For the past several years I have been a mentor for a young man from Nashville, Tennessee. I signed up for this task through the organization “We Teach Science”.  It’s an excellent service provided by that group of teaching professionals.  Well, my mentee decided to attend the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga as an entering freshman this year.  He is studying Civil Engineering.  Due to the COVID-19 virus, the entire UT system has decided that all students will work online for the remainder of the year.  Graduation will be held online and not in person.  I have no idea as to how this will work but there will be an attempt.

When I called this past Monday to talk to my mentee, I was told that he is packing up; leaving his dorm room and heading back to Nashville to work online.  I had no idea the boarding students would be required to leave campus but it is perfectly logical since students do congregate, work together and socialize everyday-all day.  The advent of the digital age allows everyone to do that with great ease.  You have to have equipment and software but all colleges and universities have that established.   The days of standing in endless lines signing up for your courses is long over.  It’s all done online now. 

The following article is from the USA Today web site.  I’m quoting this in its entirety.

“In the span of roughly two weeks, the American higher education system has transformed. Its future is increasingly uncertain. 

Most classes are now being held online, often for the rest of the semester. Dorms are emptying across the country. Some universities are even postponing or canceling graduation ceremonies scheduled months out. This is all the more surprising given most universities have a reputation for being reticent to change, especially in a short amount of time.

The coronavirus has changed all that. As of Thursday evening, the number of U.S. cases stood at more than 14,200, with 205 deaths

Colleges have tried to react quickly to enact measures that would help to stop the virus’ spread. On America’s campuses, professors and students, many of them international, work in close proximity for long periods of time. Dorm rooms are often shared between multiple individuals, making social distancing next to impossible.

All of those changes could threaten colleges’ existence. Parents and students are demanding refunds for shortened semesters in the dorm. The value and quality of an elite college education is under scrutiny as universities pivot to makeshift online classes.  And its unclear how students will view colleges once the crisis is over and they’re welcomed back on campuses. “

About 2,642,158 students – twelve and one-half (12.5%) percent of all college students – took online courses exclusively, and the other thirteen-point three (13.3%) percent of students combines online studies with traditional courses.  These statistics show that online studies are definitely gaining in popularity.  In other words, they are here to stay. 

If you want to see just what is available and what learning institutions offer online courses, go to the web site “Comprehensive List of All Accredited Online Schools”.  I was amazed at the number of schools providing this great service.  Basically, if a university doesn’t do it now, they will miss out completely in future months and years.  CORVID-19 is accelerating that occurrence greatly.

Now, most of the schools and universities are fully accredited institutions that have been around years and years.  They are not the “Johnny-come-lately” types that take your money and provide a diploma for just signing up.  The course work is real.  Let’s take a look at several.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has spent millions of dollars over the past ten (10) years to attract students and compete with other universities.  New library, new dorm room building, new student center, new medical facilities, new athletic facility, etc.  My mentee’s dorm room looks like something you would find in a Hilton Hotel.  He has three dorm mates, all with their own rooms.  A kitchen. A common area. His own bathroom.  Back in the dark ages when I went to school, I had a room mate and common bath facilities down the hall.  Life has changed and probably for the better.  At any rate, the common thread for administrators has been the necessity of providing all of the facilities and even amenities a student needs or feels he or she needs.

There are some courses that cannot be taught online.  All courses that require labs.  Students in pre-med or medical schools where the subject matter must be or should be presented by an instructor.  I have questions about the accessibility of instructors from a question and answer standpoint.  In-class instruction gives you immediate access whereas online not always does.  In the future, and as time go by, these questions and difficulties will be worked out.

CONCLUSIONS:  COVID-19 is only accelerating the online trend.  I do suspect the future will allow most students to take online courses which will somewhat obsolete certain facilities now available to students.  This should bring down the cost of education and hopefully lessen the huge student loan situation that now exists.  Over a trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000) in student loans are now outstanding.  At some point, that bubble with burst.


The magazine “Foundry Management & Technology” is used as a source for this post.

If you follow the literature at all, you know that robotic systems have gained significant usage in manufacturing methodologies.  Now, when I say robotic systems, I mean a system of the type shown below.

This is a “pick-and-place “or SCARA (Selective Compliance Articulated Robotic Arm) type system.  We are definitely not talking about the one shown below.

Human robotic systems are well into the future.  We are talking about robotic systems used strictly in manufacturing work cells. 

