SOMEONE YOU SHOULD KNOW: Fred Engel – Making Space for Success

Even though he grew up with limited TV reception and a VHF-only TV set, Fred Engel’s fascination with space helped lead him to where he is today. A self-proclaimed “space junky” as a child, Engel said watching Apollo 8 orbit the moon as well as Apollo 11’s historic achievements drove him towards a career path of electronics and broadcasting.

After getting his degree in broadcast electronics technology at Ferris State University, he worked at WTTW11/PBS Chicago, starting as a bench technician and working his way up to senior management. Among other jobs since then, he was the senior director of technology for Kentucky Educational Television, the statewide PBS network.

While in Kentucky, Engel worked to live broadcast and stream an event with the International Space Station and middle school students. Engel calls this “the most satisfying event I’ve ever participated in.”

Engel said watching the reaction of the middle schoolers was particularly memorable, especially when the astronaut floated into the picture and spun pencils for the kids in zero gravity. “The kids were mesmerized,” Engel says. “It brought back the feelings I had when I witnessed the Apollo events on TV.”

Since moving to North Carolina in 2016, Engel has worked as the chief technology officer for the University of North Carolina Television Network.

This myriad experiences has left its impact on Engel. “What surprised me most about my career is really what has humbled me the most,” he says.

Engel says he pinches himself regularly regarding the fact that he has had the opportunity to help plan and implement interesting technology solutions that add value to the lives of those who watch or use the relevant services. “Having the opportunity to share those successes to a wide variety of trade and industry groups at national events is something I could never had imagined as a young technician.”

Leading ATSC 3.0 Advocate

Engel says his interest in ATSC 3.0 was piqued when it first started making headlines years ago. Since then, he said he has been involved with Public Broadcasting Service working groups on ATSC 3.0 with a focus on public safety and emergency response.

Using the WRAL experimental ATSC 3.0 transmitter in Raleigh, NC, he helped create agreements among the First Responder Emerging Technology team from the North Carolina Department of Information Technology, and the Wireless Research Center of North Carolina to develop the Public Safety Research Center of North Carolina.

“ATSC 3.0 can be a game-changer for the industry,” Engel says, adding that the fact alone that it has improved reception and mobile capabilities will make it appealing. Engel also mentions key features of ATSC 3.0, including the improved audio and video performance and interactivity with broadband interfaces.

“I think we have only scratched the surface of what could be, that this new platform will generate many yet-to-be-discovered innovative new ideas,” he says.

Outside of Work

When he’s not working, Engel “hit[s] little round balls into sandboxes, ponds, and, occasionally, moving vehicles. I think it is called golf.”

Engel admits he is not the world’s greatest golfer, but did beat his dad when he was 38, only to be humbled years later when his 12-year-old beat him. Besides golfing, Engel said he tries to stay active and hopes someday to bicycle across the United States.