Posts about engineers

Female African-American Mathematicians at NASA in 1961

Hidden Figures is a film based on the experiences of female African-American mathematicians at NASA in 1961 including Katherine Johnson. It is easy to forget our history if we don’t make an effort to remember.

Popular movie adaptations are not the best source for completely accurate history but they are a great way to raise awareness when they hold somewhat close to historical events.

It is amazing to see what was accomplished and also remember how badly mistaken our society was in important ways. We have made strides as a society, but we still have significant problems we need to address. Movies like Hidden Figures are a positive reminder of what can be accomplished when we give people opportunities. We need to remember that lesson and do what we can to remove the barriers that continue today.

NASA video on Katherine Johnson’s career:

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Super Awesome Micro Project – Full Size Lego Car

Here is an interview with Steve Sammartino (Australia) and Raul Oaida (Romania) on their efforts to build the car. The project built a fullsize car out of lego ($60,000 worth of legos) with a lego engine that works on air. It really is an interesting interview.

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International Science Research Scholar Grants

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome Trust, and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation have announced the International Research Scholars Program which aims to support up to 50 outstanding early career scientists worldwide. The program’s aim is to help develop scientific talent worldwide.

The new international competition is seeking top early career researchers from a wide variety of biomedical research fields. Applicants must have started their first independent research position on or after April 1, 2009. Awardees will be invited to participate in research meetings with scientists supported by the funders. These meetings facilitate the exchange of ideas, stimulate new research, and provide an opportunity for collaborative endeavors within the international scientific community.

  • Awardees will receive a total of $650,000 over five years.
  • Applications are due June 30, 2016.
  • Awardees will be notified in April 2017.

HHMI and its partners have committed a total of $37.4 million for the International Research Scholars Program and will award each scientist who is selected a total of $650,000 over five years. The competition is open to scientists who have trained in the U.S. or United Kingdom for at least one year. Additionally, eligible scientists must have run their own labs for less than seven years, and work in one of the eligible countries.

Nieng Yan

Although Nieng Yan had several grants when she started her lab at Tsinghua University in 2007, she barely had enough money to pay her eight lab members. “In China, there is a limit on the percentage of a grant that you can use to pay people — your graduate students, your postdocs, your technicians, your assistants — to a decent level,” she explains. After struggling to balance her budget for several years, Yan’s scientific achievements and potential landed her an international grant from HHMI in 2012. “The amount of money provided by Hughes is relatively small compared to other programs, but it has the advantage that you can freely decide what to do with it,” says Yan. In fact, HHMI’s science officers encouraged Yan to use her five-year International Early Career Award (IECS) to cover the cost of paying her lab team, explaining that the money could be used in any way that assisted her research. Today, Yan has 15 people working in her lab helping to elucidate the structures of proteins that move molecules in and out of cells. The protein channels and transporters they study are mutated in a number of diseases — including diabetes and cancer — and understanding how they work could help in the development of drugs that block their ill effects. For example, the team recently solved the structure of GLUT1 – a glucose transporter that is often overexpressed in malignant tumor cells. Their data may provide clues for how to inhibit the transporter and perhaps even reveal a way to use it to deliver chemotherapeutic drugs. Photo Credit: Kevin Wolf (AP)

Countries that are not eligible for this competition include the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and United States), as well as countries identified by the U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) as being subject to comprehensive country or territory-wide sanctions or where current OFAC regulations prohibit U.S. persons or entities from engaging in the funding arrangements contemplated by this grant program. For this program, such sanctioned countries or territories currently include Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, and the Crimea region of Ukraine.

Related: Directory of Science and Engineering Scholarships and FellowshipsFunding Sources for Independent Postdoctoral Research Projects in BiologyScientific Research Spending Cuts in the USA and Increases Overseas are Tempting Scientists to Leave the USA (2013)HHMI Expands Support of Postdoctoral Scientists (2009)Science, Engineering and Math Fellowships

Biomass Fueled Power Generator from All Power Labs

All Power Labs produces biomass fueled power generators. They have grown from a open science and engineering foundation to their current position. I really like how they are focused on promoting understanding and encouraging collaboration.

They reject the copyright cartel closed science mindset; which is something I like. Their product takes waste biomass; for example walnut shells, coconut shells, hardwood chips (Oak, Beech), softwood chips (Douglas Fir, Pine). It also takes corn cobs, palm kernel shells and others but there are additional challenges to operation.