From experience, the cost of deploying a robotic system can go well beyond the price tag of the robot itself.  You have direct installation costs, cost for electrical and pneumatic inputs, cost for tooling, jigs, fixtures, grippers, welding rigs, costs for engineering and robotic maintenance, insurance, etc.  All of these costs MUST be factored in to discover, or at least estimate, the overall cost of operating a system. 

A report by the Boston Consulting Group suggests that in order to arrive at a solid cost-estimate for robotic systems, customers should multiply the machine’s cost by a minimum of three.  In other words, let us say that a six-axis robot costs $65,000.00, customers should therefore budget $195,000.00 for the entire investment. This is a great “rule-of-thumb” which should represent a starting point. Due to the varying nature of manufacturing facilities, estimated costs fluctuate dramatically according to the specific industrial sector and size of the operation.  Please keep in mind that these costs are not always linear in nature and may vary during machinery lifecycle. 

Let’s look at an example. A manufacturer plans to use two SCARA robots to automate a pick-and-place process.  The robots will operate three shifts daily, six days per week, forty-eight (48) weeks per year.  Equivalent labor would require two operators per shift, equating to six (6) operators generating the same throughput over the same period of time.  Now, using the lowest average salary of a U.S. production employee, we would have to pay approximately $25,000.00 per employee per year or approximately $150,000.00 per year.  When employing robotic systems, human labor is not completely eliminated. A good rule-of-thumb for labor estimation alongside a robotic system is twenty-five percent (25%) of existing labor costs.  This would reduce the human labor to $37,500.00 per year—a great savings producing an acceptable ROI. This estimating method does NOT account for down time of equipment for maintenance and/or parts replacement.  That must be factored into the mix as well.  There will also be some expense for training personnel to monitor and use the equipment.  This involves training to set up the systems and initiate the manufacturing process. 

Robotic systems are predictable.  They can eliminate human error.  They do not take lunch breaks and if maintained properly can provide years of usable production. The payback is there and if a suitable vendor is chosen, a great marriage will occur.  Vendor support when operating a robotic system is an absolute must—a must.

SKILLS GAP

February 26, 2020


If you read literature regarding the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), you know that the United States has a definite “skills gap”.  The skills gap refers to the difference between skills required for a job and the skills an employee actually possesses. Because of the skills gap, employee might not be able to perform the complete job.  According to the Progressive Policy Institute, “Those who have never worked in the private sector might be forgiven for being skeptical about the existence of a skills shortage. But employers know that America has a significant skills gap – one that is growing with each passing month. And you won’t find many skill gap skeptics among underemployed workers, particularly Millennials.

 America’s economy has digitized over the past decade and our legacy infrastructure – postsecondary education institutions and workforce development boards – have not come close to keeping up. Moreover, the digitization of the economy has also changed hiring practices, with real implications for our workforce.”

 There can be no question that American employers have a record number of unfilled jobs. For the past year, the number has hovered around seven (7) million.  As of early January 2019, the number reported by the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) was six point nine (6.9) million.  When you think about it, this is a huge number—HUGE.   If we take a look at possible causes, we see the following:

  • THE DIGITAL SKILLS GAP— The World Economic Forum found only twenty-seven (27%) percent of small companies and twenty-nine (29%) percent of large companies believe they have the digital talent they require. Three quarters of Business Roundtable CEOs say they can’t find workers to fill jobs in STEM-related fields.  Deloitte in the United Kingdom has found that only twenty-five (25%) percent of “digital leaders” believe their workforce is sufficiently skilled to execute their digital strategy. Another survey found eighty (80% percent of executives highly concerned about a digital skills gap. And for the first time in recent memory, in May, August, and September 2018, the TechServe Alliance, the national trade association of technology staffing and services companies, reported no tech job growth in the U.S. According to TechServe Alliance CEO Mark Roberts, “this is totally a supply side phenomenon. There are simply not enough qualified workers to meet demand.”
  • THE SOFT-SKILLS GAP— Behind digital skills, as evidenced by job descriptions, employers care a great deal about a second set of skills: soft skills like teamwork, communication, organization, creativity, adaptability, and punctuality. Employers want workers who will show up on time and focus on serving customers rather than staring at their phones. They need employees who are able to get along with colleagues, and take direction from supervisors – a particular challenge for headstrong Millennials. But soft skills aren’t screened at the top of the hiring funnel. Employers aren’t likely to list “willingness to take direction” or “humility” as skills in job descriptions. And the soft skills that are listed aren’t readily assessable from résumés. So soft skills are evaluated further down the hiring funnel, via interviews – and long after the initial screen (primarily on digital skills) has weeded out many candidates with strong soft skills. It’s no wonder employers don’t think candidates’ soft skills are up to snuff. In a LinkedIn study of hiring managers, fifty-nine (59%) percent said soft skills were difficult to find and this skill gap was limiting their productivity. A 2015 Wall Street Journal survey of nine hundred executives found that eighty-nine (89%) percent have a very or somewhat difficult time finding candidates with the requisite soft skills. One reason for the soft skills gap is that Millennials (and now Generation Z) have less exposure to paid work than prior generations. When older Americans were in high school, even if they weren’t working during the school years, they probably took summer jobs. Some worked in restaurants or painted houses, others mowed lawns or scooped ice cream. But in the summer of 2017, only forty-three (43% percent of 16-19-year-olds were working or seeking work – down from nearly seventy (70%) percent a generation ago. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts teen workforce participation will drop below twenty-seven (27% percent by 2024.

