Meet The Arlington Technology Club

January_tech_clubSome people are keen on robots,

some on concrete and still others on earthquakes. A group of folks in Arlington, however, embraces all these topics and anything else touching – or even coming close to – technology.

They’re members of the Arlington Technology Association, meeting at 7 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at UTA to hear presentations as practical as 18-wheeler design or as esoteric as the origin of the universe.

It’s an eclectic, gown-town bunch encompassing university faculty, business and industry professionals, educators and others simply turned on by technology. The 50 or so members include engineers, doctors, architects and business executives, as well as educators.

Students, who join free of the $36 annual dues, come to fulfill course requirements for out-of-class activities – and doubtless also for the free breakfast. “Getting up at that time of morning is difficult for them,” said longtime member and retired engineer James Ditto. “But students love free food.”

The organization’s antecedents go back almost a century to the Technical Club of Dallas in 1919. A satellite group, the Mid-Cities Technical Club, was established in Arlington in 1999, and its members in 2008 chose to stand on their own as a non-profit as the Arlington Technology Association.

“We decided to promote UTA and to provide responses to the community relating to technical issues around here,”  “It was an attempt to link all the research issues at UTA with those in Arlington and the Mid-Cities.” –Dr. Ernest Crosby, ATA president and UTA adjunct civil engineering professor.

The diversity of membership and topics also brings education of a different sort. “One of our goals is to provide a platform for faculty, especially younger faculty, to give and polish presentations,” Crosby said.

Dr. Khosrow Behbehani, UTA engineering dean, agrees. “Engineers are not trained to do that (public speaking) very well,” he said, “and if one becomes a faculty member, presentation skills are going to be important.”

Here again, membership diversity brings an advantage.

An electrical engineer speaking to colleagues,

Behbehani said, can toss out technical terms confident they will be understood. “But this audience is broad-based,” he said. “This gives our faculty – and students – training in how to present a technical topic to a non-technical audience.”

The ATA isn’t all talk. The group raises money to give scholarships to Arlington high school graduates coming to UTA as engineering students and helps finance awards for student accomplishment. Crosby said increasing the number of scholarships awarded is high on the organization’s priority list.

In addition, the ATA wants to make its base even broader, extending to areas within the university and community not usually thought of as technical. Expanding the organization’s relationship with the city is also on the agenda, and Mayor Jeff Williams is April’s scheduled speaker.

The core function, however, remains the monthly exchange of ideas. “At first glance, our organization seems almost narrow in scope,” Crosby said. “But when you realize we’ve been around 17 years and given more than 190 presentations, we must be doing something right.”

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