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Lab News -- January 14, 2011

January 14, 2011

LabNews - January 14, 2011PDF (2.2 Mb)

Sandia international agreement to assist Mexican MEMS students

By Neal Singer

Sandia will help Mexican engineering students learn to design tiny microelectromechanical devices (MEMS), according to a memorandum of understanding recently signed by Sandia and the University of Guadalajara.

The rationale for the agreement is that the economic well-being of Mexico is a national security issue for the US, says Sandia project lead Ernest Garcia (2614). “If we could help Mexico improve its research and development capabilities, it would help stabilize its economy,” he says.


Students in the clean room at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez in its Centro de Investigación en Ciencia y Tecnología Aplicada are ready for serious work. Professor Jose Mireles, head of this research center, has worked with Sandia for some time. Sandia’s MOU with the University of Guadalajara will open MEMS education opportunities to more Mexican students.

 “Ultimately, the US may be the biggest beneficiary if the MOU contributes to the vitality of the Mexican economy and thereby the stability of the US-Mexican border,” says Gil Herrera, director of Sandia’s Microsystems Science, Technology, and Components Center 1700. “We believe that Sandia will also benefit from the relationship, as we will have new minds challenging the design envelope of our SUMMiT MEMS technology.” Gil is in overall charge of Sandia’s activities in support of the collaboration. 

Sandia’s SUMMiT V program, one of the most advanced in the world, will be available to help students design MEMS devices in five layers of silicon. Each layer adds another level of complexity to the design. MEMS devices currently control light, electricity, or fluid flow in today’s video cameras, printers, recording devices, and televisions. They also react to motion shock by opening air bags in cars.

“The University of Guadalajara is like the state of California’s higher education system,” Ernie says. “It supports a number of universities throughout the Mexican state of Jalisco. Its leadership wants to use SUMMiT as the basis for a future graduate program in MEMS.”

The Mexican interior

“MEMS manufacturing will leverage many of Mexico’s traditional strengths in electronic manufacturing,” says Gil. “Sandia is in a position to help the University of Guadalajara System migrate to a state-of-the-art MEMS design capability.”

Steve Rottler, Sandia’s VP for basic technologies (S&T & Research Foundations  Div. 1000) who signed the agreement for Sandia, says, “We were very impressed by the commitment and enthusiasm of the University of Guadalajara faculty and leadership. We are excited about the opportunity to collaborate in the continued advancement of technologies that are vital to the economies of both countries, and to the prospect that this collaboration can contribute to improved security for both countries.”

Similar efforts by Sandia are also underway at Mexican universities in Juarez, Vera Cruz, and Mexico City, as well as the Puebla-based national research institute INAOE (National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics, and Electronics).

The agreement extends earlier work by Sandia, which played a role in creating a Bi-National Sustainability Laboratory on the border of the United States and Mexico. That effort was intended to examine issues of interest on both sides of the border, like water rights. Research efforts were expected ultimately to create industries and jobs at the border to staunch the one-way flow of workers from Mexico to the United States. That effort is now directed by an independent nonprofit corporation with a variety of sponsors.

The Guadalajara agreement is different, says Ernie, because it (and other Sandia university efforts) are in the interior of Mexico rather than its outskirts.

 “We hope eventually to have Mexican universities compete in Sandia’s University Alliance annual MEMS competition for the most imaginative or practical designs,” Ernie says. Student contest winners get to see their designs become reality through fabrication at Sandia’s MEMS fabrication facilities.

Not a sprint but a marathon

But to reach that goal for Mexican students, he says, will require patience.  “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” Ernie says, mentioning potential barriers like US controls on exporting technology and intellectual property to foreign countries.

A delegation of Mexican professors from Guadalajara will visit Albuquerque next spring to confer with researchers at Sandia and possibly the University of New Mexico. The trips will be funded by the state of Jalisco’s technology office. (Albuquerque and Guadalajara are designated so-called “sister cities.”)

The Guadalajara program is expected to expand an already-existing Sandia-led national MEMS project for Mexico, funded by that country with $2 million. “Last December, a number of Mexican professors took our MEMS course, licensed our design software, and purchased 100 silicon chips with their MEMS designs,” Ernie says. -- Neal Singer

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Sandia’s effect on New Mexico’s economy, community highlighted in 2010 economic impact report

By Heather Clark

Sandia bought more than $500 million worth of goods and services in fiscal year 2010 from New Mexico companies, 40 percent more than in the previous fiscal year, according to a new report from Small Business Utilization Dept. 10222.