SOLUTIONS:  There are solutions or ideas about solutions to this demanding and very important problem.  Some of these are given with the graphic shown below.

  • Learning institutions and curriculum development
  • Apprenticeship programs
  • Assisting educational institutions with classroom instruction.

If we look at the graduate skills gap, we see how very important companies and other institutions regard the skills gap.  It will be a continuing problem until our country comes to its senses and addresses this critical problem.


My last post, “ENGINEERING SALARIES KEEP GROWING”, gave the starting salaries for various engineering disciplines.  Well, engineering is one profession in which specialized training is absolutely necessary, at least in my opinion.  In other words, you have to go to school.  You have to be instructed.  Now please do not get me wrong, on the job training or internship is great to have and demonstrates the real world to entry-level engineers.  Engineering student on coop programs have realized that for years.   The profession today is extremely complex due to the digital age, 5 G, IIoT, AI, RFID, computer simulation, etc.  I could go on and on but will not.  With that being the case, let us now take a look at those universities that provide a graduate with the best starting salary.  Here we go.

NUMBER 20:  Kettering University

Early Career Salary   $71,000

Mid-Career Salary     $130,900

Kettering University (formerly General Motors Institute of Technology and GMI Engineering and Management Institute) is a nationally-ranked STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and Business university in Flint, Michigan and a national leader in combining a rigorous academic environment. (Image source: Kettering University)

NUMBER 19: The United States Coast Guard Academy

 Early Career Salary   $71,900

Mid-Career Salary     $134,000

The United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) is the service academy of the United States Coast Guard, founded in 1876 and located in New London, Connecticut. It is the smallest of the five federal service academies and provides education to future Coast Guard officers. (Image source: US Coast Guard Academy)

NUMBER 18: The University of California, San Diego

 Early Career Salary   $65,100

Mid-Career Salary     $135,500

The University of California, San Diego is a public research university located in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, California, in the United States. The university occupies 2,141 acres near the coast of the Pacific Ocean with the main campus resting on approximately 1,152 acres. (Image source: University of California – San Diego)

NUMBER 17:  Clarkson University

Early Career Salary   $67,900

Mid-Career Salary     $137,500

Clarkson University is a private research university with its main campus located in Potsdam, New York, and additional graduate program and research facilities in New York State’s Capital Region and Beacon, N.Y. It was founded in 1896 and has an enrollment of about 4,300 students. (Image source: Clarkson University)

NUMBER 16: Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

Early Career Salary   $71,600

Mid-Career Salary     $138,600

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, commonly known as Cooper Union or The Cooper Union and informally referred to, especially during the 19th century, as “the Cooper Institute”, is a private college at Cooper Square on the border of the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, NY. (Image source: Cooper Union)

NUMBER 15:  Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 

Early Career Salary $72,200

Mid-Career Salary $138,600

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, or RPI, is a private research university and space-grant institution located in Troy, New York, with two additional campuses in Hartford and Groton, Connecticut. The Institute was established in 1824 by Stephen van Rensselaer and Amos Eaton. (Image source: Rensselaer Polytechnic)

NUMBER 14:  Georgia Institute of Technology

Early Career Salary   $73,700

Mid-Career Salary     $138,700

The Georgia Institute of Technology (commonly called Georgia Tech, Tech, and GT) is a public research university in Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States. It is a part of the University System of Georgia and has satellite campuses in Savannah, Georgia; Metz, France; Athlone, Ireland; Shanghai, China and other locations. (Image source: Georgia Tech)

