October 30, 2013

There are thousands of people that really don’t know what engineers do on a daily basis.   Several years ago, I was working in the front yard desperately trying to get grass seed down before a Saturday afternoon rain.  A new neighbor came down the street and I moved out to welcome him to the “hood” and say hello.  During our conversation he indicated he was an accountant and asked what I did for a living.   Engineer, I replied.  “I love trains” was his comment.   No, I’m a mechanical engineer, not a train conductor.   What do you guys do, I’ve always wondered?   At this point, I went into some detail as to what differing disciplines of engineering were available to an entering university freshman.  He was blown away by the reality.   This ‘ol boy is a graduate accountant—CPA at that and he had no idea as to what the engineering profession was all about.  ( Oh by the way—he does NOT do my taxes.)

Given below are several comments made by prominent people concerning the engineering profession?  They are truly enlightening.  Take a look.

  • “Scientists investigate that which already is. Engineers create that which has never been.”

Albert Einstein

  • “Engineers like to solve problems. If there are no problems handily available, they will create their own problems.” “Normal people … believe that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Engineers believe that if it ain’t broke, it doesn’t have enough features yet.”

— Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert comic strip

  • “I think one problem we’ve had is that people who are smart and creative as engineers went into financial engineering.”

— Walter Isaacson, writer and biographer of Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein

  • “You never see girls running after engineers.”

— Anthony Mackie, actor, on why he chose the Juilliard School over an engineering curriculum

  • “Scientists dream about doing great things. Engineers do them.”

-– James A. Michener, American author and Pulitzer Prize winner

  • “Engineer undergraduates should not be charged fees. They should receive grants, not student loans, and the government will get the money back long-term from increased exports.”  “Engineering is treated with disdain, on the whole. It’s considered to be rather boring and irrelevant, yet neither of those is true.”

— James Dyson, inventor and founder of the Dyson Co.

  • “I emphasize that virtually every engineering calculation is ultimately a failure calculation, because without a failure criterion against which to measure the calculated result, it is a meaningless number.”

-– Henry Petroski, author, and professor of civil engineering and history at Duke University

  • “You have teenagers thinking they’re going to make millions as NBA stars when that’s not realistic even for one percent of them. Becoming a scientist or engineer is.”

— Dean Kamen, inventor, founder of First Robotics Competition, past Design News Engineer of the Year

  • “I went to engineering school, I went to physics class. I said, ‘Screw this; I don’t want to be here. I’d much rather be at a club playing music.’”

-– Huey Lewis, musician and songwriter, best known for his band, “Huey Lewis and the News

  • “The engineering is long gone in most PC companies. In the consumer electronics companies, they don’t understand the software parts of it. And so you really can’t make the products that you can make at Apple anywhere else right now.”

-– Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc.

  • “A good scientist is a person with original ideas. A good engineer is a person who makes a design that works with as few original ideas as possible. There are no prima donnas in engineering.”

-– Freeman Dyson, British-American theoretical physicist and mathematician

  • “I was always a silent comedy nerd. I would stay up late and sneak downstairs to watch ‘Saturday Night Live’ and ‘Kids in the Hall.’ And things like that. Very early on, my parents realized I was not going to be an engineer or a doctor. I just don’t have those inclinations at all.”

-– Mindy Kaling, actress, comedian.

  • “I was always fascinated by engineering. Maybe it was an attempt to get my father’s respect or interest, or maybe it was just a genetic love of technology, but I was always trying to build things.”

-– James Cameron, director

  • “A lot of people think in terms of people, emotions and feelings. That’s more complicated. Engineering mentality makes it, in theory, a little easier.”

— Marc Andreessen, software engineer and co-author of Mosaic, the first widely used Web browser

  • “There’s nothing I believe in more strongly than getting young people interested in science and engineering, for a better tomorrow, for all humankind.”

-– Bill Nye, science educator, television host, mechanical engineer

  • “With engineering, I view this year’s failure as next year’s opportunity to try it again. Failures are not something to be avoided. You want to have them happen as quickly as you can so you can make progress rapidly.”

Gordon Moore, co-founder, chairman emeritus, Intel Corp.

