Author Archives: Chris Gammell

Now that my glut of “new job” posts is running out of steam, I should probably get back to an oldie-goldie topic here at Engineer Blogs. In fact, I’ve had this one in the hopper for a while and I thought it be good to bring up before the beginning of the new year when all the kiddies head back to school (well, I don’t have any children, but I notice around town when kids are out of school!). STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education is a hot topic these days. People are finally starting to realize that the engineering work force is getting older and this could have detrimental effects in about 10 years if the queue is not filled with bright young engineers. And as of right now, there aren’t many in the pipeline. In my own experiences, I recently realized I am one of the youngest engineers…

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Last week I wrote about how I was leaving my engineering job, taking a week off and starting a new job this coming Monday. I’ve spent the week working on some of the projects I hoped to, but it went far too fast. The last task was to write about how I am preparing for my new job. Obviously I won’t know how it went until I actually start, but I recall starting my last job and wanted to try and do some things differently now. I’ve tried to generalize them for an engineer starting their first job or their thirteenth job, so hopefully you can find something useful in here. So what should you do when you’re starting your new job? Get to know the technicians, manufacturing people and customer engineers — I eventually got to know these people at my last job and my life got much easier once…

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Friday was my last day at my job. I had put in my two week notice on the 21st of November. This was a choice that was a long time in the making; I decided to change jobs in order to get more design work than I currently had (my recently-departed job was partially a support role in manufacturing). So when I had the opportunity to work on some brand new products and learn a lot about a new industry, I jumped at the chance. And yes, I also had a net positive change in my salary, but this was not the primary motivator. I thought I’d do an article this week about leaving an engineering job and then try and do an article next week about starting an engineering job. If your math skills are keen, you’ll notice that I also took the opportunity to have a week off…

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I’m at the tail end of both my Thanksgiving weekend and at the tail end of our “thankful for” series here at Engineer Blogs. Was it predictable? Yeah, a bit. But I didn’t care. I think it’s important to remember what we’re thankful for and writing posts week after week usually means our writers are clamoring for something a bit different. And since I am at the end of the week, I have to get to write something different, but then try and be different from all my co-writers. When I think about that, I am not particularly thankful…Ah well. Though my article title could use some work, I’m trying to get across that I’m glad to be alive right now. Yup, right here. Right this very minute. And all the things that led me up to this minute in my 28 years of life so far. This has been…

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I haven’t been watching the news about the recent Penn State football scandal, mostly because I can’t stomach it. But I’m very intrigued by the fact that the school covered up some of the horror because of the importance of the football program to fundraising and everything else. And let’s be honest here, folks: It’s not just Penn State where this is the case. Yes, this was particularly bad oversight and judgement on their part; but lots of large schools pin their fundraising aspirations on the ability of sports programs to attract alumni back to the campus. And to say it’s inconceivable that another school would potentially do the same is a bit naive. From the fundraising perspective and the focus on sports, I’m not really surprised. Universities, though non-profit, are effectively a company; their actions reflect what they believe will bring in the most money. But this brings a…

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Last week I wrote about childhood inspirations and how they affected you as an engineer. First off, I wanted to apologize to those who had responses that were not properly captured. Some people pointed out that I missed biological engineering of any sort (honestly, I didn’t realize we had any bio-centric readers! cool!). And others informed me that I left out certain critical toys to their childhood. One commenter astutely mentioned that I must be younger than them; too right! I based this on my own experiences, I should have thought to poll for older engineers’ favorite toys so we could capture a wider swath of influences. Anyway, it’s hardly a great survey, but information such as this is always interesting. So I hope you enjoy it!

The other day I was reading through a recent NYT article about why science and engineering students have trouble making it through classes (and subsequently, why the count of engineers in the US is low). While I was dismayed at the general fallout of students, when compared to the incoming numbers, I was encouraged by some of the programs the article highlighted. In particular, Notre Dame Engineering seems to be taking up an idea I laid out a few months ago, namely remedial tinkering classes; this would give the students the context they need in order to help them make a decision about continuing engineering school. In the course of re-reading my article, I noticed a comment thread between me and Fluxor about the inspiration we have for engineering in the first place. How does our play influence what we might want to do in our careers? Which engineers seem to congregate…

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One side effect of coming up with my ideas while running is that I’m influenced by the things I see and hear while I’m running. Normally, it’s no problem. I go to a gym where I can run on the inside track and either ponder the engineering problem of the day or let my mind drift. But the other day, I had an issue where I couldn’t recall any problems I had been having. Instead, my mind turned to people watching and observing the activities around me. And being a suburb dweller, the primary activity was kids playing sports, namely basketball. 6 courts full of children competing against one another, working with their parents, working with their coaches and striving to be the best basketball players they can be. So what’s the payoff? What do these children expect? I’m sure some of them are just there to have fun. They’ll…

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This is a followup post to the question from last week: Where do you do your dreaming and thinking? It was good to look at how myself and others approach the conceptualization phase that precedes any big project. And there really are a lot of places people dream up new project and product ideas. But the next question is: How do you then capture these ideas? This is an important subject because without a proper recording of the idea, it can get lost in the minutae of every day life. And if you’ve ever lost what you thought was a killer idea, I’m sure you can associate with that horrible sinking feeling in your stomach. You just knew that the idea you had would have made you a million bucks. If only you had written it down! Or maybe not! Some people record ideas on non-papyrus means. I think some of this is…

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I have a strong interest in the creative side of engineering. Some would say this doesn’t even exist, since engineering is at most times closer to a science than an art. And when you’re in the thick of developing a product, it’s often times troubleshooting and process improvements (both being very important, in their own right). Even in the “artistic” side of engineering, a lot of the process is trying out your ideas and iterating on them. But I still think that initial seed of an idea is quite important, regardless of how little of total time it might take (1-2% maybe? It can’t be much). Being able to work through an idea or two in your head or smash other concepts together is all that’s required to get started on a project. But when do people really come up with these ideas? In The Shower — You’re standing there,…

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