Energy Savings and Assistive Technology Devices Highlight Best New Products

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Stacey A. Ober
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Friday, July 23, 2010

Four new products have been recognized for their innovative use of engineering principles and materials, as well as overall benefit to society, by the National Society of Professional Engineers's Professional Engineers in Industry (NSPE-PEI).

The winners are: FOD Speed Slitter, developed by Uraseal Inc. of Dover, N.H., in the small category; NextAire Packaged Gas Heat Pump, developed by IntelliChoice Energy of Las Vegas, Nev., in the medium category; Apollo Solar Light Pipe, developed by Orion Energy Systems Inc. of Manitowic, Wis., in the large category; and Disney's handheld Assistive Technology Device, by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S. Inc. of Lake Buena Vista, Fla., in the mega category.

The purpose of the NSPE-PEI New Product Award program is to recognize the full range of benefits derived from the research and engineering of new products. These benefits include added employment, economic development, the strengthening of the nation's competitive position internationally, and a contribution to the public's standard of living. The awards recognize those companies with the foresight and knowledge to bring these new products, and their benefits, to the marketplace.
The FOD Speed Slitter by Uraseal Inc. was developed specifically for fiber optic technicians working with flat fiber optic drop cables typically found in Fiber to the Home networks, and opens a wide range of flat drop fiber optic cables from multiple manufacturers easily and safely. After using the FOD Speed Slitter, the outer jacket peels away with ease, leaving the buffer tube and fiber undamaged. The tool's unique design also facilitates fast and safe mid-span access. The compact and safe tool has no exposed blades and its ease of use makes it the fastest solution for prepping fiber optic drop cables.
With funding support from the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Defense, the 11-ton NextAire Packaged Gas Heat Pump is the result of several years of research and development conducted by IntelliChoice Energy, Southwest Gas, and Oak Ridge Laboratory. Ideally suited for retrofit and new construction applications on commercial and residential structures, it brings unmatched energy efficiency, environment advantages, and impressive energy cost savings to building owners and operators. It's 50 percent more efficient than other gas furnaces because it captures and uses the expelled excess heat from the heat pump's engine. Using natural gas as its primary fuel, the NextAire Packaged Gas Heat Pump lowers energy cost and enables businesses to
avoid high-demand kilowatt and time-of-use rates.

Orion Energy Systems' patented, commercial-grade Apollo Solar Light Pipe is a direct renewable device designed to reduce a facility's light-related energy costs to zero for up to 10 hours a day while significantly reducing their carbon footprint. The rooftop-installed pipe harvests daylight and directs it to the work area of a facility using no electricity. When the Apollo is integrated with a facility's lighting system and ambient sensors, and the illumination levels from the light pipe reach a desired point, electric lights automatically shut off, all or in part, until needed again. Measurements show the Apollo can replace electric lighting for up to 10 hours a day, often during times when energy is most expensive and the electrical grid is operating at or near capacity.

Disney's handheld device combines multiple functions—assistive listening, handheld captioning, and audio description—into one small, easy-to-use platform. The assistive listening system provides amplified audio to guests with partial hearing loss, while handheld captioning enables guests who are deaf to read captions while enjoying specific theme park attractions. Closed captioning is also activated by the handheld device in preshow areas where TV displays narrate the upcoming experience. Audio description is a service for guests who are blind or have low vision. This service provides narrated information about key visual elements in attractions such as actions, settings, and scene changes and works seamlessly with the existing show audio. From the moment a guest steps into an attraction, they are given a rich detail of their surroundings and become immedicately involved in the experience.

New products are judged on three criteria: sales and economic impact, innovative use of engineering principles, and improved function. Entries must be submitted through state engineering societies and include any new product, machine, process, or material that has been developed in the U.S. and was first placed on the market between 2004 and 2008. For more information about the New Product Award or to inquire about how to submit a product for the 2011 awards, contact Erin Garcia-Reyes at or visit the NSPE Web site at

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The National Society of Professional Engineers is the national society of licensed professional engineers from all disciplines that promotes the ethical and competent practice of engineering, advocates licensure, and enhances the image and well-being of its members. Founded in 1934, NSPE has been promoting professional excellence for over 75 years. NSPE serves more than 43,000 members and the public through 53 state and territorial societies and more than 500 chapters. For more information, please visit