NUMBER 13: Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology 

Early Career Salary   $76,200

Mid-Career Salary     $138,800

Rose–Hulman Institute of Technology (abbreviated RHIT), formerly Rose Polytechnic Institute, is a small private college specializing in teaching engineering, mathematics and science. Its 1,300-acre (2.0 sq mi; 526.1 ha) campus is located in Terre Haute, Indiana. (Image source: Rose-Hulman)

NUMBER 12:  Carnegie Mellon University

Early Career Salary   $78,300

Mid-Career Salary     $141,000

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is a private nonprofit research university based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1900 by Andrew Carnegie as the Carnegie Technical Schools, the university became the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1912 and began granting four-year degrees. (Image source: Carnegie Mellon University)

NUMBER 11:  Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Early Career Salary   $75,200

Mid-Career Salary     $142,100

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is a private research university in Worcester, Massachusetts, focusing on the instruction and research of technical arts and applied sciences. Founded in 1865 in Worcester, WPI was one of the United States’ first engineering and technology universities. (Image source: Worcester Polytechnic)

NUMBER 10: US Merchant Marine Academy

Early Career Salary   $82,900

Mid-Career Salary     $143,500

The United States Merchant Marine Academy (also known as USMMA or Kings Point), one of the five United States service academies, is located in Kings Point, New York. It is charged with training officers for the United States Merchant Marine, branches of the military, and the transportation industry. (Image source: US Merchant Marine Academy)

NUMBER 9: Colorado School of Mines

Early Career Salary   $76,200

Mid-Career Salary     $143,600

Colorado School of Mines, also referred to as “Mines”, is a public teaching and research university in Golden, Colorado, devoted to engineering and applied science, with special expertise in the development and stewardship of the Earth’s natural resources. (Image source: Colorado School of Mines)

NUMBER 8: Lehigh University

Early Career Salary   $70,500

Mid-Career Salary     $143,700

Lehigh University is an American private research university in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It was established in 1865 by businessman Asa Packer. Its undergraduate programs have been coeducational since the 1971–72 academic year. As of 2014, the university had 4,904 undergraduate students and 2,165 graduate students. (Image source: Lehigh University)

NUMBER 7:  Stevens Institute of Technology

Early Career Salary   $76,200

Mid-Career Salary     $145,800

Stevens Institute of Technology (SIT) is a private, coeducational research university located in Hoboken, New Jersey. The university also has a satellite location in Washington, D.C. Incorporated in 1870, it is one of the oldest technological universities in the United States. (Image source: Stevens Institute of Technology)

NUMBER 6:  Webb Institute

Early Career Salary   $80,900

Mid-Career Salary     $145,800

Webb Institute is a private undergraduate engineering college in Glen Cove, New York on Long Island. Each graduate of Webb Institute earns a Bachelor of Science degree in naval architecture and marine engineering. Successful candidates for admission receive full tuition for four years. (Image source: Webb Institute)

NUMBER 5:  California Institute of Technology

Early Career Salary   $89,900

Mid-Career Salary     $156,900

The California Institute of Technology (abbreviated Caltech) is a private doctorate-granting research university located in Pasadena, California, United States. Known for its strength in natural science and engineering, Caltech is often ranked as one of the world’s top-ten universities. (Image source: Caltech)

NUMBER 4:   US Naval Academy

Early Career Salary   $85,000

Mid-Career Salary     $158,800

The United States Naval Academy (also known as USNA, Annapolis, or simply Navy) is a four-year coeducational federal service academy adjacent to Annapolis, Maryland. Established on 10 October 1845, under Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft. (Image source: US Naval Academy)

NUMBER 3: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Early Career Salary $89,900

Mid-Career Salary $159,400

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States. Founded in 1861 in response to the increasing industrialization of the United States, MIT adopted a European polytechnic university model and stressed laboratory instruction. (Image source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

NUMBER 2:  Stanford University

Early Career Salary   $83,500

Mid-Career Salary     $161,400

Stanford University (officially Leland Stanford Junior University, colloquially the Farm) is a private research university in Stanford, California. Stanford is known for its academic strength, wealth, proximity to Silicon Valley, and ranking as one of the world’s top universities. (Image source: Stanford)

NUMBER 1:   Harvey Mudd College

Early Career Salary   $90,700

Mid-Career Salary     $161,800

Harvey Mudd College (HMC) is a private residential undergraduate science and engineering college in Claremont, California. It is one of the institutions of the contiguous Claremont Colleges which share adjoining campus grounds. (Image source: Harvey Mudd College)


I graduated from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 1966.  Even though I entered the Air Force I did interview several prospective companies.  All were hiring and I was offered jobs upon successful graduation.  One dream job was working for Pratt-Whitney Aircraft.  My offer, $12,000 per year plus benefits.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  $12 grand, are you kidding me?  How will I spend all of that money?  Well, times have changed.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, (BLS), jobs for engineering graduates are expanding, and so are salaries.  If you are an engineer or an engineering student, this is great news.

