Thursday, December 04, 2008

Green ICT at Petersham TAFE

After the Australian Computer Society hosted a presentation from TAFE NSW on their new ICT sustainability courses. The course developer, Stanley Tonkins, invited me along to the Petersham Campus of NSW TAFE to meet the class of 2008 and see their work.

Sydney Institute Petersham College has three campuses, with the Green ICT at the Crystal Street Campus, 27 Crystal Street, Petersham. This is a few minutes walk from Norton Street, Sydney's little Italy. While I have been along Crystal Street many times, I had never noticed the TAFE buildings. There is a modern brick building from the 1980s, but the IT department is in an older "Mechanics Institute" arts and crafts style building. This has very high ceiling and a wooden staircase, somewhat like an old boarding school. The modern computer equipment and interactive white boards look a little out of place, as does the solar panel on the roof which powers some of the computers.

The students do hands on projects, upgrading the hardware and software in desktop PCs and servers, wiring up networks. They also undertake study for "certified engineer" examinations. I was shown some exciting projects, including a very old and slightly rusty looking desktop PC which had been upgraded with a low power PC motherboard, a low power laptop type disk and a socket for a high capacity solid state flash drive.

There was also a rack mount server rescued from the tip, which had its memory upgraded and a free copy of a virtual operating system manager installed. This allowed Linux and Microsoft Windows to be run simultaneously. The student doing the work gave me an impromptu presentation, including a short video they had made for their report.

In the centre of the room, surrounded by computers, was what appeared to be an exercise bicycle. This is a prototype pedal powered generator for use in African hospitals. The unit was made from bicycle components and a car alternator. It is designed to run computers and medical equipment in a hospital during a power failure. I suggested to Stanley he might sell some of these to the local fitness centres: the customers could pedal to power the TV screens they watch.

What was most impressive about all this work was its practical hands-on nature and that the students were required to be able to explain what they were doing. Many university level students are able to work with complex ICT theories, but struggle to put them into practice, or to explain what it is they are doing. With Green ICT, as with many technological challenges, the problem is not so much getting the technology to work, but convincing peers and clients to use it.

After a talk to the students we adjourned to a cafe in Norton Street for end of semester coffee, cake and ice cream.

Next year new modules developed by TAFE NSW will be available:
  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
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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