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Under Pressure at the Forest Products Lab

The largest wood beams ever tested are being studied at the US Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) in Madison, Wis. If you’ve ever wondered what 80,000 pounds of load looks or sounds like when applied to a 72-foot-long, 3-ton wood beam, now’s your chance. Bam! View this short video to get a sense of both the size of these glulam beams and the engineering acumen on display at the FPL. Hint: keep the volume up around the :53 second mark.

Glued laminated (glulam) timbers are a manufactured wood product composed of layers of sawn lumber glued together. Glulam beams are typically used in commercial construction to span large open areas, such as in churches or sporting arenas. They make for both an aesthetically pleasing and structurally sound option.

The FPL is one of the few locations worldwide that has the capacity to test such large wood specimens.  As FPL engineer Doug Rammer explains, that capability is key to determining their strength. Read more »

AMS Employees Head Southwest to Scope out the Talent at a College Career Fair

On March 14-15, employees from the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) participated in the New Mexico State University (NMSU) Employment Extravaganza in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Thanks to advertisements in the school newspaper and other local media outlets, the event had a great turnout.  The school’s career office passed out plenty of literature to make sure the students and their potential employers made solid connections.  AMS was one of nearly twenty organizations, spanning from local government offices and non-profits to large Fortune 500 companies like Walmart, to attend the school’s last career fair of the academic year. Read more »

Tapping Renewable Energy Potential at Airports

Converting airport grasslands to biofuel, solar or wind production may not only provide more environmentally sound alternative energy sources, but also increase revenue for airports and reduce the local abundance of wildlife hazardous to aircraft.  U. S. Department of Agriculture research is helping shed light on this promising concept. USDA photo by David Bergman.

Converting airport grasslands to biofuel, solar or wind production may not only provide more environmentally sound alternative energy sources, but also increase revenue for airports and reduce the local abundance of wildlife hazardous to aircraft. U. S. Department of Agriculture research is helping shed light on this promising concept. USDA photo by David Bergman.

Most people are familiar with the weekly summer ritual of mowing the lawn.  At best, the smell of fresh cut grass is appealing, but often the task is considered time consuming, tiring and expensive.  What if your “lawn” was actually hundreds of acres in size, and how often you mowed it, what type of grass you had, and if you used pesticides greatly impacted the safety of nearby residents?  “Mowing the lawn” is just one of the tasks airport managers and biologists confront as they work to keep wildlife away from runways and aircraft. Read more »

NCAA Final Four Basketball Court Comes from American Indian Reservation

Forest to Final Four Floor. Photo by Jack Gruber, USA TODAY Staff

Forest to Final Four Floor. Photo by Jack Gruber, USA TODAY Staff

It’s time for the NCAA Men’s Final Four — and all eyes are usually glued to the action on the court.  But this year special attention is being paid to the actual court itself.

This ‘Court of Champions’ comes from the Menominee Forest and Menominee Tribal Enterprises in Wisconsin.  It all began with a maple tree which provided the amazing physical properties that are perfect for the court.  The wood is beautiful, tough and does not splinter or sliver. Read more »

Farmer Does as Teacher Says – All in One

If you teach it, you must live it.  That is the wisdom Steven R. Kochemba adheres to.

Kochemba is a science teacher and the athletic director for the Joseph Badger School District in Trumbull County north of Youngstown, Ohio.  He’s also a farmer.

Among his other science courses, Kochemba teaches 8th and 9th graders about energy conservation.  While doing research for his classes, “I ran across information about BCAP,” says the educator. Read more »

Rural Energy for America Program Helps a Minnesota Lumber Company Cut Energy Costs

Freeborn Lumber Company owner John Miller and USDA Rural Development State Director Colleen Landkamer inside the room that operates Freeborn’s geothermal system.  The system was installed with support from USDA Rural Development.

Freeborn Lumber Company owner John Miller and USDA Rural Development State Director Colleen Landkamer inside the room that operates Freeborn’s geothermal system. The system was installed with support from USDA Rural Development.

John Miller got the call at 12:45 a.m. on Sept. 7, 2007.

Freeborn Lumber Company – the business John’s grandfather bought in 1946 and John purchased from his father in 1986 – was burning to the ground.  Less than 30 minutes later, the nearly 100-year-old building was destroyed. Lightning struck a phone line next to a gas line and that was it. Firefighters arrived less than five minutes after getting called, but there was nothing they could do. Read more »