Their products use gasification which is most simply thought of as choked combustion or incomplete combustion. It is burning solid fuels like wood or coal without enough air to complete combustion, so the output gas still has combustion potential. The unburned gas is then piped away to burn elsewhere as needed.

The Power Pallet is a complete biomass power generation solution that converts woody biomass into electricity. It costs $29,995 which translates to a cost of $1-$2/watt which is more cost effective that alternatives. They have significant sales in developing markets where power is often problematic. It is specifically not suited to some fuel – wastepaper (could maybe work in pelletized form), municipal waste, coconut husk…

This webcast is the start of a presentation on the history and current state of their efforts (continue to view other clips for the whole presentation):

Related: Ethanol: Science Based Solution or Special Interest WelfareDo It Yourself Solar Furnace for Home HeatingKudzu Biofuel Potential Chart of Wind Power Generation Capacity Globally from 2005 to 2012Turning Trash into Electricity (2006)

Earnings by College Major – Engineers and Scientists at the Top

graph of earnings by college-major

Median annual income by major based on data from the Georgetown Center On Education And The Workforce – via blog post: The Most And Least Lucrative College Majors.

As we have posted about for years engineers do very well financially. This chart shows the median income by college major (the data includes those who went on to get advanced degrees) based on data for the USA. See the data on those that only have bachelors degrees. Also see a detailed post from the Curious Cat Economics blog looking at the value of college degrees based on the Georgetown data.

Engineering holds 6 of the top spots in the graph shown above and 8 of the top spots for those that didn’t earn an advanced degree. Pharmacy-sciences-and-administration and Math-and-computer-sciences made the top 10 of both lists. Pharmacology and health-and-medical-prepatory-programs make the list when advanced degrees are included.

The highest earning major, petroleum engineering, with $120,000 doesn’t have an increase for those with advanced degrees. The 10th spot goes to electrical engineering with a $94,000 median income.

Related: No Surprise – Engineering Graduates Continue to Reign SupremeEngineering Again Dominates The Highest Paying College Degree ProgramsEngineering Majors Hold 8 of Top 10 Highest Paid MajorsThe Labor Market for Software Developers

Dennis Hong, Virginia Tech Mechanical Engineering Professor, Leading Robotics Innovation

Dennis Hong is the U.S. star in humanoid robotics

Hong came by his interest in science naturally. He was born in 1971 on the exclusive Palos Verdes Peninsula, outside Los Angeles, and his father, Yong Shik Hong, worked as an aerospace engineer at the federally funded Aerospace Corp. The family returned to Seoul in 1974 so the elder Hong could lead South Korea’s short-range missile program, at the bidding of then-President Park Chung Hee.

Korean fathers of that era were strict and remote. Hong’s father was engaged and intellectually indulgent. He installed a work bench in Dennis’s room when he was 4, complete with a hammer and saw. He led the children in chemistry experiments and brought home model airplanes from America.

Dennis Hong built things with scraps of wood and metal and bits of plastic. He disassembled toys and stored the parts in a chest beneath his bed.

“We spent a lot of time building things and breaking things,” said Julie Hong, Hong’s older sister. “He was the one who broke things the most and built things the most.”

Hong traveled to America to complete his university study, following his father’s credo, “Big fish must swim in the big sea.” He earned a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin and a master’s and doctorate at Purdue.

Dennis’ success illustrates several themes repeated in posts on this blog: the USA attracting talent from overseas, kids curiosity and exposure to science and engineering leading to great things, the value of strong science and engineering programs and professors. Robotics continue to progress very quickly. The economic impact of robotics is large already (largely in manufacturing) and will continue to grow dramatically. Likely robots will find their way into much more diverse areas over the next 2 decades. The Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory, lead by Dennis Hong, seems poised to play a big role in that future.

Related: Robocup 2010, Robot FootballSoft Morphing Robot FutureEvolution of Altruism in RobotsToyota Develops Thought-controlled Wheelchair

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Engineers are the new Currency

Silicon Vally investor discusses keys to good investment companies: “Engineers are the new currency… having the right engineers that can innovate and deliver is absolutely vital to success… It takes a great team to help the entrepreneur develop”

The video also makes the point that what separates Silicon Valley is the engineering talent.

Related: S&P 500 CEO’s: Engineers Stay at the TopEngineers Rule at HondaThe Google Way: Give Engineers RoomStatistics on Entrepreneurship

Fixers Collective

Very cool. I like everything about this idea. I like the reuse (very environmentally friendly). I like the humanity and psychology of connecting with others. I like the tinkering/learning/fixing attitude and behavior. I like the very well done use of the internet to help fund such efforts. I like the exploration of the products and object we use. I like the rejection of a disposable attitude (just throw it away). I like the appropriate technology attitude. I made a donation, you can too (see what projects I am funding).

