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Old Technology That’s Still Surprisingly Useful

Old Technology That’s Still Surprisingly Useful

At my old job, when one of the engineers retired, he would ceremonially dump everything they had in their office onto a table in the hallway for the rest of us to pick over like vultures.  The coolest thing I ever found was something called a Gerber Variable Scale. The variable scale is a stretchable spring with markings at regular intervals. When you stretch the spring, the markings change size. The tool is made for transferring markings off graphs without well laid out axes. You can also draw neatly delineated tick marks with it as well, at any size you want! Pretty cool! In the picture below the spring for the scale is compressed all the way.  The little disks are numbers, but most of them seem to have fallen off over the years. In this picture though, the little silver colored block (the slider) has been moved all the […]

Image by ezola CC BY-SA 2.0

Facilities & Support

We’ve talked before about the effect of office space on getting work done, motivation, and having somewhere to tinker. But what about the facilities and staff support element of getting your job done? By facilities, I mean both the equipment you need to do the job (microscopes, CNC mills, 3-D printer, furnaces, or what not) and the space in which you do the work. In an academic environment, there’s often a dedicated staff member to help with training and maintenance on the bigger , shared pieces of equipment, like electron microscopes. My university has some fantastic facilities and support in this respect. I can’t say enough about how wonderful these staff members have been. The equipment I have access to is cutting edge, and well-maintained.  However, the spaces themselves are a different story. My group’s optical lab suffered a major loss last week when a faulty valve in the ceiling dumped water in […]

(Foreign) Grad School Admissions

(Foreign) Grad School Admissions

I know that I have been a total slacker on posting lately and for that, I apologize. While that’s a relatively minor thing to apologize for (especially to all two of my readers…), there is something that we, meaning academic-type people, should apologize for: our terrible graduate admissions policies. Obviously, I’m painting with a very large brush here but I can totally picture this exact thing happening to [new] faculty members at 100’s of places around the country this time of year. Let me paint a better picture for you. When you’re reviewing graduate student admission applications, you’re handed a stack of folders with a bunch of stuff in them with clear instructions like “Here, rate these applicants for MSc and PhD admissions”. The typical things in the folder are: transcripts, GRE, TOEFL, resume/CV, personal statement, and letters of recommendation. From that, you have to sort between the haves and […]

School vs. Work (by Carmen Parisi)

School vs. Work (by Carmen Parisi)

This is a guest post from Carmen Parisi of Fake EE Quips. He’s the first of many guest bloggers who will be popping in to Engineer Blogs on a regular basis to add their opinions and insight into the field of engineering.   Though I’ve only just recently joined the workforce and am still a pretty green engineer, I’ve noticed some differences between school and work. The differences between the two aren’t necessarily good or bad; they just take some getting used to. From the outset, I can name my favorite aspect: being able to leave work (both mentally and physically) around 5PM. Knowing I do not have to slog through hours of homework once I get back to my apartment is a fantastic feeling. I’d almost forgotten what hobbies were! The rest of the things I’ve noticed so far aren’t nearly as polarizing but still worth noting. Let’s have […]