/output module with software control utility, as well as a battery back-up 1MB SRAM that protects important data in case of a power failure, the company said.

Like others in the TPC control panel family, the 1771H also includes a fanless Intel Atom Dual Core 1.8Ghz processor that's been designed for low power consumption, as well as a resistive touchscreen and multiple I/O ports. The display's front panels also are NEMA4/IP65 approved, which makes them easy to clean without damage risk. This makes them a good fit for machine automation and factory automation applications, according to Advantech. They also have a wide temperature range from zero to 50 degrees Celsisu, which makes them suitable for use in outdoor applications, such as automatic car washers, the company added.

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Straw Lampshade-Like Cover Turns Skyscraper Into Energy Harvester

Strawscraper is an invention of Swedish architecture firm Belatchew Arkitekter, which aims to add a straw lampshade-like cover on the top of an unfinished building in Stockholm called Söder Torn, that can harvest wind energy. <br> (Source: Belatchew Arkit

You may remember PowerWINDows, a project that involves putting metal structures between skyscrapers to act as wind turbines. Now imagine a different twist on the same idea -- a skyscraper with a straw lampshade-like cover on its top that can harvest wind energy.

This is the idea behind Strawscraper, the invention of Swedish architecture firm Belatchew Arkitekter. The project aims to extend a building in Stockholm called Soder Torn with an energy-producing outer shell made of piezoelectric straws that can recover wind energy and also add a new look to the building.

Click on the image below to see before and after views of Soder Torn.

Indeed, though wind turbines generally are found in rural areas, innovative designers are now looking for ways to harness the skyscraper canyons of cities -- where wind swirls and often gets trapped between buildings -- to provide this type of energy in urban areas.

"There is much talk about solar energy within cities, and we believe that wind has a potential that has not yet been fully developed," David Humble of Belatchew told Design News in an email. "Furthermore, wind energy has the advantage of being clean and quiet."

Belatchew Arkitekter -- through its Belatchew Labs division -- certainly has an interesting take on this idea in its rethinking of Soder Torn, which remains unfinished. The original design of the project called for a building of 40 floors. However, the building's architect, Henning Larsen, left mid-project unhappy with compromises made on its design, and the building now stands in a shorter version of its designed self, at 26 floors rather than 40.

Belatchew is proposing to revisit the building's design and restore it to its original proportion while exploring "new techniques that could create the urban wind farm of the future," the firm said on its website. Strawscraper will be the first project out of the firm's labs, which will work on experimental designs.

That technique specifically is to build a number of thin straws atop the building that look like a lampshade or netting that functions at a low wind velocity and can produce electricity even if moved by a slight breeze. "The benefit of this type of technology compared to regular wind turbines is that it is more sensitive and can function in the variable wind conditions of urban areas," Humble told us. "It causes less noise and vibrations and does not disturb humans or wildlife the same way regular wind farms do."

He said he also sees the technology as having applications beyond the Soder Torn building. "It can be placed on a wide range of existing structures, available in every city. With the help of this technique surfaces on both old and new buildings can be transformed into energy producing entities."

To harvest wind energy, the straws would be fabricated from a composite material with piezoelectric properties that turn wind into energy, Humble said. He went on to describe the design of the straws in this way: "Each straw has a core of piezoelectric ceramic discs surrounded by a flexible piezoelectric polymer cladding. The base of the straw is anchored in a generator."

Humble added that the firm is doing more research to determine the best design of the straws for maximizing energy output. In addition to its energy-harvesting properties, Strawscraper also would give a new aesthetic appearance to the building, creating what the firm calls an "undulating landscape" on the building's facade.

Belatchew anticipates the Strawscraper project being completed in 2030.

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Straw Lampshade-Like Cover Turns Skyscraper Into Energy Harvester

Straw Lampshade-Like Cover Turns Skyscraper Into Energy Harvester

You may remember PowerWINDows, a project that involves putting metal structures between skyscrapers to act as wind turbines. Now imagine a different twist on the same idea -- a skyscraper with a straw lampshade-like cover on its top that can harvest wind energy.

This is the idea behind Strawscraper, the invention of Swedish architecture firm Belatchew Arkitekter. The project aims to extend a building in Stockholm called Soder Torn with an energy-producing outer shell made of piezoelectric straws that can recover wind energy and also add a new look to the building.

