Tuesday, November 18, 2008

ICT Sustainability at Petersham NSW TAFE

The Australian Computer Society hosted a presentation from TAFE NSW last night on their new ICT sustainability courses. This was an inspirational evening showing the excellent work on green ICT being carried out at the Petersham Campus of NSW TAFE

Máire Sheehan, Manager Public Sector Programs, TAFE NSW gave a overview of climate change issues and programs such as the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. She illustrated this with experience working on sustainability as a Councillor, at Leichhardt Council. This presentation was a little too long and detailed as we were a room full of computer nerds wanting to hear about computers, not climate change. However, this was a good plain English explanation. Máire also mentioned that she had purchased a low power Eee PC netbook computer and a solar panel for a visit to a developing country (I happened to have my Eee PC with me and handed it up to the podium for a demo).

Franco Salaun, Program Manager, Curriculum Centre, TAFE. Briefly introduced the modules developed by TAFE NSW:
  1. Install and Test Power Saving Hardware
  2. Install and Test Power Management Software
  3. Install and Test Renewable Energy System for ICT Networks
  4. Implement Server Virtualisation for a sustainable ICT System
  5. Install and Test Web 2.0 OS and Applications on a Low Powered Workstation Fed by Power Over Ethernet
I would liked to hear more about the the design and development of courses (I was consulted on the outline for some modules).

Stanley Tonkins, Chartered Professional Engineer, NSW TAFE teacher and course developer talked about what the students learnt in the courses. He showed two fascinating videos with students working on PCs replacing components with lower power ones, including low power motherboards and flash drives.

The students also installed a solar panel on the roof of the TAFE and a wind generator and modified PCs to run from batteries. It is not clear why you would run your PC from batteries at a city campus, but assume this might have something to so with Máire Sheehan visiting a developing nation, where such a system would be ideal.

As well as hardware, the students learn about using software utilities to configure energy saving settings on PCs. They also learn how to virtualise servers, including the complexities of running both Linux and Microsoft Windows operating systems simultaneously on the one server.

Some of the very valuable practical insights given were:
  1. Via PC3500 Mainboard: AFter searching the options for low power components, the students of the TAFE course identified the new VIA board as being a good trade off between power consumption and usability. The Zonbu NetTop PC I have on my office desk also uses a low power Via processor. It is an interesting question as to if it is worth upgrading a conventional desktop PC with a low power board, or better to replace it with a small form factor NetTop.
  2. Power Management Tools, such as LocalCooling can be useful for teaching about power saving as well as implementing it.

  3. ROI: The return on investment for power saving software and hardware upgrades can be calculated.
  4. Learning by Doing: Students can learn by carrying out work such as upgrading PCs and explaining what they are doing while working in teams.
This was the best part of the evening's presentations and I would have liked to hear more about what is being done on Green ICT at Petersham Campus of NSW TAFE.

The most frustrating part of the evening was that there were no details of the actual courses. I was expecting at the end someone to say: "go to this web age at NSW YAFE for course details and how to enrol". However, there were no details given and I have been unable to find any details of the course on the TAFE NSW web site.

There is potential for collaboration between ACS and NSW TAFE on green ICT courses. I am preparing a course on Green ICT Strategies for Computer Professional Education Program of the Australian Computer Society (for progress see my blog entries). This is intended as a postgraduate management unit and will not get into the level of technical and practical detail which the TAFE provide. There is therefore scope for the ACS and TAFE courses to complement each other. Some ACS memebrs will want to undettake the TAFE courses, while others just need to know that they can call on people with those skills. Also hopefully other TAFE around Australia will contact NSW TAFE and arrange to use the developed syllabus, rather than duplicate this work.

Some links from the TAFE:
  1. Sustainability Project Presentation 2nd July 2008
  2. Certificate IV in IT Semester 2 2007: VirtualServerImplementation
  3. and Case Study - Low energy deshtop system Patjarr School
  4. Certificate IV in IT Semester 1 2008: low energy desktop design considerations and Operating system on USB flash drive
  5. Ubuntu server with renewable energy system supply - design.ppt
  6. Diploma in IT Semester 1 2008: Solar Panel and Wind Generator
  7. Solar Panel Installation and System Testing Presentation: Low Energy Consumption PC Cary

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