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It’s been a few weeks now, but I was advising a few younger friends about starting salaries and thought it’d be interesting to write about. They are entering the work force for the first time. And while there are often career services available at a lot of schools, they often don’t provide the perspectives that other engineers might be able to offer. So yeah…I guess that other perspective is…me! At least one of the many perspectives you can get. You can ask just about anyone. So what do I have to say about it? Only what I know so far. First, you might be surprised at what you’re making when coming out of school. Unless you have a badass co-op or internship while you are in school, you’ll be earning a lot more money than you’d be used to. But here’s the part you might not realize: Your salary might…

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For many electrical engineers, the complex s-plane, where upon the plotting of Laplace transforms take place, is something very familiar. Often, it’s used to plot the poles and zeros of a transfer function, be it open or closed loop. For a feedback amplifier circuit to be stable, for example, the open loop poles must be located on the left half of the s-plane. The s-plane can be used to plot the root locus of a transfer function, something that is useful in analyzing a loop’s stability. It’s also good for plotting impedances of circuit structures or components. For example, passive devices lives entirely on the right side of the s-plane since real-life passive devices can only have positive real impedances. This last point is important and I’ll return to it later in the post. What’s less familiar to most electrical engineers is the Smith chart. In fact, some EEs I’ve…

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On last week’s Amp Hour, Chris and Dave were discussing laser etching PCBs. I’m not sure they realized it, but this is actually a fairly hot area in PCB processing research right now, along with printed electronics. Currently, PCBs are processed by copper-cladding a substrate material, like FR-4. There are a couple ways to get the circuit layout onto the board. The first possibility is that the circuit layout is printed onto the board using screen printing. The copper you want to keep is covered in an impermeable ink. A second method uses a photomask. The areas you want to keep are exposed to light, which will harden the mask. The unexposed areas are still soft and removed chemically. The final step in both processes involves removal of unwanted copper using a chemical such as ferric chloride or ammonium persulfate. (Note: A third method can involve the use of a…

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A Computer Science Professor from Harvard who had recently gotten tenure was working a sabbatical at Google when he decided to stay on full time at Google and leave his academic position. He writes a somewhat tongue in cheek comparison of his day over at his blog. What’s this have to do with plumbers? I’m getting there. And Mario is a plumber for those of you not up on your video game history. Computer Scientist David Lemire responds with a post about why you might not like your job but people envy it in his post citing famous cases like the guy with the PhD in Philosophy who left his job to go start his own shop. Lemire seems to think the disparity is in the day-to-day coding as compared to big picture meetings, mentoring and grant writing at Harvard. However, I think this misses the mark. The former Harvard…

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I’m loathe to talk about this in general, but I feel it needs to be said. Social media can work for engineers. It can work really well. The reason I try not to talk about it is because I’m getting better at it and I don’t want vendors to know. I don’t want them to know because even when you know what you’re doing it can eat all of your time and I have better things to do. Just in the past few days, Jeri Ellsworth and myself have launched a campaign and website using crowd sourcing and social media that would make most vendors’ eyes pop. We went from mentioning and idea about a 555 design contest to a functional website in less than 48 hours (granted yes, we’re still working out details, but some of those details…involve vendors!). I’m sure that some day, some huge company is going to…

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I was at an open house event for a company in my industry not so long ago and one of the engineers was talking about their difficulty in embracing the diesel engine platform. “I’m not sure why,” they said, “but the military seems to be really pushing us to have diesels.” There’s plenty of good reasons, but let’s back up a bit and refresh. If you’re talking internal combustion engines there are two major alternatives: spark ignition and compression ignition. Spark ignition is your basic petroleum powered family car. The thermodynamic cycle is actually completely different for a diesel engine. Spark ignition is what it sounds like;  a spark creates a flame in the combustion chamber directly burning your fuel. In diesel, or compression ignition, a small amount of fuel is injected which begins to vaporize forming a flammable mixture that will ignite and burn on its own. The heat…

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Chris hates working alone. Fluxor has suggestions for interview questions. And some people wonder why you should bother with a behavioral interview. My perspective on some of these this is different because I am working with an interdisciplinary team. In a lot of companies, electrical engineers are separated from mechanical engineers, even when working on the same project. They may approach projects in stages, or maybe they work on completely different things. The wonderful thing about where I work is that I inhabit a world full of electrical engineers, each of whom have a different specialization. There are also a smaller number of mechanical engineers and sometimes we deal with chemists and/or material scientists. Because of the nature of the projects we are working on, we work together relatively closely, probably far more than if we were working at a regular business. Interdisciplinary research has a lot of advantages, but…

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It’s been two years since I first posted this on my own blog. Things haven’t changed a bit since. Netmeeting, LiveMeeting, WebEx, and a host of other online meeting tools are great. They allow people separated across vast geographic distances to collaborate and share information. Sitting at one’s desk staring at poorly prepared presentations with too much information while the presenter reads it verbatim off the slides may seem torturous boredom more fitting for breaking down interrogation suspects, but this style of virtual meetings present an opportunity that simply cannot be matched by the good old gather-in-a-big-room face-to-face meeting. First, there’s the mute button. Sing, curse, snore. No one will be of the wiser. (Make sure the mute button works.) Second, the PC that’s streaming all those wonderful slides over the ‘net also allows you to surf-while-you-meet. Check stock prices, read my blog, download MP3s. (Make sure to lay off…

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The above graph is from a Pew Research Center report on the American public’s global focus. More and more see China as the world’s leading economic power. David Leonhardt at the Economix thinks we have an irrational awe of China. He points out major innovation (GE, GM, Apple) has all occurred here and that 25% of Americans have college degrees compared to 5% of people in China. Several of the commenters tell Leonhardt where he’s missing the point: the reason for this “awe” is simple enough and is NOT irrational. jus as in the stock market, what matters is THE DIRECTION AND SIZE of growth, not simply the CURRENT situation. the world is moving very fast, and anyone who simply rests on their laurels or worse, goes backwards will not remain in a good spot for long.   in this case, china is VERY deserving of their “awe”. the ability of…

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Interview Strengths

Last week, I wrote about an interview with a disappointing candidate that was applying for a analog IC design position with FluxCorp. Although he wasn’t able to answer many questions regarding his own past designs (or alleged designs), I still thought it necessary to give him a chance by moving to more basic questions, like the transistor. In my opinion, these questions are not difficult. If one bothers to prepare for an interview like this by flipping through some old text books, these questions should be a breeze. Unfortunately, the candidate (let’s call him Mr. Flop) in question failed horribly, which illustrates a few things. First, he doesn’t know how to prepare for an interview. Second, he has not internalized undergrad material in his brain so that he can claim to be qualified to be an analog IC designer. Third, he grossly overstated his abilities on his resume. And I’m…

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