The BLS figures are similar to results from the Design News study presented in the article, Engineering Career & Salary Survey – Are You Getting Paid Enough?. The average salary in our survey was $98,000, which is quite a bit higher than the average engineering salary of $85,000. The difference is likely because the Design News respondents included a preponderance of electrical and mechanical engineers, whose salaries tend to be higher than the average engineering salary. 

The BLS data shows that engineering jobs are projected to grow three percent (3%) from 2017 to 2024, adding about 67,200 new jobs. The growth rate is slower than the average for all occupations, in part, because several technician occupations in the group are projected to decline from 2017 to 2024 as improvements in technology, such as design software and surveying equipment, make workers more productive.

Let’s take a look at salary levels for various engineering classifications. Here we go.

Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians

Entry-level education: Associate’s degree

Median pay: $66,180

Aerospace Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $107,830

Agricultural Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $75,090

Biomedical Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $86,220

Chemical Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $97,360

Civil Engineering Technicians

Entry-level education: Associate’s degree

Median pay: $49,260 

Civil Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $82,220

Computer Hardware Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $111,730

Electrical and Electronic Engineering Technicians

Entry-level education: Associate’s degree

Median pay: $61,130 

Electrical and Electronic Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $95,230

Electro-mechanical Technicians

Entry-level education: Associate’s degree

Median pay: $53,340

Environmental Engineering Technicians

Entry-level education: Associate’s degree

Median pay: $48,650

Environmental Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $84,560

Health and Safety Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $84,600

Industrial Engineering Technicians

Entry-level education: Associate’s degree

Median pay: $53,780 

Industrial Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $83,470

Materials Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $91,310

Mechanical Engineering Technicians

Entry-level education: Associate’s degree

Median pay: $53,910

Mechanical Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $83,590

Mining and Geological Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $94,040

Nuclear Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $102,950

Petroleum Engineers

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

Median pay: $129,990

CONCLUSIONS:  Trust me on this one, an engineering degree from a four-year accredited college or university is a REAL commitment and sometimes a slog.  If you can tolerate the long days and sometimes sleepless nights and do graduate, you can see that “sheep skin” really pays off.  I would say—stay the course. 


The International Space Station (ISS) has been in existence since 1969 in some form or the other.  A very quick history of its humble beginnings is given below.  Also, given below is a hyperlink to an absolutely fascinating UTUBE video of the existing ISS and various components of the internal workings of the station.  I do not know what I expected, but the facility is a marvelous combination of hardware, software and electronics.  I suppose when I thought of the ISS, I had in mind the deck of the Starship Enterprise.  Not even close—much more impressive.

A condensed version of the time line is given below but please go to the NASA website to get the extended chronology of the ISS.

  • On January 24, 1984, President Ronald Reagan commissioned NASA to build the international space station and to do so within the next 10 years.
  • On November 20, 1998 the first segment of the ISS launches: a Russian proton rocket named Zarya (“sunrise”).
  • On December 4, 1998, Unity, the first U.S.-built component of the International Space Station launches—the first Space Shuttle mission dedicated to assembly of the station.
  • The first crew to reside on the station was on November 2, 2000.  Astronaut Bill Shepherd and cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev become the first crew to reside onboard the station, staying several months.
  • U.S. Lab Module was Added February 7, 2001.  Destiny, the U.S. Laboratory module, becomes part of the station. Destiny continues to be the primary research laboratory for U.S. payloads.
  • The European Lab Joined the ISS February 7, 2008. The European Space Agency’s Columbus Laboratory becomes part of the station.
  • On March 11, 2008 the Japanese Lab joined the ISS.  The first Japanese Kibo laboratory module becomes part of the station.
  •  

HISTORY:

The International Space Station (ISS) took ten (10) years and more than thirty (30) missions to assemble. It is the result of unprecedented scientific and engineering collaboration among five space agencies representing fifteen (15) countries. The space station is approximately the size of a football field: a four hundred and sixty (460)-ton, permanently crewed platform orbiting two hundred and fifty (250) miles above Earth. It is about four times as large as the Russian space station Mir and five times as large as the U.S. Skylab.