The purchases are part of the more than $1 billion spent overall on procurement of goods and services, the 2010 Sandia National Laboratories Economic Impact on the State of New Mexico report shows. The report — released this week at the Sandia- sponsored 2010 Economic Impact Summit — shows the important role Sandia plays in the state and local economy and the community.


Click on chart above for larger version.

“Sandia National Laboratories has a long and distinguished record of encouraging and partnering with highly qualified, diverse small business suppliers who assist us in achieving our national security mission. We are fully committed to continuing this track record,” Labs Director Paul Hommert says.

Outreach efforts make a difference

The increase in money flowing into New Mexico’s economy is due to Sandia’s outreach efforts — meeting with business organizations, chambers of commerce, and business owners, holding town halls, and hosting a Supplier Engagement Summit where suppliers discussed their needs in working with the Labs, says Don Devoti, manager of the Small Business Utilization Department.

“We’re being more transparent in our operations and by letting these companies know we really want their business. I think that exposure and our efforts to open up Sandia and our procurement process to the local community has paid off,” Don says.

Here are some of the numbers showing Sandia’s overall impact:

Sam Felix, senior manager of Supply Chain Integration Dept. 10220, says the report also shows Sandia employs 9,300 people — about 8,200 of them in Albuquerque.

Economic models estimate Sandia’s purchases and salaries have a total impact on the local economy of almost $7 billion, or three times greater than the amount spent, the report says.

“When our community is dealing with tough economic times, we hope that Sandia’s jobs, the Labs’ partnership with businesses, and its volunteerism and charitable donations to local programs will help the Albuquerque area weather the storm and emerge even stronger when the economy improves,” Sam says.

Saving taxpayers $64 million

Buyers with Sandia’s Supply Chain Management Center saved taxpayers about $64 million through cost savings on purchase orders, using negotiated savings, such as volume discounts, Sam says.

The report also shows Sandia’s long-standing commitment to small businesses. Sandia’s small business advocates encourage buyers to give qualified small businesses opportunities to sell their products and services to Sandia. Nationwide, the Labs spent $552 million at small businesses. Almost $330 million, or 60 percent, of that was spent at small companies in New Mexico.

The Small Business Act mandates that federal contractors utilize small businesses, including those that are small disadvantaged businesses, small businesses owned by women, veterans and service-disabled veterans, and small businesses located in impoverished areas called Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) zone businesses. Overseeing this mandate is Sandia’s Small Business Utilization Department, which annually negotiates small business subcontracting goals with NNSA.

Sandia also helps the state’s economy through participation in the New Mexico Small Business Assistance (NMSBA) Program. The Sandia NMSBA Program has created and retained 1,549 jobs, decreased operating costs by $45.7 million, increased revenues by more than $82.4 million, and invested more than $17.4 million in expansion efforts and purchases of local goods and services since its inception, according to the report.

And, the Sandia Science & Technology Park, a 250-acre master-planned research park adjacent to the Laboratories, employs more than 2,000 people at an average wage of $71,612.

Sandia employees contributed more than $4.2 million to the United Way of Central New Mexico in 2010. They also logged in more than 100,000 volunteer hours in 2009. And, they donate on average 2,000 books, 23,000 school supplies, 63,000 pounds of food, 435 holiday gifts, and 500 pairs of new shoes to the community each year, the report says. -- Heather Clark

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Green Engineering Academy students visit Combustion Research Facility

By Patti Koning

As Kermit the Frog once lamented, it’s not easy being green. Students in the inaugural class of Livermore High School’s Green Engineering Academy are getting some help in living up to the connotations of that color — once synonymous with money, but now representing the environmental movement — through a partnership with Sandia. Last month, the Academy students and their teachers toured the Combustion Research Facility (CRF) and met the Sandia mentors who will guide their research.


In the alternative fuels lab, Chuck Mueller shows LHS student Aaron Costello a window in the piston of a single-cylinder, heavy-duty diesel engine that has been modified to provide optical access to the combustion chamber. Academy teacher Mike Waltz looks on from across the lab. (Photo by Randy Wong)

“We are so lucky to have this great program right in our backyard with state-of-the-art technology so the students can see practical applications for the concepts they are learning in the classroom,” says Sue Johnston, an Academy teacher.