Related: Fund Teacher’s Science ProjectsScience Toys You Can Make With Your Kidscharity related posts

Driver Thanks Engineer Who Hit Him on Purpose

Driver thanks man who hit him on purpose

Driving to a Mariners game, Duane Innes saw a pickup ahead of him drift across lanes of traffic, sideswipe a concrete barrier and continue forward on the inside shoulder at about 40 mph. A manager of Boeing’s F22 fighter-jet program [and engineer by training], Innes dodged the truck, then looked back to see that the driver was slumped over the wheel. He knew a busy intersection was just ahead, and he had to act fast.

“Basic physics: If I could get in front of him and let him hit me, the delta difference in speed would just be a few miles an hour, and we could slow down together,” Innes explained. So he pulled in front of the pickup, allowed it to rear-end his minivan and brought both vehicles safely to a stop in the pull-off lane.

Some might say the driver of the truck, 80-year-old Bill Pace, of Bellevue, and anyone Pace’s truck might have slammed into had luck on their side that day. A retiree who volunteers for Special Olympics and organizes food drives, Pace didn’t know it at the time, but he’d had a minor heart attack two days earlier and his circulation was so poor he passed out at the wheel with his foot resting on the accelerator.

Nice story and nice that the article had a tiny bit of science in the story, with another example of good work by an engineer.

Related: Nikola Tesla, A Scientist and EngineerWhat is an Engineer?Statistics Insights for Scientists and EngineersInspirational Engineer

Nikola Tesla – A Scientist and Engineer

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was born an ethnic Serb in the village of Smiljan, in the Austrian Empire (today’s Croatia), he was a subject of the Austrian Empire by birth and later became an American citizen. Nikoka Tesla studied electrical engineering at Technical University at Graz, Austria, and the University of Prague.

Tesla’s patents and theoretical work formed the basis of modern alternating current (AC) electric power systems, including the polyphase system of electrical distribution and the AC motor, which helped usher in the Second Industrial Revolution.

In 1882 he moved to Paris, to work as an engineer for the Continental Edison Company, designing improvements to electric equipment brought overseas from Edison’s ideas.
According to his autobiography, in the same year he conceived the induction motor and began developing various devices that use rotating magnetic fields for which he received patents in 1888.

He emigrated to the United States in 1884 and sold the patent rights to his system of alternating-current dynamos, transformers, and motors to George Westinghouse the following year.

In 1887, Tesla began investigating what would later be called X-rays using his own single terminal vacuum tubes.

Tesla introduced his motors and electrical systems in a classic paper, “A New System of Alternating Current Motors and Transformers” which he delivered before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1888. One of the most impressed was the industrialist and inventor George Westinghouse.

The Tesla coil, which he invented in 1891, is widely used today in radio and television sets and other electronic equipment. Among his discoveries are the fluorescent light , laser beam, wireless communications, wireless transmission of electrical energy, remote control, robotics, Tesla’s turbines and vertical take off aircraft. Tesla is the father of the radio and the modern electrical transmissions systems. He registered over 700 patents worldwide. His vision included exploration of solar energy and the power of the sea. He foresaw interplanetary communications and satellites.

“Within a few years a simple and inexpensive device, readily carried about, will enable one to receive on land or sea the principal news, to hear a speech, a lecture, a song or play of a musical instrument, conveyed from any other region of the globe.” – Nikola Tesla, “The Transmission of Electrical Energy without wires as a means for furthering Peace” in Electrical World and Engineer (7 January 1905)

“Money does not represent such a value as men have placed upon it. All my money has been invested into experiments with which I have made new discoveries enabling mankind to have a little easier life.” – Nikola Tesla

Related: PBS – Tesla, Master of LightningWerner HeisenbergToyota Develops Thought-controlled WheelchairNeil Degrasse Tyson: Scientifically Literate See a Different World

IBM Fellow Grady Booch on the Value of Engineering?

In this webcast IBM Fellow Grady Booch discusses the critical role engineering plays in moving society forward. And he explores the history of science and engineering. This interesting webcast would be a good video to show children, or anyone, to bring out the desire to study engineering and encourage them to study so they can join the many engineers shaping our world and our future.

Related: What is an Engineer?Engineer Tried to Save His Sister and Invented a Breakthrough Medical DeviceThe Engineer That Made Your Cat a PhotographerEngineers Should Follow Their Hearts

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