As engineers we stand on the shoulders of giants. The laws of physics we take for granted because Newton saw an apple fall, and so on and so forth. Who those giants are also matters. March is Women’s History Month, and having a sister who’s also an engineer, I am especially grateful for the women engineers who have changed and are changing the world. The story of NASA Perseverance engineer Diana Trujillo is a recent example. Changing the world is not just about the work accomplished, it’s also about the next generation of engineers inspired along the way.
Growing up I loved the show Mythbusters, and as an Asian American, I saw in Grant Imahara someone who looked like me doing things I wanted to do. It gave me confidence to pursue it. Having representation matters.
Soon we will emerge from our socially distanced lives and begin to once again interact the way humans are intended to, socially undistanced. If you aren’t mentoring someone already, it’s a good time to think about how you might mentor someone who needs it. As for representation, The Prepared readership is predominantly white and male; however, if you as a white male mentor someone from an underrepresented background, that person can become the representation for others in the next generation. If we are lucky, we have the chance to become the giants whose shoulders future engineers of all backgrounds stand upon.
Planning & Strategy.
- Sergei Brin’s LTA Research is planning to build airships in the Akron Airdock. My grandfather, a “giant” of mine, worked around the Akron Airdock as an engineering manager at Goodyear Aerospace for 40 years and it’s good to see cutting edge technology return to Akron.
- Last month someone hacked into a computer controlling the water supply of a city in Florida and tried to increase the amount of sodium hydroxide by 100x. It turns out it wasn’t a sophisticated hack, as remote control software was put on these critical systems with a single password shared throughout the plant.
- After closing down last year, Shop-Vac has been acquired by Chinese conglomerate GreatStar Tools and is back in business.
Making & Manufacturing.
- Disney Research explains how to design animatronics with simple wire, tuning stiffnesses to bend in a desired path.
- A DIY jet engine built with sheet metal and 3D printed parts.
- Microwave-based metal 3D printing replaces expensive lasers used to melt metal with cheap microwave generators. The technology is still in the research phase, with one Russian company showing a prototype printer in 2019 - without providing updates since.
- I’ve always wanted an Eames lounge chair. Watching this 1/12 scale Eames lounge chair being built with urethane molds and 3D-printed fixtures satisfied that itch… for now.
Maintenance, Repair & Operations.
- Soft potentiometers (with all their reliability issues) are becoming the standard for gaming controllers as Sony PS5 joysticks are now also drifting. I’m left wondering if these hardware reliability decisions are made intentionally by some economic Bathtub Curve model, or if Sony was misled by joystick suppliers and failed to do adequate internal testing, or if there’s something else I’m missing.
- NASA’s Perseverance rover uses the same chipset found in a 1998 iMac.
Distribution & Logistics.
- ImportYeti is a free search tool for import/export records, letting you find any US company’s international suppliers and visualize their supply chain. Among many other uses, supply chain transparency can encourage companies to make more ethical supply chain choices.
- The NYT adds more detail to the widespread impacts of global shipping chaos, which has resulted in delays, record-high prices, and logistical nightmares for the operation of US companies.
Inspection, Testing & Analysis.
- In the second half of the twentieth century, after Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” speech, there was a significant push to create reliable nuclear power. A lot of research went into failure-proofing these designs, but data was missing for reactor containment structures. To collect this data Sandia National Labs ran a series of tests, culminating in a rather dramatic failure test of a ¼-scale model reactor containment.
- New York is one of three states remaining that require LLCs to publish in two newspapers for 6 weeks in a row announcing formation in their county. This can cost a lot, especially in NYC, but there are loopholes: form your business in a sleepier media market where publication costs are cheap, then immediately file to relocate to NYC.
- For all your tiny surface mounting needs, there’s this 30x30mm hot plate.
p.s. - Have thoughts on my intro? Would love to hear it.
p.p.s. - Have a theory on why Sony chose those joysticks? Would also love to hear it.
p.p.p.s. - We care about inclusivity. Here’s what we’re doing about it.