IEEE Power & Energy Society President Dies at 69

IEEE also mourns the loss of several tech pioneers

3 min read
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Frank Lambert

IEEE Power & Energy Society president

Life senior member, 69; died 27 July

Lambert was the IEEE Power & Energy Society's 2020–2021 president. An active member of the society since 1982, he held several positions on its governing board, including region representative and vice president of chapters. He also served on its switch gear committee.

He worked at Georgia Power in Atlanta for more than 20 years, and he was a principal research engineer at the National Electric Energy Testing Research and Applications Center at Georgia Tech for more than 25 years, becoming NEETRAC's associate director.

Lambert was a longtime supporter of the IEEE PES Scholarship Plus Initiative. He also championed IEEE Smart Village, a program that brings electricity—as well as educational and employment opportunities—to remote communities.

He had earned bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering at Georgia Tech.

Mason Lamar Williams III

Codeveloper of the Williams-Comstock formula

Life Fellow, 78; died 28 June

Williams joined IBM in San Jose, Calif., in 1970 and spent his entire 32-year career there. He helped develop the Williams-Comstock formula, a critical design tool for magnetic recording systems. When Williams first joined IBM, he worked with Richard "Larry" Comstock, an IBM engineering manager, to characterize and test experimental magnetite film media. Together they developed the formula, which identifies factors that limit hard-disk storage capacity.

He also guided the development of thin-film disk drives, according to his biography on the Engineering and Tech History Wiki. He managed several magnetic recording projects during his career.

Williams was granted 27 U.S. patents during his time at IBM.

He was an active member of the IEEE Magnetics Society and received its 2007 Johnson Storage Device Technology Award.

In 2006 he became a distinguished lecturer and spoke about his work in Asia, Europe, and the United States.

After retiring from IBM in 2002, Williams volunteered at the Computer History Museum, in Mountain View, Calif. While there, he restored the world's first hard drive—the IBM RAMAC—which is on display at the museum.

He earned his bachelor's degree in engineering at Caltech and obtained a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles.

Jan Abraham "Braham" Ferreira

Past president of the IEEE Power Electronics Society

Fellow, 62; died 16 May

Ferreira was the 2015–2016 president of the IEEE Power Electronics Society.

An expert in power electronic converters, electrical machines, and novel grid components, he spent almost his entire career in academia, conducting research in power electronics.

Ferreira's first job, in 1981, was at the Institute of Power Electronics and Electric Drives at Aachen University, in Germany. He worked there for a year before joining ESD Australia, in Cloverdale, as a systems engineer.

He left in 1985 to join the Rand Afrikaans University, now part of the University of Johannesburg. In 1998 he immigrated to the Netherlands to serve as chair of the power electronics laboratory at the Delft University of Technology. In 2006 he was promoted to head of the department. Eleven years later, he became director of the Delft-Beijing Institute of Intelligent Science and Technology.

In 2019 he joined the University of Twente, in Enschede, Netherlands, as a professor of electrical engineering. He established the Shenzen-Twente power electronics research program there. Its goal is to address key challenges of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy, including battery storage integration, improving power quality, universal energy access, and increasing efficiency and reliability.

Ferreira authored or coauthored 130 journal and transactions articles and more than 400 conference papers. He was granted 15 patents.

He founded the IEEE Empower a Billion Lives global competition in 2018 to crowdsource ideas that could improve energy access in underserved communities.

Ferreira served as 2020 chair of the IEEE PELS International Technology Roadmap on Wide Bandgap Power Semiconductors.

He received several recognitions including this year's IEEE PELS Owen Distinguished Service Award, the 2017 IEEE Industry Applications Society's Outstanding Achievement Award, and that society's 2014 Kliman Innovator Award.

He earned his bachelor's degree, master's degree, and doctorate in electrical engineering from Rand Afrikaans in 1981, 1983, and 1988.

Jack Minker

Database and programming pioneer

Life Fellow, 94; died 9 April

Minker was a pioneer in deductive databases, a data analysis system, and in disjunctive logic programming, a set of logic rules and constraints that can be used when creating a database. He developed the generalized closed-world assumption, a theoretical basis for computer systems and programming languages.

After a career in industry working for Auerbach Engineering, Bell Aircraft, and RCA, he joined the University of Maryland in College Park in 1967 as a computer science professor. He became the first chair of the computer science department four years later and was named professor emeritus in 1998.

From 1973 until his death, he served as vice chairman of the Committee of Concerned Scientists. From 1980 to 1989, he was vice chairman of the Association for Computing Machinery's Committee on Scientific Freedom and Human Rights.

Minker earned a bachelor's degree from Brooklyn College, in New York City, in 1949; a master's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1950; and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, in 1959.

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Can This DIY Rocket Program Send an Astronaut to Space?

Copenhagen Suborbitals is crowdfunding its crewed rocket

15 min read
Vertical
Five people stand in front of two tall rockets. Some of the people are wearing space suits and holding helmets, others are holding welding equipment.

Copenhagen Suborbitals volunteers are building a crewed rocket on nights and weekends. The team includes [from left] Mads Stenfatt, Martin Hedegaard Petersen, Jørgen Skyt, Carsten Olsen, and Anna Olsen.

Mads Stenfatt
Red

It was one of the prettiest sights I have ever seen: our homemade rocket floating down from the sky, slowed by a white-and-orange parachute that I had worked on during many nights at the dining room table. The 6.7-meter-tall Nexø II rocket was powered by a bipropellant engine designed and constructed by the Copenhagen Suborbitals team. The engine mixed ethanol and liquid oxygen together to produce a thrust of 5 kilonewtons, and the rocket soared to a height of 6,500 meters. Even more important, it came back down in one piece.

That successful mission in August 2018 was a huge step toward our goal of sending an amateur astronaut to the edge of space aboard one of our DIY rockets. We're now building the Spica rocket to fulfill that mission, and we hope to launch a crewed rocket about 10 years from now.

Copenhagen Suborbitals is the world's only crowdsourced crewed spaceflight program, funded to the tune of almost US $100,000 per year by hundreds of generous donors around the world. Our project is staffed by a motley crew of volunteers who have a wide variety of day jobs. We have plenty of engineers, as well as people like me, a pricing manager with a skydiving hobby. I'm also one of three candidates for the astronaut position.

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