Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Time for a plug: Novedge Pulse

The power of social networking - and the internet is a way to make it happen.

If you haven't already, put together a LinkedIn profile. It's more professional than myspace and so far I haven't had anyone flame me on that site. It has also helped me expand my awareness. Take for example: bloggers, people, websites, and communities I never knew existed but either directly or indirectly have an affect on what I do. (Check out my profile by following the link on the right.)

One such person is Franco Folini, President and Owner of Novedge. We "met" through a shared LinkedIn group. He's already got a great website with great products and I'd recommend anyone to take a look at them. Recently, Franco put together Novedge Pulse. It is a mashup of various CAD and industry news and blogs all conveniently located in one place. If that wasn't convenient enough, it is peer ranked so the most interesting or useful items of the day show up at the top of the list. For so many of you who are like me, time is of the essence. RSS readers are a great way to skim what's new, but the Pulse improves upon it.

I am happy to say, without any effort on my part, this blog has been added to Pulse. Thank you Franco, for helping me get the word out to even more people. I consider it an honor to be included.

So save yourself some time and check out Novedge Pulse. While you're there, give me a beat.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Junk Mail

Spam, I can't stand it, but every now and then a piece of junk mail hits my mailbox that I just have to open. Usually, they just get ripped up without even opening them, but today I got a "keeper."

What will you do with your Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology?

That was the heading across the outside of the envelope. What the bleep is Forensic Psychology and why are you sending it to an engineer? The funniest part, this went to my work mailstop and it had my title on it for my job description that I haven't had in years. Tell me you wouldn't be the least bit curious to open it up and see what's inside.

Two things are wrong with this.
1) This particular university that is advertising its master's programs does not filter the mail lists it purchases. HELLO! It states right on the address that I'm a "Tool Design Engineer." Save yourself the 41 cents + printing cost and send it to someone else.
2) This particular university is obviously struggling, because any mail list that has my old title on it is at least 4 years old. Perhaps it's time to either update, or purge, your mail merge.

Needless to say, Forensic Psychology has very little to do with determining failure modes of a bolt, but it may still apply to engineering. Beyond Psych 101 in your undergrad, or business psychology for those who, like me, had that during the coursework as well, this program could help decipher the logic, or should I say lack of, some equipment users who just can't seem to follow directions.

How often has an engineer had to disposition a discrepancy and determine cause and corrective action?
How many causes are operator error? (Or pilot error? Or human error? Or however you classify the disassociation between brain and hands?)
How many times do you facepalm yourself, wondering how anybody could be so bold to not stop doing something at the first sign of failure?
Wouldn't it be nice to, since as engineers we are required to anyway, have a better understanding of how people are going to mishandle our designs in a way that seems intuitive to them?
A Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology may just be what you need.

Send me a reply if you want more information on this fascinating profession. I wonder if I can get PDHs for it?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Grand Challenges for Engineering

Since it's debut on the Siemens PLM Software Blog, the CAD pundits are having a go with the Challenge. http://www.engineeringchallenges.org/ I personally like Evan's the best, so far.

But how about a vote for none of the above?

OK, fine, I'll play the game. For those of you who don't know, the correct answer is energy. Why, because without it we can't have the rest. Now that I've played, can I go back to why I vote for none of the above?

Simply put, it is the Grand Challenges for Engineers, yet it says nothing about the state of engineering. These are engineering tasks that may be challenging. What do engineers say?
The difficult I can do right away, the impossible may take a while.
That's because all engineers look at problems as a challenge, not an obstacle. These challenges may be difficult today, but why? We know from past experience that tomorrow, these concepts will be taught in grade schools. So why fret over a technical objective?

Personally, I think these are challenges simply because of greed. Yep, some company is looking at these technologies wondering how it can make a fortune on it rather than looking at in with regards to how it will benefit mankind. As an engineer, our duty is to protect the health and welfare of the public. Deadlines and budgets come into contraint only because society says I need to pay for gas and groceries, and I need to remain employed to collect a paycheck. If I didn't, I'd engineer for free. Given time and resources, engineers can accomplish anything.

I think a better set of challenges for engineers would be:
  • Sharing our ethics with other professional disciplines.
  • Profess the benefits of licensure.
  • Remove obstacles from engineering for the benefit of people, rather than the benefit of corporations.
Feel free to add your own.

