Y-12 is talking robotics with college students a state away.
Through video teleconferencing, Y‑12 is using its people and technological capabilities to reach out and (almost) touch aspiring roboticists at Northern Kentucky University, located just south of Cincinnati.
Because of his career-long experience as an inventor, Lee Bzorgi of Mission Engineering conducted a WebEx™ meeting with a business informatics class that’s fashioning an arm to enhance a robot that’ll assist the Newport, Kentucky, police SWAT team. This topic is right down Bzorgi’s alley. He’s been problem solving and inventing security gadgets at Y‑12 since 2001. Robots were his first love, though, building his first at age 10 and then publishing the design soon after.
“During my first four years out of college, I worked in robotics at Bechtel, and over the following 26 years, I’ve consistently applied that background knowledge to project after project,” said Bzorgi, whose initial professional trial was to construct a robot for radioactive contamination cleanup following the 1979 Three Mile Island meltdown. “It was my first engineering job. All the Bechtel executives were 50+, so I grew a moustache to look older!” That job set the course for Bzorgi’s career.
NKU instructor Steve Hinkel is a tinkerer with a computer science and business background, so robotics is a natural fit for his varied interests. “Business informatics focuses on ways to integrate technology into business operations, and Lee was absolutely brilliant with my students, offering a presentation, explaining some of his inventions and showing real-world examples of technologies being applied,” Hinkel said. “He also sparked an excellent post-presentation discussion; the students were extremely engaged. Lee is truly remarkable, and we were fortunate to have him as a guest speaker—the best we’ve ever had.”
“This kind of collaboration shows Consolidated Nuclear Security’s depth and breadth of capability and willing service to the nation—from the college campus to our industry partners,” Tom Berg of Program Integration said. “Our partnerships often are the pipeline for students who find a specific area of interest, like robotics, and then join the workforce down the road.”
Because Y‑12 is usually all about keeping information inside the fence and security (physical to cyber) is exceptionally tight, setting up a video teleconference didn’t happen in a snap. Program Integration’s Kia Moua worked internally with Information Solutions & Services to pave the way for this and future collaborations with external partners. “Having the capability to handle live streaming outside the Y‑12 firewall, using commercial software such as Skype™ or WebEx, to communicate with external industry partners provides significant cost savings. Imagine not having to travel and being able to sit in your office while receiving live feedback from your audience,” said Moua.
“From investments in high-end Cisco™ Telepresence to desktop conferencing with Microsoft® Lync™ between Pantex and Y-12 to slowly opening secure collaboration capabilities to external partners, Consolidated Nuclear Security continues to find ways to collaborate that are appropriate for our national security environment and that enable significant efficiencies in operations with our partners,” said Travis Howerton, senior director for Enterprise Architecture and Strategy.
Using today’s technology, CNS continues to build partnerships, share its unique expertise, save money and work more efficiently.
To learn more about Bzorgi’s inventions, visit the National Security Technology Center website.
Tours of Y-12 brought almost 400 people to the site as part of Oak Ridge’s 14th annual Secret City Festival. The visitors from 18 states included a group of women dressed as Rosie the Riveter, complete with lunch pails, from the historic Willow Run Bomber Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Like Y-12, Willow Run was vital to the U.S. war effort in World War II.
The Rosies toured Y‑12 and learned about its current crucial missions, its role in the Manhattan Project and on‑going historical preservation efforts through discussions with Y‑12 historian Ray Smith and members of the Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association. The group, familiar with Denise Kiernan’s The Girls of Atomic City, also had a chance to meet some of Y‑12’s version of the Rosies — the “Calutron Girls” — during the Secret City Festival.
While newcomers toured Y‑12, some who call the site home during the workweek participated with the Oak Ridge Amateur Radio Club at its demonstration of World War II‑era military radio communications, including the SCR‑284 — the same type as used in Oak Ridge during the war. Approximately 200 people visited the exhibit, which, along with live, on‑the‑air radio operations, featured replays of historic broadcasts, such as news programs from World War II, including the announcement of the existence of Oak Ridge and the Manhattan Project.
