Indiana Section Celebrates 100 Years

Fort Wayne, Ind., is home to several important inventions

6 October 2008

The IEEE section in Fort Wayne, Ind.—where TV inventor Philo Farnsworth began mass-producing TV sets for the United States—marked its 100th anniversary in August. This northeast Indiana section is home to many inventions, including the handheld calculator, the electric kitchen garbage disposal, the gas pump, and the hermetically sealed compressor motor, which made the electric refrigerator possible.

The section saluted its past on 14 August with a series of events open to the public at the Grand Wayne Convention Center. More than 700 people came to check out the displays of historic inventions and electronic devices from museums, a job fair by local engineering companies, and exhibitions by engineering societies.

“We invited the public to celebrate the contributions that engineers, scientists, and technicians have made to northeast Indiana and also to showcase the inventions made in the area over the past 100 years,” said Eric Sailor, the section’s chair. He cited several other goals the section hoped to achieve with the event, including encouraging engineers to advance technically and develop professionally; enabling the community to thank engineers for their contributions; creating awareness and interest in IEEE and other professional societies; introducing youngsters to science, technology, and engineering; and lastly, providing the community with an exciting and memorable day.

To ensure that the section’s 360 members and other engineers are prepared for the future, 10 professional development classes were offered on topics such as project management, sales skills for engineers, and improving the productivity of engineers and scientists.

A party that evening topped off the celebration and attracted more than 300 people, including representatives from the city’s major engineering companies, technical schools, other professional societies, and local and state governments.

STRIPES AND SPACE Those attending the evening event also heard presentations from retired U.S. Army Lt. General Bruce Harris and Carolyn Porco, director of flight operations and the Cassini Imaging Team Leader at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

Harris is a director of Telos Corp., in Ashburn, Va., which provides IT security systems for the U.S. federal government. He gave an overview of the current state of the military’s combat communication systems and outlined its future needs, a topic of interest to those IEEE members working for the city’s defense contractors, including Raytheon and ITT. Harris served 33 years of active duty, and when he retired in 1989 he was the director of information systems for command, control, communications, and computers in the Office of the Secretary of the Army.

“We need smaller and lighter components with less power consumption to reduce the 100-pound weight of a soldier’s backpack,” he said. “We need greater bandwidth to support the concepts of networks under warfare, greater information flow, more use of satellite communication, and increased use of commercial off-the-shelf software.”

Carolyn Porco highlighted her work on the Cassini spacecraft’s mission to survey Saturn and Titan, the largest of its 18 moons, to advance scientists’ knowledge of planet formation. The Cassini spacecraft began orbiting Saturn in 2004 and is the farthest robotic outpost ever established, Porco said. “We have undertaken a major exploratory mission of this very distant place and have gotten to know it intimately,” she said. She went on to note that Saturn’s seven rings are an enormous visual spectacle, 280 000 kilometers across, that “scream around Saturn 20 000 to 40 000 miles per hour. They are not chaotic but reasonably orderly.”

She also displayed images of Saturn and Titan taken by Cassini’s radar instruments and described some of their geography, geology, and climate.

“Titan has turned out to be a remarkable place, even a mystical place that’s alien, but something about it is Earthlike,” she said. “Cassini is still returning discoveries and yielding insights into the nature of the cosmic environment, and like an obedient servant, it is returning image after magnificent image that has a lot to tell us about our own origins.”