Which Stereotype Are You?

Which Stereotype Are You?

Yesterday on Twitter, Chris Gammell, Carmen Parisi, and I got into a conversation about how we solve engineering problems.  Chris said:

Do what the rest of us do….keep adding caps and resistors until it works…

And my response was:

 I need to simulate everything first before I start changing anything.

To which Chris responded that we were both stereotypes of the academic and industrial engineers.

Of course, I can’t disagree because those stereotypes are somewhat borne out by observation.  I’ve seen engineers of both types, and the worst are the extremes: the thinker or the tinkerer.  You have the engineers that run in and start changing things, not really thinking about what they’re doing, and then find out that what they did was rather ineffective.  Then there’s the ones who sit there and never commit to anything until it’s time to finish things up because of decision paralysis.  Most of us, thankfully, are somewhere in the middle.

Where do you fall?


Definitely a tinkerer as I said yesterday. I hate fighting with simulators and my approach is to do some back of the envelope calculations or just dive in. I rationalize this in my head by saying it would take me just as long to verify that my simulations are giving reasonable outputs. I only fire up Spice as a last resort.

My favorite simulator is an R-C box.

I think I land in the middle, when it comes to anything outside my research. I like to make a few back of the envelope calculations, but I often need to start building to fully get my head around the problem. I keep silly putty and Zome at my desk for exactly this reason.

I prefer cardboard prototypes!

I have suffered from analysis paralysis before, although I was working in the satellite industry at the time and stuff tends to get expensive and people tend to get antsy about reliability. They want to know that it passed test and also WHY it passed test.

In the end though, there is no substitute for actually building the thing.

I’m a builder too and to really understand something, I need a physical model. I don’t have an RC box (something to shop for!), but I generally calculate a ballpark, then keep plugging in values until it works.
I leave long leads on, making soldering switches really easy.

R-C Boxes are great provided you aren’t using one in a high speed path where the extra inductance can hurt you. Just don’t accidentally dial in a short!

1. Hook up the box to your circuit
2. Dial in the right values
3. ….
4. Profit

It feels like you’re taking an eye test once and a while though. Does the waveform look better with Resistor A or B? A or B?

Although I am an electronics engineer I usually deal with soft part of the projects. What I have realized recently is that you have to start out project immediately and think about process on the go. Without thinking you’ll miss many key points and make lots of errors. For example, writing a program automatically might work out for professional programmers but for middle-class programmers they have to think and plan how they should write every minute.

My favorite part comes into play when there is an error in the project either it is a software or hardware project. Please please don’t check everything automatically when there comes an error. Give everything away and think what would be the possible sources of error. By this way, you check everything in your mind, have an idea what did you do recently and organize stuffs in your mind again. This process is not only solving the error but also clearing up your mind, too.

Check everthing without thinking and it will cost you at least three times more waste of time ! Taken from ‘true but painful truths’ – Senior design project ’12 🙂

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