The group also hosted communications as part of the National Parks on the Air Program, celebrating the Centennial of the National Park Service and the newly established Manhattan Project National Historical Park. More than 270 contacts were made as part of NPOTA, including stations on five continents.
Embrace the nerd. CNS’s Anita Hazelwood did, and she’s never looked back. Hazelwood, a chemical engineer at Y-12, described coming to work in Oak Ridge in 2010 as part of the New Engineer Rotational Development program or NERD. Today the program is known as Career ONE.
“The program was a great opportunity for me to learn and gain work experience,” she said with a laugh. “I’m pretty sure I was the first member of NERD.”
Hazelwood recounted her story to area science, technology, engineering and mathematics teachers who were visiting Y-12 for an in-service day. The group of about 20 teachers and administrators were welcomed to Y-12 by Deputy Site Manager Gene Sievers, who explained the mission of Y-12, the site’s importance to national security and how CNS needs talented engineers and other STEM graduates today and in the future. “The workplace is changing, and workers’ skillsets must keep pace with employers’ needs,” said Sievers.
Sievers also participated in a panel discussion along with Hazelwood, Production manager Abe Mathews, Specialty Engineering functional manager Michael Ellis and Uranium Processing Facility Deputy Project Director Valerie McCain.
Best advice for students? “Accountability,” said McCain. “Teach your students to be accountable for their actions.” Mathews agreed and added, “It’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know.’”
Ellis urged the teachers to help students “get work experience,” because it will pay off down the road.
Haley Holt, STEM Facilitator for Knox County Schools coordinated the event with CNS’s Kristin Waldschlager. Holt says STEM is about more than just teaching math and science. “We want teachers to see connections with their instruction and the job opportunities available to their students,” she said.
Holly Cross, Director of Career Technical Education for Oak Ridge Schools also attended the in-service and agreed with Holt. “We want teachers to be able to help kids see options and prepare for employment in the future,” Cross said.
Reaching out to today’s STEM-embedded professionals at Y-12 was a way for the teachers to better understand those options.
“Family ties” makes a fitting theme for Tactical Response Force 1 Class 3-16’s graduation ceremony.
Three kinds of family attended the graduation at New Hope Center: graduates’ proud parents, spouses and children; CNS employees watching their children or other relatives graduate; and the graduates themselves, who said that their classmates and training officers are family now.
Eric Belcher, Director of Protective Force Operations and Training, echoed that thought in his commencement address after he thanked family members for attending.
“As your loved one begins this journey with the Y-12 Protective Force team, you are also now part of our family,” Belcher said.
The class of 30 included one woman and 29 men who successfully completed the 9 ½ week, paramilitary force training course that included classroom work as well as: handgun and rifle marksmanship, rules of engagement, use of force, civil disturbance operations, emergency vehicle operations, close quarter battle, tactical obstacle course, mechanical breaching and use of night-vision devices.
“The mission that these graduates are about to be part of is a critical mission that has worldwide, national and local importance,” Belcher said. “We secure some of the nation’s most precious and valuable assets, and the American people depend on us to do it professionally, correctly and without hesitation. I know each and every one of you is up to the challenge.”
The class boasted an overall academic average of 96.47 percent and weapons qualifications of 90 percent. The Top Gun marksmanship award went to Mark Shivers, who scored 615 out of a possible 620. The former South Carolina police officer and firearms instructor said he “had a lot of time behind a gun — lots of bullets.”
Two graduates, Brian Ford and Matthew Smith, shared the Academic Award with a tied overall percentage of 97.91.
“Needless to say this class did exceptionally well in all areas and worked extremely hard to develop their skills,” Belcher said.