The idea of a space station was once science fiction, existing only in the imagination until it became clear in the 1940s that construction of such a structure might be attainable by our nation. As the Space Age began in the 1950s, designs of “space planes” and stations dominated popular media. The first rudimentary station was created in 1969 by the linking of two Russian Soyuz vehicles in space, followed by other stations and developments in space technology until construction began on the ISS in 1998, aided by the first reusable spacecraft ever developed: the American shuttles.

Until recently, U.S. research space onboard the ISS had been reserved for mostly government initiatives, but new opportunities for commercial and academic use of the ISS are now available, facilitated by the ISS National Lab.

There is no way I can provide a better description of the ISS than the video I hope you will look at.  That hyperlink is given as follows:  Hope you enjoy it.

HOW IT WORKS: The International Space Station


Archimedes declared “Eureka I’ve found it”.  Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith of the “A-Team” said, “I love it when a plan comes together”. Boo-yah is a cry of success used by the Army. Well, down here in the South we call the act of discovery a Jubilation T. Cornpone moment.  Okay, have you ever made the statement: “I thought of that some months ago” only to lament the fact that you did not act appropriately and give your idea wings?  We all have. Let’s take a look at several “serendipity” moments that resulted in great discoveries being brought to commercialization.

  • Legend has it that Archimedes was about to bathe when he discovered that an object’s buoyancy force equals the weight of the fluid it displaces. Thrilled, he ran naked through Syracuse shouting “Eureka”.
  • According to biographers, Paul McCartney composed this melody in a dream at the Wimpole Street of then-girlfriend Jane Asher.  Upon waking, he rushed to a piano and played the tune to avoid forgetting it.  The tune was Yesterday.
  • Riding a streetcar in Bern, Switzerland, Einstein was struck by the sight of the city’s medieval clock tower—and was inspired to devise his elegant special theory of relativity: time can beat at different rates throughout the universe, depending on how fast you move.
  • We can all thank Josephine Knight Dickson for those ubiquitous adhesive bandages later known as Band-Aids.  She often cut and burned herself while cooking.  So, in 1920 these events prompted her husband, Earle, a Johnson cotton buyer, and Thomas Anderson to develop a prototype so Josephine could dress her wounds unaided.
  • At the tender age of fourteen (14) Philo Farnsworth was plowing a potato field when he suddenly realized how television could work.  The back-and-forth motion of the till inspired him to imagine how an electron beam could scan images line by line—the basis for almost all TVs until LCD and plasma screens.
  • 3M scientist Spencer Silver just could not interest the company in his low-tack, pressure-sensitive adhesive.  Then colleague Arthur Fry found an application—at choir practice. Coating the sticky stuff on paper, Fry reasoned, he could create stay-put paper in his hymnal as a bookmark.
  • GoPro visionary Nick Woodman invented his wrist-strap-mounted, 35-millimeter camera while trying to capture his passion surfing on film. He turned it into a business that, at its height, was worth eleven (11) billion dollars.
  • The quickie oven (microwave) was born while engineer Percy Spencer was working on magnetrons for military radar sets.  When a candy bar in his pocket melted near various radar components, Spencer realized microwaves could penetrate the exterior of a food and cook it from inside out-unlike old-school ovens that cook from the outside in.
  • In 1905, eleven (11) year old Frank Epperson of Oakland, California mixed sugary soda power with water and left it out on a cold winter’s night.  The concoction froze-and proved delicious when he licked it off the wooden stirrer. Epperson, who died in 1983, dubbed his accidental treat the Epsicle and later patented it.  He sold the rights in 1925.
  • One day in 1941, George de Mestral took his dog for a walk in the Swiss woods.  When returning, he noticed burrs stuck to his pants–which refused to be removed. Under a microscope, de Mestral saw that the burrs had tiny hooks that attached themselves to thread loops in his pants.  Sensing a business opportunity, he connected with a Lyon fabric manufacturing firm and named the product with portmanteau of “velvet” and “crochet”—French for hook.
  • At the height of WWII, a mechanical engineer named Richard James was trying to devise springs that could keep sensitive ship equipment steady at sea.  After accidentally knocking spring samples from a shelf, he watched in astonishment as the springs gracefully “walked” down instead of falling. Teaming with his wife, Betty, James developed a plan for the wonderful novelty toy Slinky.

All of these “inventions” were waiting to happen but just depended upon creative minds to bring them into fruition.  This is the manner in which creativity works.  Suddenly with great flashes of brilliance.

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