One Continent, One Country

One day, I will run for U.S. President and this will be my slogan.

Honestly, the world is more intertwined now than ever before. As the old saying goes, the world is getting smaller. Well, not really, but each individual person is more closely linked to a person on the other side of the globe via faster travel, the internet, and a sharing of knowledge. Granted, cultural issues aside (for all you Brits who sit around in pubs discussing politics), with more and more people populating the globe a lower percentage is taking note of global issues. But, for the most part, groups of people are taking note of and are becoming more globally aware.
  • Engineering and design services being outsourced.
  • Manufacturing being outsourced. (Funny, every country seems to have these problems. Where are they outsourcing to? Note that I embolded seems since no one seems to have consistent factual data to make a undisputable claim.)
  • The economy of one country is dependent on that of several others.
  • International aid groups help during times of natural catastrophe.
  • Industry standard organizations are writing more and more specifications for the international community that utilizes those documents. (It's not just ANSI, ASME, ISO, or DIN anymore. They're still called that, but ASME, ISO, and DIN apply to more than U.S., Europe, and Germany.)
What's even funnier is how everyones' zest for self-preservation seems to cloud the obvious facts that political boundaries are currently doing more harm than good.
NAFTA - who needs it if the U.S., Canada, and Mexico were all one country - the North American Union?

The U.N. is dead. I say it to make a hard point, not to criticize the U.N. From my history studies, the organization was never given any real authority to effect its responsibility. Most certainly, parts of the U.N. play a vital role in the global atmosphere, but unless the countries in the U.N. utilize their own resources to support the U.N., well, let's just say it is to easy for non-U.N. countries to ignore them. And it may be my limited exposure based on media's portrayal, but it certainly seems to me that the U.N. has lost focus on the good of the globe and instead each individual company has focused on the good of "my nation."

What's the fix? One continent, one country. Remove political borders from areas of the globe that share similar geographic and cultural traits. The European Union is having a go at it. Why aren't the rest of us? The U.S. used to be the melting pot, but with faster travel and instant communication, any person has access to any person from around the globe - including their culture. I think all of us are a bit of muggles now, even if you are a pure blood, just due to more global exposure.

So let's take it to the next step. Let's fix the outsourcing issue. After all, outsourcing to Mexico is not outsourcing if Mexico is the same country. If Antarctica can rule its entire continent, why can't the rest of us. Europe and Australia have a good start. It's time for the rest of us to realize "my back yard" is not as important as "our back yard."

Respectfully submitted,

--Scott

Continuing Education - PDH Credit

There is an interesting topic on eng-tips.com discussing states that do not require continuing education.
States that do not require PDHs for Professional Engineers

I understand that policies not specifically designated to the federal government are reserved for the states, but something as important as protecting the health and welfare of the public deserves to be consistent across state lines.

I, for one, am against requiring PDHs for maintaining licensure. The post I made on the site clearly states that only idiots don't get continuing education simply because they don't have to. But really, the extra burden on the State Boards to audit engineers; the varying requirements among states that each engineer is licensed in; the personal burden to document and track all education hours; and the variation among states for what qualifies and what doesn't is what makes me believe requiring continuing education is pointless.

I think it is time that a model law is developed that all states follow.

There are plenty of engineering organizations and societies that are now international. Those groups could band together and develop a plan for the U.S. to create an acceptable, and consistent, definition of what a good engineer should do in terms of continuing education. Each state would adopt the model law.

1) Create a central database of acceptable activities that qualify for PDH.
Companies that supply training seminars, conferences, or online training can apply to have their activity accredited.
2) Allow all professional engineers to maintain an account in the online, web-based database to log the activities they have participated in. Each state board can verify an engineer's qualifications via the database. Customer's, clients, and other concerned citizens can also verify that the engineer providing a service is current.
3) And more (because obviously all the details aren't going to be worked out in a blog).

Of course, how does all this get paid for? By each state board. How much will each state board save by having a 3rd party host the database? The cost of time, infrastructure, and manpower to self certify all of their engineers in their state has now been outsourced. It's no different than outsourcing contract labor for any other service. Each state pays their rental fee for the database with the savings they accrue from not maintaining it themselves.

I think it would work. Comments?