  • “It’s true that the original idea was mine, but what you see today is probably the work of tens of thousands of the world’s best engineers, all concentrating on improving the product, reducing the cost, things of that sort.”

-– Jack Kilby, Nobel Prize winner, co-inventor of the integrated circuit

  • “Silicon Valley has some of the smartest engineers and technology business people in the world.”

-– Elon Musk, CEO and chief product architect, Tesla Motors

  • “I worked with such concentration and focus and I had hundreds of obscure engineering or programming things in my head. I was just real exceptional in that way.”

-– Steve Wozniak, computer engineer and co-founder of Apple Inc.

  • “There is nothing in machinery, there is nothing in embankments and railways and iron bridges and engineering devices to oblige them to be ugly. Ugliness is a measure of imperfection.”

-– H.G. Wells, author of The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, and The Invisible Man.

  • “Millions of people were inspired by the Apollo Program. I was 5 years old when I watched Apollo 11 unfold on television, and without any doubt it was a big contributor to my passions for science, engineering, and exploration.”

— Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com


  • “I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer.”

–- Neil Armstrong, astronaut



October 27, 2013

If you have read any my previous postings you know that most of my work is dedicated to subjects involving the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) professions.  I do follow engineering education and renewable energy quite closely.  Recently I read about a company called Pavegen Systems.  This company “invented” a remarkable and innovative system of providing energy by turning the pressure generated by footsteps into voltage that can be stored and used for various purposes.  The basis for the technology involves Pavegen tiles.   The JPEG shown below will give some idea as to how the system operates.  The first JPEG shows the disk embed representing the heart of the system.



West Hamm


Pavegen tiles are embedded into flooring just as any tiles would be.   The pressure exerted by a 150 pound man, 112 pound woman, etc is used to charge batteries which drive mobile devices, lighting, power Wi-Fi systems, etc.   A proprietary system is used to convert kinetic energy into voltage which is stored providing for a multitude of uses.

Generating Energy


Every time someone walks over a Pavegen tile, renewable energy is harvested from the footsteps. Pavegen is an innovation company head quartered in London.   This company develops and manufactures flooring technology that converts the wasted kinetic energy from human footfall into renewable electricity. This clean tech energy source can power applications such as lighting, signage and communications networks in both indoor and outdoor environments of industries.   The graphic below will indicate the possibilities for use.



The top surface of the flooring unit is made from 100% recycled rubber while the base of the slab is constructed from 80% recycled materials. The system can be simply retrofitted in place of existing flooring systems as well as specified for new developments. The tiles are designed to withstand harsh outdoor locations with high footfall with each slab being waterproof to allow operation efficiently in both internal and external environments.

The concept of Pavegen was developed in 2009 by Laurence Kemball-Cook, while researching kinetic-off grid energy solutions at Loughborough University.  Since the company’s inception, Pavegen has independently embarked on a journey to become the market leader in the footfall energy harvesting sector, generating substantial global press coverage and public interest, with a series of commercial installations underway.   Several of these existing installations are 1.)   Simon Langdon School, 2.) Rednock School, 3.) West Hamm  London Olympics and 4.) Several installations in offices in central London.  The technology is proven and energy is harvested on a continuing basis.

The best thing about this technology is addressing alternative sources of energy which would otherwise be wasted.  In other words, one company is demonstrating that commonplace actions can be used to harness energy for the greater good.  They are “thinking outside the box”.  (I hate that phrase but in this case it does apply.)



October 19, 2013

This post is a little different from the “technology” postings I normally provide.  September and October have been a tough months for my family.  My mom died on 13 October 2013 at 0904.  Her funeral was yesterday.  At the funeral, the pastor officiating had the following story.  Hope you enjoy this one.

The pastor received a call from a member of his church asking that he come over for a visit.   The lady calling was definitely a senior citizen: a senior citizen who remained very independent and optimistic so the request was somewhat surprising.  He indicated he would be over in about an hour.

PASTOR:  Hello there, you’re looking well and it’s a pleasure for me to see you again. Sometimes after services on Sunday I don’t get to speak to all of our members. I certainly hope all is well.

