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How CNM’s New Technology Solutions Labs is Putting Recent Grads to Work on Cutting Edge Projects

The Lab offers Digital Media and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to businesses and non-profits while simultaneously providing alumni with good jobs and real-world experience
How CNM’s New Technology Solutions Labs is Putting Recent Grads to Work on Cutting Edge Projects
A prototype of the pothole detector that TSL is building.

Sep 09, 2020

CNM Ingenuity’s first-ever Internet of Things (Iot) Deep Dive Bootcamp wrapped up this May. Almost immediately, several of the graduating students started working on projects that could change how technology is used both locally, and across the galaxy.

These alumni are working with CNM Ingenuity’s Technology Solutions Labs (TSL), and through the Lab have partnered with both the City of Albuquerque and NASA (among other companies) to build IoT technology that will help make the city, and eventually the moon, more efficient.

“We are growing TSL because it gives Deep Dive alumni the opportunity to work on real world problems and help their communities, while simultaneously getting paid and developing their portfolios,” says Brian Rasahp, the IoT Deep Dive instructor and TSL IoT advisor. 

The IoT part of TSL is just getting off the ground, but the Digital Media side has been around for much longer and uses a similar framework. With guidance from Deep Dive Digital Media instructor Rod Sanchez, Digital Media grads have worked on dozens of projects for various companies and can provide everything from video and audio production to animation, and help with Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and/or Computer Generated Imagery (CGI).

The first project on the IoT side is a partnership where Brian and a former student, now a TSL Technical Resident, are working with the City of Albuquerque to equip the city’s fleet of trash trucks with smart devices that will act as pothole detectors. 

The idea came about because the trucks drive every street in the city each week, putting them in a unique position to identify problems. Brain developed the first prototype, but the Technical Resident is now refining that prototype and TSL will be working with the city to test it on trucks.

At its most basic, the device is an accelerometer that can detect if a truck goes down or up and then measure that up and down movement. If the truck goes up it might be going over a speed bump or over something in the street. If it goes down, that indicates a pothole. Eventually, the accelerometer will be able to connect to the cell network and send real-time data to a city-run database, creating a constantly updated map of where the city will need to improve the roads. 

“In theory, we’ll be able to help the city build a system that prioritizes their road work not based on who calls and requests a fix, but instead on data,” Brian says. 

Concurrently, another IoT graduate is helping a NASA engineer show how IoT could be used on the moon. Right now it’s just a proof of concept, but that student is developing small-scale models of lawn-dart like rockets that could be launched to the moon and then used to deploy an IoT system that would be in place before astronauts arrive later this decade. The models are literally lawn-darts strapped with IoT sensors and act as an important step in showing how real rockets could land, then deploy their sensors. Those sensors would then be used to create a connected environment and monitor things like temperature, dust, and sunlight so that astronauts have real-time data on the conditions they’ll face. 

The list goes on, but one more important project IoT grads are working on relates to mobile WiFi spots and eventually, drones. When COVID-19 hit, the City of Albuquerque set up free, mobile hotspots so people could access the internet. Those hotspots were often in vans and powered by an electric cable, meaning they had to be close to a building. Now, in partnership with the city and SmartCone—a Canadian company whose American offices are located in Albuquerque—TSL, with help from IoT graduates, is building two prototypes for solar-powered, cellularly-connected hotspot trailers that can be deployed to many more spots around the city, increasing access. 

If those prototypes are successful, there are also plans to partner with an Israeli company that works on drones and is looking for a way to recharge drones in remote spots. The trailers could be deployed across the globe and help drones fly longer missions tracking everything from security to environmental data. 

What comes next? Brian says the sky is literally the limit. He points out that the COVID-19 pandemic has served to increase the need for remote connectivity, creating an even bigger demand for employees with IoT skills.

“We’re excited to continue helping businesses small and large come up with inventive solutions, and we’re really excited about training students in the Bootcamps and then employing many of them through TSL,” Brian says. 

The next IoT Deep Dive Bootcamp starts Oct. 5 and applications are now being accepted.  Learn more about TSL here.