Grayson Randall and Gregg Vaughn: Making Key Contributions to IEEE-USA MOVE Initiative

Grayson Randall and Gregg Vaughn: Making Key Contributions to IEEE-USA MOVE Initiative
Pictured Above: (bottom left – L to R) IEEE-USA’s David Iams with Grayson Randall; (right) Gregg Vaughn provides training for MOVE volunteers.

David Green was struggling last fall while preparing to nominate both Gregg Vaughn and Grayson Randall for IEEE-USA awards.

Green, an IEEE Senior Member and an instructional professor emeritus at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), wanted to propose both for their significant–but distinctly different–roles with the MOVE Community Outreach Project. But he also didn’t want the two to end up competing with each other for the recognition that he believed they both deserved.

“Each, in his own way, made exemplary contributions to the project,” says Green, “and each merited the acknowledgement and thanks of their engineering colleagues.”

As it turned out, two different and prestigious IEEE-USA awards were presented to them for their professional contributions. Gregg Vaughn, of Birmingham, Ala., received the IEEE-USA Regional Professional Leadership Award for “long-term service to IEEE professional activities including technical lead of the design of the IEEE MOVE Truck.” At the same time, Grayson Randall, of Cary, N.C., was presented with the IEEE-USA Board Citation “in recognition of efforts raising public awareness of IEEE-USA professional activities and for his selfless dedication in support of the MOVE initiative.”

Both Randall and Vaughn were honored in April in St. Petersburg, Fla., during SoutheastCon, the annual Region 3 technical, professional and student conference.

A specially designed truck is the centerpiece of the MOVE program. In cooperation with the Red Cross, trained IEEE volunteers use the vehicle to provide emergency communications and power assistance to communities in Regions 3 and 5 affected by natural disasters. When not deployed for floods, hurricanes and the like, it is used by volunteers for community outreach and STEM learning opportunities for students and the general public.

The vehicle features a satellite system for wireless Internet access, a solar-paneled roof, 10-kilowatt generator, and rechargeable batteries for energy storage. The latter enables up to 100 portable power banks to be recharged at the same time.

MOVE is a happy result of IEEE Senior Member Mary Ellen Randall’s term as 2014-15 director of IEEE Region 3 (Southeastern United States). Motivated by the survivors’ desperate need for internet access and working cellphones following Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, Randall led Region 3 members in developing a solution.

MOVE stands for Mobile Outreach Vehicle. IEEE-USA sponsored the project, with initial funding from the IEEE Foundation. Donations cover operating costs.

“Both Gregg Vaughn and Grayson Randall have been deeply involved with MOVE from the beginning,” says David Green. “Gregg served as technical lead, and he designed and supervised the implementation of the vehicle, including all its basic systems and its electronics.”

One of Vaughn’s top priorities was to create a flexible design so the truck could be easily adapted to its other mission: educating both students and the adult public about how MOVE enables engineers and other technical professionals help out after a disaster. For example, Vaughn designed the vehicle’s interior with relay racks that can be removed and safely stored elsewhere, so there’s room for displays or other equipment. In addition, during disaster relief deployments, the roomy interior provides a place where tired IEEE volunteers can place their cots.

Vaughn spent hours not only leading the design of the power system and specifying all the equipment, but also selecting the vehicle manufacturer, designing the placement of the solar panels, handling the wiring, and personally performing most of the installation.

An IEEE Senior Member, he is a professor in UAB’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. He’s currently IEEE Region 3 Director, and has been active in IEEE since his student days. In addition, he participates in licensure and registration, and assists with writing and evaluating electrical engineering examinations for Professional Engineering accreditation.

Also an IEEE Senior Member, Grayson Randall is Chief Technical Officer for Ascot Technologies. (Yes, he is married to Mary Ellen Randall.) His many IEEE leadership positions have included serving as IEEE Eastern North Carolina Section Chair–but has been known as “Mr. MOVE Operations” since the initiative was launched two years ago, according to his nominator, David Green.

“Grayson has served as lead driver for many natural disasters,” says Green. “These include flood relief in West Virginia and Louisiana during the summer of 2016, closely followed by relief efforts after two hurricanes in September and October in North Carolina and Florida, and then, wildfires in Tennessee.”

In 2017, Randall drove to Missouri after flooding in May, and then spent two weeks in Houston, after Hurricane Harvey struck in late August. From there, he was deployed to Florida, where MOVE volunteers assisted after Hurricane Irma.

“The significance of his sacrifice to drive for the MOVE project led me to submit Grayson’s nomination,” Green comments. “While it enhances IEEE-USA’s visibility and also promotes good will, being a driver is also a very demanding volunteer position. Grayson is typically away from home for several weeks, and during that time, he sleeps on a cot in the truck or shelter–and only occasionally gets more luxurious accommodations–like a college dorm or a shared hotel room.”

At the same time, Green says that Randall has established the IEEE as a respected and trusted partner of the Red Cross. “Grayson also loves to share his MOVE experiences with other IEEE members, encouraging them to get involved, and train to be MOVE volunteers.”

What’s next for MOVE? Gregg Vaughn states that IEEE members in other parts of the United States and the world are interested in developing their own MOVE vehicles. “Members in California, Canada and Africa see enormous potential advantages in a similar program,” he says, “and IEEE Jamaica would like to be able to provide disaster services in a shipping container that could be easily transported to other Caribbean islands after a hurricane or similar disaster.”

He notes the next generation of MOVE-type vehicles will probably be smaller and more fuel-efficient. “They could have a 3-kilowatt generator and get 20 miles to the gallon, instead of up to 10 kilowatts and 7 miles a gallon as with the current vehicle,” he says.

Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991 through 2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.

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