LADY: Yes, I’m feeling well but quite frankly, I’m in the process of making plans for the funeral I know I will need in a few years if not a few months. 

The pastor was somewhat shocked and saddened to hear her reply but not that surprised since it is quite common for ageing individuals to make such plans.

PASTOR:  I think you are most kind to specify the arrangements you wish.  It removes a burden from your children as well as all of the guess-work they would certainly have.

LADY:  As I lie there in the casket, I want the Bible in my left hand and a dinner fork in my right hand. Just like that!

PASTOR:  A dinner fork?

LADY: Yes a common dinner fork.  One from my kitchen.

PASTOR:  OK, I certainly understand the Bible but please explain the fork.

LADY:   Have you ever been to a really great dinner?  I mean one that is truly memorable?  As the host is picking up the empty plate he or she will say—“save the fork”!  You know at that moment the last course will be something special.  I don’t mean pudding or ice cream but something you can really put your teeth into.  Something solid.   Something that truly surpasses the courses that have come earlier. As you stand there by my casket, I want you to tell those passing by that what’s to come is the best course.  An experience far beyond and far greater than all we have experienced on this earth.  Something you can really put your teeth into.  Tell them to “SAVE THE FORK”.

The pastor was blown away.   A complete sermon in a remarkably few words.  They completed their visit after another ten minutes.  She died four months later.  Got her wish and as promised, he stood by her casket and told the story to all that would listen. This is a reminder to all of us:



October 16, 2013

NOTE:  Due to a lengthy illness of a beloved family member, I have been out of “action” lately.  Now getting back into the swing of things, I thought I would re-blog a post I wrote about one year ago.  Same song—different verse.  See if you remember this one.  “All things old are new again”. 

We use the word trillion dollars as though it was absolutely commonplace and every day language;  so much so that everyone must have one, be happy to give you a loan, I have plenty more where that came from.   In reality, most of us will never see a million dollars much less a billion and certainly not a trillion.  The trillion dollar figure is very much associated with our US deficit and our national debt.  Just this week, we read about Congress “needing” to raise the debt ceiling another $1.8 trillion to keep the FED operating.  The thought is they will ask now to avoid having to ask prior to the 2010 elections.  That wouldn’t look good at all would it?  $1.8 trillion dollars—absolutely ridiculous!

Do you really know how much a trillion is?  Let’s take a look at some numbers.

  • 1 trillion is 1 million million
  • 1 trillion is 1,000 billion
  • 1 trillion is 1 with 12 zeros; i.e. 1,000,000,000,000
  • It is $39,365.95 for every man, woman and child in the United States. ( Of course that does not include illegal aliens. )
  • If you spent 1 million dollars per day, beginning the exact day Jesus was born, you would still have 726 years before you spent it all.

Really big number right.   Our Federal deficit is $1.4 trillion dollars.  Our national debt is (are you ready for this one?)  is $12,103,309,193,440.45.  Don’t forget the $0.45.  The IRS will chase you down for that.

Twelve trillion eggs would weigh a little over thirteen million tons. Twelve trillion gallons of milk would easily fill Lake Superior—four times over.  Last year, the interest on $12 trillion was a mere $385 billion dollars.

Some economists say that our total debt, due to unfunded liabilities; i.e. social security, Medicare, medicade, food stamps, etc, is approximately $100 trillion dollars.  Do you now whose picture is on a trillion dollar bill?  YOU’RE GRANDKIDS AND YOUR GREAT GRANDKIDS.

Isn’t it about time Congress calls a halt to the spending and the bleeding?  Do you know that there are over 5,000 “earmarks” in the newly proposed health care bill?

What if we changed our Constitution so that we had permanent representation—FOR LIFE?  Incumbents forever !!!!!!  No more pesky opponents, no more campaigns, no more fund-raising, no more lying to get our vote, no more kissing up to special interest groups for their campaign donations.  There would be no real need for party affiliation.  No need to “bring home the bacon”.  Would this situation create a reduction in spending?  Quite frankly, I think not.  It is time to THROW THE BUMS OUT! Let’s start all over.  Let’s air out the halls of Congress.  Surely there are men and women with a modicum of integrity left in this country who would be willing to serve their fellow man.

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