Author Archives: Chris Gammell

This week we’ve been inadvertantly talking about education on Engineer Blogs. It’s a large gap to cross from student to engineer, one that many people say you can never truly cross over, due to the demands of an engineering job. But in the midst of this debate, we’ve hit upon a little bit of controversy, which I’d like to analyze (hey, I’m an engineer!). If you’d like some context, feel free to read Miss MSE’s initial article about  story telling, GEARS insistence that the humanities majors are asked to take STEM classes and Sam’s followup about things he’s learned since school. I’ve now written about 1000 words on this subject, taking both sides of the debate, none of which you’ll be seeing. I’m really torn and I tried taking comments to heart from people on Twitter and the comments sections of those other articles. The question is whether an education should be…

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A few weeks ago I wrote about Trickle Down Technonomics, or more simply: how large investments in prior research can and do still affect us in the modern day. Since then, an article from the author of a forthcoming book on Bell Labs wrote an intriguing piece in the New York Times. I highly recommend checking it out. And while I haven’t changed my mind about the necessity of high-level research and investment, there was a glaring problem with the last post and my focus on high level: it’s not realistic these days. I’m not sure about the socio-political feed-ins that allowed raw research investment back then, aside from the specific example of AT&T’s glaring monopoly in the case of Bell Labs. What I do know is that research for the sake of research in a for-profit company seems to makes people (managers) more squeamish these days. Perhaps it was…

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I’ve written before about business travel, but this time I’m traveling as a design engineer; last time it was general thoughts on travel after a short stint at a conference as a technical writer. So I decided to consider what engineers need to know in order to work successfully on an overnight trip to a foreign locale. Design engineers aren’t made to travel. We have quirky needs, lots to do back at the lab and massive amounts of baggage (take that one how you want to). However, sometimes the need arises to get off your butt and go see a customer. Other times it’s a supplier. And sometimes you need to go simply because the boss tells you to. Early this week, I’ll traveling for my day job and I thought I’d blurp out my thoughts (that’s right, blurp) before going. While not all of this will be strictly for…

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I’m on the tail end of a 10 day vacation, the longest I’ve ever taken. If you read my column from last week, you’ll know that it was my delayed honeymoon. I had a blast! I highly recommend Hawaii and as soon as I finish paying off the debts I’ve incurred over the past week, I’m sure I’ll heartily endorse everyone else doing so as well. Anyway, debts aside, I’m interested in talking about something we all experience, whether it be a 10 day excursion on a tropical isle or a 2 day roadtrip to Wisconsin. What do you do when you need to get back to the office? How do you recover from time away from email, project schedules and keeping up with all of those critical updates about your co-workers’ children’s contra-alto clarinet lessons. Either way, how do you catch up? Clear up that inbox, soldier! I think…

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This week I’m on my (belated) honeymoon in Hawaii. As I’ve written about before (on my wedding day, no less!), my wife is a wonderful person to put up with my engineering ways. This time, I’m actually writing this post in advance, because I’m attempting to unplug and relax while I’m away. No, not completely. I’ll be in pretty much constant contact with the outside world if necessary, though the plan is to unplug as much as possible. Baby steps, y’know?  However, my first big decision was not to take my laptop with me. While I’ll still have access to email and Twitter and the rest of those time-wasters out there, it will be on my phone. And you know what is much easier on my laptop than on my phone? Writing substantial emails and doing work. So I likely won’t do either. In essence, I’m just making it a little…

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I’ve been fighting a battle at work. No, not literally. I don’t want to get fired, I just got hired a few weeks ago. But I’ve been trying to convince co-workers and engineering management to buy a piece of equipment, specifically a 3D printer for doing prototyping (and yes, I’ve mentioned it here and on the radio show a few times). And I think I’ve narrowed the real issue and why I haven’t been getting anywhere with them yet. How do you prove what the future will be like? Personally, I have a strong dislike for prognosticators. Whenever I see a chip manufacturer or an industry analyst predicting how much a particular sector will grow in the coming year, I cringe. Sure, they know a little bit about the industry, they’re in it! They see trends and they talk to people and they get statements from buyers and sellers and…

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We decided to try out another theme week at Engineer Blogs this coming week. And being an admin, I took the first slot! Bwahahaha. All others will only be a derivative of my brilliant musings! (nah, they’ll be much better) The question this week is: What keeps you motivated in engineering? Engineering is a lot of things. Engaging, challenging, frustrating, rewarding, time consuming, under appreciated and often occurs with lots of fits and starts. To be honest, some days engineering really sucks. Yup, a blog about engineering is the best place to swallow a dose of reality. Some days you will bang your head against the desk hard enough to make your forehead bleed. Some nights you’ll rest your head on that desk because you’re still at the office at 10 pm, trying to figure something out. So what keeps us going? Specifically, what keeps me going? I’ll leave the rest…

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EngineerBlogs.org is officially one year old! Our first post was January 13th, 2011. Crazy! It feels like it’s a lot more, but I guess that’s what happens after posting once per week (a quick look at my other sites and you see why 1x per week seems like a lot to me). First and foremost, I’d like to personally thank all of our readers. Your wonderful feedback has encouraged us to keep writing and producing what we hope continues to be good content. The field of engineering is not a field littered with authors, so I’m glad we managed to cobble together some great minds and pens (and at a wonderful price!). We will continue to try and come up with interesting and relevant topics throughout the next year, as well as add new voices to the conversation. So let’s look back at this year. What did this year look…

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You know the term “trickle down economy“, right? It’s a term attributed to supply side economics, both positively and negatively. Basically, it’s the idea that if you have top performers and give them beneficial tax treatment, the effects will ripple throughout the economy. I don’t care about the politics behind it, I care about the idea (and will, in fact, delete any and all political comments in the comments section). That the top performers (or in the case of the economy, earners) should in theory pass any benefit they receive to those less fortunate is what I’m focusing on. However, I have seen a similar effect, though abstracted, in the technology industry. Instead of earnings, imagine knowledge to be the currency. In place of “taxes”, the top tier workers will pay in “knowledge” to the world, which then should filter down to the masses. Everyone still with me? My basic…

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Hi Everyone! We’re wrapping up our first year at Engineer Blogs and I’d like to say how much fun I’ve been having so far. After writing for nearly a year with all these other great engineers, I am glad we’re still enjoying what we’re doing and we hope you’re enjoying it as well! We always love how interactive our audience is and the additional insight you all provide. We now adding another component to our interactive nature and taking guest authors on Engineer Blogs, so if you’re interested in being a one-time, some-times or all-the-time kind of author, please let us know. Since we’ve had such a great year, we’re going to give our writers a week off. They work hard to provide an article per week, in addition to their other blogs and activities. We’ll be back in the new year to regale you with more engineering articles and…

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