1997 - Conception
At the August 1997 Conference on Chemical Engineering at Snowbird, Utah, (sponsored by the American Society for Engineering Education), one workshop addressed the problem of delivering training in particle technology to students at colleges that had no courses in this area and / or no staff trained in this area. The group concluded that a Web site could present and link educational resources that would help faculty and students learn more about the art and craft of particle technology. It would also serve as a resource for industrial practitioners who often have little training in particle technology.
Ralph Nelson had already built an in-house site (in the DuPont Engineering Consultants group) with such characteristics and volunteered to develop proposals and post a public demonstration site. His review of the Web sites of several technical organizations and several technical journals indicated that a Web-based educational outreach program was feasible and was not currently available online. The name Educational Resources for Particle Technology (ERPT) was chosen for the project.
An immediate concern was whether prospective authors would submit material for presentation on a Web site. At present most educational materials in particle technology are distributed in print, videotape, or CDROM form. The authors are not paid very much for producing them, and the universities that publish them typically charge only enough to pay for the production costs, so there is little financial incentive for producing the materials. People do it to gain recognition from the technical and academic communities – resulting in a higher salary and a higher probability of having grant proposals funded.
Authors have been been reluctant to place educational papers on the Web because Web pages are regarded as
- lacking in editorial oversight and the discipline of peer-review
- too personal in tone
- too often and too easily changed
- hard to cite
- not archived, so they are generally impossible to obtain once the page has been erased from the server.
The original proposal planned to overcome these objections by
- soliciting contributions in an orderly fashion designed to cover
- the entire field with materials from active practitioners
- who have a deserved reputation for teaching the material well
- putting the contributions through an editorial and peer review process
- restricting revisions to corrections (after approval for publication)
- ensuring availability by posting articles for at least five years
- publishing a print version of the material, so that it could be cited
- by journal name, volume, and page number.
- distributing the print version so that it would be available long into the future.
- The print version would be given (free of charge) to the authors,
- the sponsoring institutions and to major centers of particle technology,
- with the understanding that they would make the printed version
- available in their libraries for at least ten years.
These attributes would help people recognize that publishing an article in ERPT is as significant as other currently-recognized forms of professional effort and thus help the authors receive full credit for the work from their salary review committees,
An extended listing of the very diverse technical areas involved in particle technology is presented in the subject index for ERPT.
Tutorials and Site Growth
Our initial goal was to have about ten tutorials in each of about ten areas of particle technology (about 100 total). Each tutorial would be equivalent to two to three hours of a junior-level undergraduate course and would be edited / updated / revised about once every five years. We originally expected to publish eighteen articles per year, thus expecting to publish the 100 tutorials by 2005, at which point the site would be mature and the emphasis would shift frem securing new material to revising previously-posted tutorials.
Our initial goal was to have about 500 annotated links to other Web sites to access non-tutorial educational material related to particle technology, especially where no ERPT tutorial had yet been written.
Internet Host Server Storage Space:
Our initial estimate was that at maturity (100 tutorials) the files for the site would occupy about 100 MB – one hundred tutorials averaging 1 MB in length (including graphics). .
Our initial estimate was that at maturity (100 tutorials) the site would draw about 2,000 visitors each month – ten people from each of 200 different locations (100 universities plus 100 companies).
Our initial estimate was that at maturity (100 tutorials) the audience would request about 4,000 tutorial downloads per year (about 400 modules per month or 400 MB per month). At a telephone-line connection speed of 28.8 kbaud (3,600 chars per sec; sometimes the limit for servers in 1998) this could be transmited in 31 hours (400 MB / (3.6 kchar/s * 3.6 ksec/hr) or 20% of the server’s work-day time (90% uptime x 21 workdays/month x 8 hrs/day = 151 hrs).
In 1997 November the proposal was presented to the Particle Technology Forum (PTF), a technical division of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and in 1998 January the PTF agreed to sponsor ERPT.
1998 – Developing a Structure and Format
The chair of the PTF named a Managing Editor to facilitate the flow of articles to the Web site and to coordinate the peer review and editing / formatting to a consistent style. Officers of the PTF participate in the invitation, review, and editing processes. Ralph Nelson has served as Managing Editor from 1998 January to the present. He developed a home page structure that would cover the many topics within the field of particle technology that made it easy for viewers to navigate to a desired topic. He also developed a format for a joint online/print journal that preserved the familiar organization of classical print journals while incorporating the networking and multi-media capabilities of the world-wide Web. He posted a demonstration site for developmental purposes in March 1998. During the remainder of 1998 he arranged for a Web host site and solicited and edited articles for the first few issues of the journal. Unfortunately negotiations for the print version of ERPT failed close to the launch date, so that aspect was not implemented, and several of the accepted papers were withdrawn for publication elsewhere.
The PTF advertises for contributions within the scope of the publication. The managing editor has posted an Authors’ Guide for preparing articles. A prospective author may submit prospective tutorials to the managing editor via computer file, print copy, or by reference to a posting on the Web.
The managing editor may assign the contribution to a reviewer to evaluate and suggest revisions to the submission.
The author revises the material as needed to satisfy the editorial board, signs an agreement to allow use of the material in ERPT, and delivers the final files to the managing editor.
The article is published by uploading to the Internet host’s server.
Users (students, faculty, corporate technologists) are permitted to make a single print copy of the article for personal use.
Revisions: Modules will be considered for revision after five years; revision will be mandatory after ten years. This policy will help assure up-to-date educational resources.
1999 - Startup / Launch
At startup in 1999 Jan the Engineering Research Center for Particle Technology at the Univ. of Florida in Gainesville provided Internet hosting service at no charge. The intentions of the ASEE workshop group were extended, refined, explored, tested, and (for the most part) implemented. The final test of value was whether people in need of information or help related to particle technology turn to this site repeatedly and whether authors continue to develop material and recommend links for ERPT. Statistics related to such indicators of growth and value have been posted on the ERPT site.
2001 - Growth and Change
In 2001 Feb the PTF obtained a Web domain name specific to ERPT – www.erpt.org – and moved the site to a commercial Internet host. This provided a more distinct identity and more control over the posting of articles and securing of Web traffic information. Since 2001 we have maintained our tutorials at a stable address (URL). Meanwhile much of the educational material available at sites that were linked from ERPT has changed or disappeared. Prior to 2001 we had linked to several sites with interactive capability and several that provided video clips. ERPT posted its first video clips in the 2001 April issue.
In early 2002 ERPT acquired a computing package in TrueBASIC that allowed preparing and distributing computer programs in a compiled form that could be run on almost any personal computer platform using a free vendor-supplied program (Bronze TrueBASIC). The first program making use of this capability was posted with Vol. 3, No. 1.
In 2003 it became apparent that few authors could prepare material in HTML format but that PDF had become well-established, so the basic format of tutorials was changed from HTML to PDF, starting with Vol. 4, No.1.
In 2007 our Internet host had problems providing traffic reports, and the site was moved to a new commercial Internet host in 2008 April.