Special guests from the National Nuclear Security Administration Production Office included: Assistant Manager for Safeguards and Security Arnold Guevara as well as Deputy Assistant Manager for Safeguards and Security Steve Crowe. Representing Y-12/CNS were Deputy Site Manager Gene Sievers and several representatives of Safeguards, Security and Emergency Services: Vice President Ken Freeman, Senior Director Tom Hayden as well as Deputy Director Anthony Mendez.
As she waited to hear husband Chad Reiman’s name called, Amber Reiman said she was glad to be back home in East Tennessee. Her husband recently retired from the U.S. Army after 24 years, 21 of those as a Ranger.
Chad Reiman looks forward to his next mission, protecting Y-12, as well as having more time at home with his wife and three children. His classmates and instructors are “just a bunch of class acts. Whatever I do here, I know I’ll be on a great team.”
The Army was like family to the Reimans for two decades.
Michael Lovelady has always been a tinkerer. So, after a stint in the Army National Guard and 10 years as a Y-12 security police officer, he jumped at the opportunity to participate in the Y-12 Apprentice Program. "It was a chance to get back to working with my hands,” he said. “I really enjoy designing and making things.”
Lovelady knew almost nothing about machining when he applied for the program in 2012 but has quickly learned the trade. After more than three years of coursework, an associate’s degree from Pellissippi State Community College and four years of on the job training with journey machinists, Lovelady and nine other apprentices will complete the program this August.
“I’d really like to thank CNS and the Machinist Union for giving me this chance. This program has been a wonderful opportunity to learn new skills and grow as an employee,” Lovelady said. “I’m able to join many different skills together and the end result is a beautiful product.”
The products Lovelady makes include not only the parts Y-12 needs to meet its mission but also unique tools designed to solve problems he encounters. For example, part of his job with Fabrication Operations is to machine graphite casting molds. To accurately machine these cylindrical parts, machinists must manually set the cutting tool to the exact center of the rough part. While any number of commercially available levelers can be used to find the center of the part’s outer diameter, none work for the inner diameter, leaving that up to manual measurements and calculations — or, as Lovelady saw it, opportunities for error.
“I wondered if we could get a leveler that would work for the inner diameters of our parts but realized there weren’t any products designed for that,” Lovelady said. “So I got to looking at it a bit and came up with an idea for a new leveler.”
But he didn’t just come up with the idea. After consulting with some fellow machinists, Lovelady drew a rough sketch, modeled the sketch in SolidWorks design software, converted the model to a design drawing, manually plotted the program onto a machine and then machined the prototype himself.
“It’s a relatively simple Y shaped device with a sight glass leveling vial,” Lovelady said of his invention. “The two points of the Y contact the part’s contours, allowing the tool to slide along the outer or inner diameter until the sight glass bubble is centered.”
This simple tool not only eliminates guesswork, calculations and opportunities for errors but also increases productivity by reducing the time spent establishing tool height or switching between leveling tools. Lovelady shared his innovation with CNS’s Technology Transfer organization, which researched the market and determined that the unique design and capabilities of Lovelady’s device made it a great candidate for a patent. They submitted an application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office in September of 2015 and hope to hear more before the end of the year.
“This is an awesome accomplishment. I love seeing our employees thinking differently and finding innovative ways to get the job done and then using their skills and commitment to make it happen,” said Susan Baker, Fabrication Operations Production manager. “Mike embodies the principle of continuous improvement and the mindset we should apply daily to our work.”
Indeed, he’s still tinkering.
“We’ve been using the leveler for more than a year, but I’m still thinking of improvements,” Lovelady said. “We could reduce the distance between the contact points so it can be used on smaller parts, or fabricate it out of different materials.”
As he continues to machine new parts and chats with other employees, Lovelady sees numerous opportunities to design and fabricate solutions to issues around the plant. “That’s the fun part, designing new stuff,” he said. “I hate when people say we can’t do something. I always wonder, ‘Well, why not?’”