Through Lockheed Martin’s Gifts and Grants program, Sandia donated $10,000 to the Academy. Before he retired in December, Ray Ng organized the mentoring program that pairs 12 Sandians with the students and provides two math tutors and a presenter.

The 12 mentors are Ed Allen (8243-1), Larry Carrillo (8237), Lee Druxman (8231), David Franco (8112), Tricia Gharagozloo (8365), William Loo (8244), Jerry McNeish (8954), Mark Musculus (8362), Debbie Post (8248), Jack Skinner (8226), Elaine Yang (8226), and Derek Young (8229). Patty Hough (8954) and Jennifer Robles (8245) will provide math tutoring and Heather Jackson (8222) will give classroom presentations and hands-on lab demonstrations.

Obtaining matching grants

“This is really an incredible start to this program,” says Mike Waltz, another Academy teacher. “It’s really more than we had hoped for. The donation allows us to obtain all of the matching grant money available for this school year and the mentors give us a head start on meeting the mentor requirement next year.”

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Schneider Electric, and Chevron Corp. have also provided financial support to the program.

The Green Engineering Academy is a “school within a school” focused on green technology and engineering. The California Partnership Academy (CPA) grant program provided an implementation grant of $29,000 last year and $42,000 in the current school year. The funding comes with the condition that the local school district match the full amount and that the program obtain matching funds from industry partners. In the 2011/12 school year, the grant increases to $72,000 and then to $81,000 in 2012/13, making industry partners even more crucial.

The LHS Academy launched this year with 35 sophomores, half of whom are at-risk, another requirement of the program. Each year, 30 new students will enter the Academy in their sophomore year. “We started with a bigger class this year because we expected some attrition,” says Johnston. “But everyone has stuck with the program and all the students are doing quite well.”

All classes have a science and engineering focus

The students take their core classes in science, English, social studies, and career technical education together with the same teachers from year to year. Those classes, even English and social studies, will have a science and engineering focus.

CPA requires that the students be matched with mentors in their junior year, usually from business partners. Waltz believes now that Sandia has stepped up with its support, other potential partners from the business community will come forward as well. “The first one is always the hardest and Ray really made this happen,” he says. “Now that the ball is rolling I think we’ll see a lot of momentum.”

Andy McIlroy (8350) welcomed the students to the CRF and explained some research areas. “Our work in the energy field spans a wide area and has a lot of impact,” he told the students. “The work that we do here in the CRF helped get you here today, quite literally.”

In small groups, the students rotated through the Hydrogen Combustion Lab, hosted by Victor Salazar (8362); Flame Diagnostics and Chemistry Lab, hosted by Nils Hansen and Scott Skeen (both 8353); Turbulent Combustion Lab, hosted by Isaac Ekoto and Adam

Ruggles (both 8367); Heavy Duty Diesel Lab, hosted by Mark Musculus; and the Alternative Fuels Engine Lab, hosted by Chuck Mueller (8362).

“The tour was pretty amazing,” LHS student Ben Davidson says. “It’s really interesting, all the cool stuff they do with alternative energy and hydrogen. I learned about the intricate ways that the researchers view what happens inside an internal combustion engine.”

Career familiarization

Waltz says that in addition to seeing interesting labs and equipment, the tour enabled the students to see what scientists really do day to day.

“I guess you’d call it career familiarization,” he says. “They hear about different jobs in science and engineering, but it’s much different to actually see where people work and the equipment they use. We also started building that relationship between the students and the mentors.”

The mentors will provide guidance and support to the students as they work on their projects for the Tri Valley Science and Engineering Fair in the spring. LHS student Emily Perry is considering a dance pad that generates electricity for her project. The idea, says Waltz, is to work up to the capstone research project that the students must complete in their senior year.

The 12 mentors from Sandia have 40 hours of paid time to spend with the Academy students. Elaine Yang says she volunteered to be a mentor because she sees it as a way to give back. “Mentors have made such a big difference in my life and career,” she explains. “That one-on-one interaction is really helpful.”

Derek Young was involved in science fairs and programs like the Science Bowl when he was in high school, so he’s interested in seeing things from the other side. He admits to another ulterior motive. “I have an eight-month-old baby, so I thought I’d get a head start on what to expect in the teenage years,” he says. - Patti Koning

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