Click on the image below to see before and after views of Soder Torn.

Indeed, though wind turbines generally are found in rural areas, innovative designers are now looking for ways to harness the skyscraper canyons of cities -- where wind swirls and often gets trapped between buildings -- to provide this type of energy in urban areas.

"There is much talk about solar energy within cities, and we believe that wind has a potential that has not yet been fully developed," David Humble of Belatchew told Design News in an email. "Furthermore, wind energy has the advantage of being clean and quiet."

Belatchew Arkitekter -- through its Belatchew Labs division -- certainly has an interesting take on this idea in its rethinking of Soder Torn, which remains unfinished. The original design of the project called for a building of 40 floors. However, the building's architect, Henning Larsen, left mid-project unhappy with compromises made on its design, and the building now stands in a shorter version of its designed self, at 26 floors rather than 40.

Belatchew is proposing to revisit the building's design and restore it to its original proportion while exploring "new techniques that could create the urban wind farm of the future," the firm said on its website. Strawscraper will be the first project out of the firm's labs, which will work on experimental designs.

That technique specifically is to build a number of thin straws atop the building that look like a lampshade or netting that functions at a low wind velocity and can produce electricity even if moved by a slight breeze. "The benefit of this type of technology compared to regular wind turbines is that it is more sensitive and can function in the variable wind conditions of urban areas," Humble told us. "It causes less noise and vibrations and does not disturb humans or wildlife the same way regular wind farms do."

He said he also sees the technology as having applications beyond the Soder Torn building. "It can be placed on a wide range of existing structures, available in every city. With the help of this technique surfaces on both old and new buildings can be transformed into energy producing entities."

To harvest wind energy, the straws would be fabricated from a composite material with piezoelectric properties that turn wind into energy, Humble said. He went on to describe the design of the straws in this way: "Each straw has a core of piezoelectric ceramic discs surrounded by a flexible piezoelectric polymer cladding. The base of the straw is anchored in a generator."

Humble added that the firm is doing more research to determine the best design of the straws for maximizing energy output. In addition to its energy-harvesting properties, Strawscraper also would give a new aesthetic appearance to the building, creating what the firm calls an "undulating landscape" on the building's facade.

Belatchew anticipates the Strawscraper project being completed in 2030.

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NASA to Use Dreamliner Lithium-Ion Battery Packs to Power ISS

NASA to Use Dreamliner Lithium-Ion Battery Packs to Power ISS

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner (which we've discussed before) has been called the most fuel-efficient airliner traversing the skies. It sports a composite material body and substantial battery power for operating most of its flight systems. Unfortunately, fires involving onboard lithium-ion battery packs in January caused one jet to make an emergency landing in Japan and another to abort flight plans while on the ground in Boston.

These fires prompted the immediate grounding of 787s. The Federal Aviation Administration has worked with authorities in the US and Japan to investigate GS Yuasa Corp., the Japanese firm that manufactures Boeing's lithium-ion battery pack. The fires turned out to be a result of thermal runaway; heat from a single overheated battery cell leaked on to other cells, causing the meltdown to spread. A redesigned Boeing battery pack that accounted for thermal isolation issues underwent test flights this month to assure the FAA and the public that its Dreamliners would soon be flying again.

Throughout the 787 battery mess, NASA has held on to a contract with Boeing for the design of a lithium-ion battery pack to replace aging NiMH batteries on the International Space Station (ISS). Though the decision is controversial, NASA gave the green light to move forward with the deal, citing close work with the battery subcontractor Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.

Josh Byerly, a NASA spokesman, spoke last month at the Johnson Spaceflight Center about the decision to continue with the project. His main talking points revolved around the superiority of lithium-ion technology over the old battery pack and the benefits for the ISS: cutting launch payloads nearly in half and ultimately reducing launch costs.

When asked about the dangers of battery cell failure, Byerly said the ISS battery design prevents the propagation of a runaway thermal event. Testing of the new battery design showed that, even if a cell were to catch fire, it would be completely contained and controllable. Byerly also said that, unlike with the Dreamliner, the ISS battery is installed outside the cabin on an unpressurized structural hoist.

Last month, the FAA approved Boeing's new battery design, giving NASA the last bit of defense it needed for use of the novel technology on the ISS. Since then, Dreamliners have taken to the skies once again.

