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Episode 50 — Art of Engineering

cells_320x200We talk with systems engineer Mike Parks about the intersection of art and engineering in this episode of The Engineering Commons podcast.

  • Adam finds that his beer brewing talents exceed his drawing and singing skills.
  • Our guest for this episode is Mike Parks, a systems engineer, Navy veteran, and licensed professional engineer with over 16 years of experience in solving a wide range of technical and engineering challenges.
  • Mike developed an early fascination with technology while in Boy Scouts, then had a chance to serve as an intern with the U.S. Naval Academy’s engineering school as a high school student.
  • Our guest got his bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).
  • During college, Mike enlisted in the Civil Engineering Corps Collegiate Program, where he was able to apply his skills toward automating buildings and infrastructure facilities.
  • Mike was involved in assessing the damage caused by hurricanes Katrina and Wilma.
  • These days, Mike works a civil servant for the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, Maryland.
  • In his off hours, our guest runs Green Shoe Garage, an electronics design business and technology consultancy. The name derives from Mike’s childhood passion for Chuck Taylor All Star sneakers.
  • Mike still wire wraps his prototype circuit boards.
  • Among his many efforts, our guest has also written a few Android applications, using MIT App Inventor. He has more recently been using Android Studio.
  • Mike started his podcast, S.T.E.A.M Power, to encourage students to pursue technical careers.
  • Passion is the driving force behind the “A” portion of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics), according to our guest.
  • Mike notes that cell phone inventor Martin Cooper was inspired by the communicators shown in the science fiction television series, Star Trek.
  • The concept art of Ralph McQuarrie, especially his work for Star Wars, impresses our guest.
  • In recent weeks, Mike has been recording his podcast on Google Hangouts to produce a video version.
  • A quirky story, recently covered on the S.T.E.A.M. Power Podcast, was a mathematical proof showing that the sum of all the numbers from 1 to infinity is equal to -1/12. Carmen is a fan of the Numberphile website that produced the video showing this result.
  • Mike is working on a book for technical leaders, tentatively titled “Don’t Let the Bits Byte!” He’s hoping to self-publish the book before year’s end.
  • A hackerspace that recently opened near Mike’s home is the PaxSpace facility.
  • To provide some perspective on career opportunities in engineering, Mike has produced a few YouTube videos on the subject. These include:
  • Mike encourages individuals to look outside of the narrow vertical career tracks that are often offered to technical professionals.
  • Mike can be found on Twitter as @mbparks, and on Google Plus as +MikeParksPE.

Thanks to Mike Parks for his original artwork, titled “Cells.” Podcast theme music provided by Paul Stevenson.