Episode 59 — Engineering Technology

cnc2We talk with aeronautical engineer Mark French about degrees and careers in Engineering Technology, as well as delving into wind tunnels, guitars, and how to launch a ping-pong ball at supersonic speeds.

  • While Carmen is unsure if he’s a technologist, he’s pretty certain that Daft Punk is Technologic.
  • Our guest for this episode is Mark French, an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology at Purdue University.
  • A guitar builder in his spare time, Mark has written two books about guitars: Engineering the Guitar: Theory and Practice and Technology of the Guitar.
  • Many Engineering Technology students transfer in from an engineering program, having found the typical engineering curriculum too abstract.
  • Prior to completing his undergraduate degree, Mark worked as a technician in Virginia Tech’s Stability Wind Tunnel.
  • After graduation, our guest worked as a civilian engineer at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.
  • While working for the Air Force, Mark investigated aeroelasticity, optimization and photomechanics.
  • Moving into the corporate world, Mark took a managerial job for Lear Corporation, where his consumption of Tums increased considerably.
  • Our guest moved to an academic job prior to the economic collapse of the auto industry.
  • Mark leads us through a brief discussion of academic ranks within the United States.
  • We again mention the Grinter Report (previously discussed in our episode with guest Dave Goldberg), which permanently altered the focus of engineering education.
  • Mark identifies some of the differences between engineering and engineering technology curriculums.
  • There appears to be a lot of overlap in the jobs that engineers and engineering technologists can compete for in today’s industrial workplace.
  • Carmen describes a History Channel documentary about designing and building the Yeti roller coaster at Walt Disney World. ( see this YouTube video, starting at about 1:25:00.)
  • Jeff mentions the book “Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work” by Matthew Crawford.
  • Technology students are not eligible to take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam that is required to obtain a Professional Engineering (PE) license. (Commenter David notes that this ruling may vary from state to state.)
  • Mark’s brush with internet fame has come from his involvement in the design and construction of a supersonic ping-pong gun.
  • Videos of the ping-pong gun are available showing the device operating at normal speed, or in super-slow motion.
  • Mark gives good marks to the performance characteristics of Double Happiness (DHS) ping-pong balls.
  • The ping-pong shooter was publicly announced via a short paper submitted to the Arxiv repository.
  • A recent MythBusters episode constructed a supersonic ping-pong cannon. While Mark got a small credit at the end of the show, alas there was no such glory for grad students Jim Stratton and Craig Zehrung.
  • Lighting a charcoal grill with liquid oxygen is another way to gain internet attention.
  • As a result of his interest in guitars, Mark has led guitar building workshops, and also offers a semester-long course in guitar construction.
  • If you want to refresh your engineering skills, you can take a look at the many videos on Mark’s YouTube channel (PurdueMET).
  • Mark can be reached via email: rmfrench ++at++ purdue.edu

Thanks to Andy Malmin for the photograph titled “Nacho on VF-2 Mill.” Podcast theme music by Paul Stevenson.

8 thoughts on “Episode 59 — Engineering Technology”

  1. It might only be in certain states, but MET/EET are allowed to take the FE exam in many locations (including PA).

  2. Guys, your show is awesome! I enjoyed this episode a lot. FYI you have some pretty keen listeners amongst my colleagues here in Sofia, Bulgaria:) I wish you a great summer.

    1. Bulgaria! We’ve hit the big time haha. Thanks for listening, we’ll try to keep the good episodes coming!

      Any requests for episodes you’d like to hear?

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