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Machine Vision Using Ethernet Powerlink

Machine Vision Using Ethernet Powerlink

New connectivity between vision systems and automation solutions based on Ethernet Powerlink communications is creating simplified system architectures that enable higher performance application possibilities.

According to B&R Automation, the In-Sight 7000 series from Cognex is the first vision system with built-in support for the Powerlink protocol. This means users no longer need a parallel network for image processing, and can instead communicate process and image data using a single medium. It also offers an integrated solution that unites vision, control, I/O, and motion for process automation and quality control.

"The big benefit for applications, compared to a traditional camera system and control system, is that typically the camera system is communicating with a PC, which then communicates with the control," Stephan Stricker, product manager at B&R Industrial Automation, told Design News.

He said that in high-speed applications, often the only option is to hard-wire a connection to the camera and then trigger the camera to take a picture. In these applications, because the interface is so limited, there isn't information available from the camera, and the resulting speed of operation is not very fast.

Cognex implemented the Powerlink interface using Ethernet communications to connect cameras along with I/O and drives on a real-time network, which enables the control system to exchange almost any kind of information with the camera. This includes triggering the camera but also gathering detailed information about an inspection process. If a user wants to read a 2D barcode, for example, there is a variety of information available beyond the string that is read, including the time needed to identify the barcode and orientation of the barcode on the product.

"This information can be mapped from the camera directly into the PLC, with a goal of speeding up application performance using faster communications with the camera," Stricker told us. "More information is available, and it is easier to retrieve this information without the PC in the middle. With the PC, there was a need to coordinate the communications from the PC to the camera, and then from the PC to the PLC. One goal is to eliminate the PC, and be able to use a control panel for machine control along with managing the vision system."

Cognex also implemented TCP/IP over Powerlink, which provides non-real-time communications, as well as managing cyclical communications. This is especially useful when changing the configuration of the camera is needed, which has typically required a PC. But since jobs are stored in the camera, the PC is actually not needed for the inspection process.

Stricker said there are often a series of steps in an inspection process, and Cognex provides user software tools for configuring these operations. To connect to the camera and change a job, the PLC controller can now route through the network to the camera to achieve a non-real-time communications link, which, in the past, usually would have interfered with operation of the real-time network.

DFAA: Design’s Acronym for Efficiency

DFAA: Design’s Acronym for Efficiency

If there's one overriding fact about engineering in the 21st century, it's this: Everything is connected. The silos that once pigeonholed engineering specialties are fast disappearing, and the everyday tasks of engineers are increasingly calling for a blend of skills. For example, more product designs involve mechatronics, a field that calls for expertise in mechanics, electronics, control systems, and software programming. Nowhere is the demand for big-picture engineers more pronounced than in the world of automation. As worldwide competition quickens, manufacturers are searching for ways to assemble products faster and more reliably. That means implementing more automation -- a trend that affects design engineers just as much as it does manufacturing engineers.

Not only have advances in technology enabled automation to handle more complex parts, but the cost of automation has also dropped, giving companies a greater return on their investment. Better programming expertise also speeds setup time for automated processes, and improved data collection makes it easier to troubleshoot automated lines and minimize downtime. Automation also has enabled US companies to locate more manufacturing operations close to home, rather than in countries with lower-cost manual assembly labor.

Put all these trends together, and they add up to a substantial jump in automation investments. For example:

  • The North American robotics market recorded its strongest year ever in 2012, according to the Robotic Industries Association. A total of 22,598 robots valued at nearly $1.5 billion were sold in North America in 2012 -- up 17 percent in units and 27 percent in dollars from 2011. The biggest single application area was assemblies (up 49 percent) as companies embraced smaller, lighter-duty robots.
  • The latest figures for purchases of packaging equipment in the US show a 23 percent increase in 2011 to $8.8 billion, according to PMMI, the industry's trade association. Moreover, the backlog of orders going into 2012 was nearly 30 percent higher than it was the previous year.
  • As evidence of the focus on quality and reliability with increased automation, global sales of machine vision systems are expected to increase at a compound annual rate of 8.2 percent between 2013 and 2018, according to the research firm MarketsandMarkets. Increasingly, such systems are being paired with automated systems for sorting parts and assembling components.

