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Detecting structural defects

Detecting structural defects

May 15, 2009

Stephen Heinze, a 2008 Mechanical Engineering graduate of Kettering University, uses remote sensing, non-invasive technologies at his job with EnTech Engineering of St. Louis to locate hidden subsurface targets and defects in energy, transportation, manufacturing, electronic and environmental infrastructures.

Stephen Heinze’s cooperative education experience as a Kettering University student is one that may have not been very, well….transparent to him upon his arrival on campus in 2004.  

But before his first academic term ended that year, the St. Louis, Mo., native secured a rather unique cooperative education engineering position at EnTech Engineering Inc. in his hometown.

EnTech was founded and is owned CEO Gary J. Weil, who graduated from GMI in 1973. EnTech is a professional engineering firm specializing in the use of remote sensing, non-destructive technologies to locate hidden subsurface targets and defects in energy, transportation, manufacturing, electronic and environmental infrastructures.

EnTech’s Registered Professional Engineers have conducted more than 2,500 projects worldwide and in more than 30 states. Additionally, the company has earned more than 10 non-destructive testing (NDT/NDE) patents and its engineers have published more than 70 international technical papers and standard books.

During his time as a co-op, Heinze worked on some compelling projects and became a remote sensing specialist, mastering testing technologies such as infrared thermography—a technique that can produce an image of the invisible infrared energy emitted by objects due to their thermal conditions—and ground penetrating microwave radar, which is used to characterize subsurface objects in terms of their depth, size, volume and consistency.

Remote sensing is the art and science of obtaining information on phenomena without making contact with it. This technique involves the detection and measurement of energy flow patterns using devices and technology that are sensitive to electromagnetic energy such as light, heat and radio waves. Some of these devices include cameras, thermal radiometers and microwave transceivers.

A number of the assignments required Heinze to work onsite during his co-op rotations at heavy and light industrial facilities, petroleum and chemical refineries and at national infrastructures such as roadways and bridges using these techniques.

This experience helped him to refine and strengthen his expertise of these resources. During one period of his co-op rotation, he employed them on a highly sensitive project at the U.S./Mexico border in conjunction with the U.S. Federal Government.

When Heinze approached EnTech about a co-op, Weil said, “We could see the spark that I remembered at GMI, one that empowers students. He wanted to use his education in a new and imaginative way, learn new tools and use those tools to explore new paths. I could tell that no one was going to stand in his way.”

Once Heinze finished his co-op and graduated from Kettering, EnTech made him an offer to become a full-time engineer and the decision was simple.

“I never thought I would use my Mechanical Engineering degree from a mile above the earth,” he said, referring to an aspect of his position that requires him to collect data from sensors mounted beneath the belly of a helicopter. He also said that since joining the company, “EnTech has become my lifestyle and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Weil also said that Heinze has been instrumental in utilizing new computer tools to make the organization’s remote sensing techniques more efficient and cost effective for EnTech’s clients. Additionally, one of Heinze’s friends from Kettering—Steve Schwartz ’08, co-owner of Alfa Jango, a website development company—helped EnTech by designing the company’s website from the ground up.

“Our next step is to merge Stephen’s natural enthusiasm for people with his desire to harness the power of our remote sensing technologies to market our solutions to the world in need of them,” Weil said.

“His first challenge in this area will encompass the organization’s ability to locate leaks and erosion sinkholes caused by aging water and sewer pipelines in hundreds of miles of distribution pipelines per day in drought-plagued areas such as the state of California,” he added.

Now that his career path is clear, Heinze hopes to continue the learning process as an important contributor at EnTech. His most recent project worked to help drought-plagued areas in Texas, which he found particularly rewarding.

“Working for the company as a co-op first allowed me to engage in projects that are typically reserved for project managers,” he said. “It’s been such a great experience to receive exposure to so many challenging and important projects. I’m very appreciative of the opportunity EnTech has provided me so early in my career,” he added.

To learn more about EnTech Engineering Inc., visit or call (636) 207-0200. For more information on Kettering University’s Cooperative Education Program, visit or call (800) 955-4464.

Written by Gary Erwin