Episode 121 — Idle Doodling

doodleIn this episode of The Engineering Commons, our intrepid crew discusses planning, leading and attending the dreaded corporate meeting.

  • It seems that Brian elects to daydream when in boring meetings, whereas Jeff has been known to doodle extensively.
  • Jeff located a website claiming to offer doodle analysis and interpretation, although the disclaimer notes that it is for “amusement only.”
  • Brian makes a passing reference to the pseudo-science of phrenology, which uses skull measurements to assess human behavior and capability.
  • Carmen’s doodles are apparently influenced by his youth, when he learned to draw the main character from Nickolodeon’s animated television series, Hey Arnold!
  • One of the benefits of a face-to-face meeting is the opportunity to observe the body language and microexpressions of other meeting participants.
  • A 2009 blog post by Y Combinator founder Paul Graham notes the differing costs for managers and makers of attending a meeting.
  • Brian notes a recent story arc, from the television series Silicon Valley, in which engineers solved a technical problem that was of little importance to their customers.
  • Our first key to running a good meeting is have a purpose.
  • Second, it is important to invite the right people.
  • Third, keep the meeting on topic.
  • Fourth, start the meeting on time.
  • Fifth, take meeting notes and distribute them afterwards.
  • Sixth, assign action items, including deliverables and due dates.
  • Jeff mentions a video about holding 22-minute meetings.

Thanks to Gavin St. Ours for use of the photograph titled “A doodle from my meeting notes.” Opening music by John Trimble, and concluding theme by Paul Stevenson.

Episode 120 — Augmented Engineer

augmentedThis episode of The Engineering Commons finds Adam, Brian, Carmen and Jeff predicting how virtual and augmented realities might soon be incorporated into daily engineering activities.

Thanks to Nan Palmero for use of the photograph titled “Woman Using a Samsung VR Headset at SXSW.” Opening music by John Trimble, and concluding theme by Paul Stevenson.

Episode 119 — Gears

gearsBrian, Carmen and Jeff discuss mechanical gears in this episode of The Engineering Commons.

  • Although a mechanical engineer, Jeff isn’t much for working on cars.
  • We share a few stories about synchronizing generators, including use of a synchroscope.
  • Brian mentions mechanisms with extremely high gear ratios.
  • The two main functions of gears are trading off torque and speed, and reversing the direction of rotation.
  • Spur gears are the most basic of mechanical gears.
  • A spur gear profile is found in the Open Source Hardware Association logo.
  • Carmen demonstrates his mastery of lyrics from the musical Grease.
  • A commonsense explanation is provided by Jeff as to why gears need an integer number of teeth.
  • If efficiency losses are ignored, ratios in the number of teeth between meshing spur gears provides the torque gain or rotational speed loss.
  • Formula One racecar engines turn at very high rotational speeds.
  • Gears are frequently used to increase the torque and decrease the speed of rotational actuators such as internal combustion engines or electric motors.
  • A rack and pinion arrangement allows for converting between rotary and linear motion.
  • Helical gears have curved teeth that allow for gradual tooth engagement, and they therefore run more quietly than spur gears.
  • Bevel gears are often used to transfer power between shafts that are perpendicular to one another.
  • Some basic gear set design considerations are detailed in the engineering information chapter of a Boston Gear product catalog.
  • High gear ratios can be provided by a worm drive, but at the cost of lower mechanical efficiency.
  • Planetary gear sets provide a great deal of flexibility, allowing for the merging of multiple torque inputs.

Thanks to William Warby for use of the photograph titled “Gears.” Opening music by John Trimble, and concluding theme by Paul Stevenson.

Practical insights for the engineering crowd