Design for automated assembly
Clearly, automation is happening, but the question is whether engineers can design their products to make the most of automatic assembly. Since about 85 percent of a product's ultimate costs are determined in the design stage, it's crucial that engineers embrace design for automated assembly practices from the very outset of a product's concept. Once a design is released for manufacturing, the costs of changing a design can be substantial.

In recent years, engineers have heard a lot about the need to learn design for assembly (DFA) skills. However, much of that focus has dealt with the manual assembly process, dealing with such human aspects as reach, maneuverability, repeatability, and operator safety. In contrast, design for automated assembly (DFAA) focuses on robotics assembly and other mechanical assembly operations without human interaction.

Among other differences, DFA for manual assembly generally doesn't make products suitable for automatic assembly. Though manual assembly can overcome many complex movements and operations, automatic assembly requires more constrained movements and simplified operations, including minimizing the number of steps required for assembly. A design featuring snap-fit parts, for example, could actually eliminate an automated assembly step of picking and placing a screw to fasten components. By adding a small lip to a component, you can drastically simplify the operation of an automated sorter and reduce costs (see more DFAA examples on the next page). When parts are designed for automated assembly, something interesting happens. Manufacturers often discover that the product is easier to assemble manually, as well.

Unfortunately, with the already jammed curricula of engineering schools, DFAA skills don't receive nearly as much attention as they should in the education of engineers. Most engineers must learn this category of design on the job, by reviewing assembly equipment at tradeshows, or by taking continuing education courses offered by ASME and other engineering societies.

Slideshow: An Engineer Goes to Congress

US Rep. David McKinley, P.E. (right), earned his Bachelor's degree in civil engineering at Purdue in 1969. After graduating, he worked as an engineer for 12 years, eventually founding his own firm. A Republican, McKinley has represented West Virginia's 1s

Many engineers often comment that Congress would make better decisions if it included more engineers.

Currently, 15 members of Congress (14 representatives and one senator) have engineering backgrounds. This includes those who earned engineering degrees and then went on to work in other fields, as well as those who had extensive engineering careers before going to Congress. Engineers make up about 5 percent of the US workforce, so there are significantly fewer engineers in Congress than there are in the population as a whole.

Like engineers in general, the engineers in Congress cover the political spectrum. They range from Tea Party Republicans, such as Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, to liberal Democrats, such as Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Click on the image below to see who else went from engineer to Congressman.

I recently spoke with Brad Schneider, an industrial engineer who was elected last year to represent Illinois's 10th Congressional District. Like the country as a whole, the 10th District is divided nearly evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Congressman Schneider is a Democrat, but the district's last three representatives were Republicans. To open our conversation, I asked Schneider what attracted him to engineering as a young person. He said:

I was always that kid who took clocks apart and put them back together. I always had a passion for figuring out how things worked and solving problems.

This passion led him to study industrial engineering at Northwestern University. He was drawn to industrial engineering because of its combination of basic engineering with organizational principles, business, and people skills. Like many other young engineers at the time, Schneider had a hard time finding a job after graduating in 1983. The US economy was in a recession, and many manufacturing companies were closing their doors. He decided to travel to Israel, where he worked as an industrial engineer on a kibbutz that manufactured table fans.

When he arrived there, he found that the assembly process was almost entirely manual. The fans were carried from station to station by hand. He designed an assembly line, connecting the stations with roller conveyors. "Finding the gaps in how things work allows us to make them better," he said. "If you think about it, that's what we try to do as legislators, too."

After returning to the US, Schneider attended Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management to earn his MBA. While a business student, he was one of the founding members of the Kellogg High Tech Club, which brought companies such as IBM, Apple, Intel, and Sun Microsystems to campus, at a time when the computer revolution was just taking off.

Schneider earned his MBA in 1988 and went to work for consulting firm Price Waterhouse in Denver, Colo. While at Price Waterhouse, he was instrumental in bringing the MIT Enterprise Forum to the Denver area. "The MIT Enterprise Forum was based on the idea that innovation often happens at kitchen tables and in garages," Schneider said. "What we did was to bring innovation to investors." Loosely affiliated with MIT, the non-profit organization provides networking opportunities for entrepreneurs and the local business community. Schneider compared the concept to the ABC television show Shark Tank.