What is the Secret to Invent? Decompose the Functions!


“Well,” Aaron said, “I think this looks pretty great. Thanks Ray.   What made you think of all this anyway?”

“Oh,” Ray looked over at Wesley who remained silent. “I was working on my motorcycle Saturday and I got to thinking about it’s different parts, and I started thinking about the functions each part or assembly performs. Like, the brake handles, cables, and calipers perform the stopping function, the motor and throttle perform the acceleration function, the wheels, bearings and tires perform the rolling and steering function, the bike frame…”

“We get the idea,” Aaron said.

“Anyway,” Ray continued, “When designing something new, you just reverse the process by determining the functions that are needed, and then you can figure out what parts you need to accomplish those functions. I did it for the AutoBlaster by starting with the sequence, then figuring out the functions needed for that sequence.”

“I’m gonna start doing more of that kind of thinking when I look at things.” Aaron said.

“Don’t do it at the dinner table,” Kate said. “Your wife might not be interested in what function the tables and chairs perform.”

(Excerpt from, “Cutting Edge,” a complete Engineering Story about invention and product development. Read the story at, https://engineerstories.com/2012/08/18/cutting-edge-chapter-6-decompose-the-functions/)

While working with my Capstone team today, we spoke of functional decomposition, and I remembered this story. (Ken Hardman)

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Coach Log – The call to Coach another Year


CarlSorensenFaceShot“Ken, this is Carl Sorensen.” A very familiar voice projected from my speaker phone. “How are you?”

I hesitated as twelve years of memories flashed across my mind. I knew what Dr. Sorensen wanted. I expected his yearly August call, but I hadn’t made up my mind yet.

“Ken?”

I could picture the MIT graduate and seasoned Capstone Director in his fourth-floor office at BYU; strong voice, prominent chin, caring smile, and excellent teacher.

“Yes, Hi Dr. Sorensen, I’m doing great.” In another shameful millisecond I criticized the truth of my claim. Lately, in my thirty-second year of industry engineering, work has been difficult; tight schedules, hard problems. I didn’t have time for Capstone, at least not enough to be fare to the students.

“Ken, we’d like you to be a Capstone Coach again this year. We like your mentoring.”

Yes, I thought. I’ve been a pretty good mentor to… Let’s see, how many? Twelve years, an average of five or six students per team, somewhere between sixty and seventy students. I feel like I did them some good during their senior years. But, with my heavy workload, how am I going to…

“Yes,” I said. Wait, what happened to that two letter word I was forming? “I’m swamped at work,” I went on, “but I want more than anything to mentor students again. It is a great experience.”

“Wonderful.”

My academic colleague cinched the deal with one word. No turning back now.

“Ken,” he continued, “you’ve always received high reviews from the students, and we know your team will get a great coach. We don’t want you to do their project for them. We want you to help us teach them the principles of product development.”

“I’d be honored to work with the faculty, the coaches, and the students again.”

“Great,” Carl said. “We’ll be having our coach kickoff meeting a week from Friday. It’ll be great to see you again.”

“I look forward to it. Thanks Carl.”

As I turned off my phone, I felt that astounding and familiar mixture of panic and excitement; that exhilaration when you set out on a risky journey, driven by the certainty that meaning experiences will come.

(Image of Carl Sorensen from me.byu.edu)

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Too binary in your engineering thinking?


Get with someone who thinks differently that you. Try this short story to solve a binary problem. Answer the questions at the end.

https://engineerstories.com/2014/08/26/one-one-half-four/

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STEM Talk – Engineering is Cool



Watch Ken Hardman, an aerospace engineer and author talk to a group of youth about the engineering of airplanes, rockets, and space vehicles. Learn about mechanical, electrical, civil, chemical, industrial, and computer engineering. Watch, listen, and learn about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).

 

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Valkyrie Painting (finally)


A lot of things have been limiting my art production. First, we had a baby. We didn’t really bother with anything but learning to be parents right after Halvor was born. Then Bethany went bac…

Source: Valkyrie Painting (finally)

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“Units” can make all the difference in the… Mars


Inches vs Meters

Engineers and yet to be engineers, see how using the wrong ‘units’ can make all the difference in whether a space probe hit’s the mark, crashes into a planet, or heads off back into space. “The Mars Climate Orbiter (MCO) Mishap Investigation Board (MIB) has determined that the root cause for the loss of the MCO spacecraft was the failure to use metric units in the coding of a ground software file, “Small Forces,” used in trajectory models.” See the whole report here.

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Engineering Family History Stories


JohnGriffinAge30

Dear Engineering Stories friends, Thank you so very much for your interest in these Engineering Stories. I have enjoyed writing them both because I enjoy engineering, and I enjoy writing in general. In fact, at my regular job, I see myself in part as a technical writer because I’m always writing specifications, requirements, plans, presentations, proposals, and procedures. I enjoy writing whether technical, creative, or, yes about my genealogy. I have taken on the task of trying to make my ancestors accessible to their busy posterity by writing very very short succinct summaries of a key time in their lives. May I encourage this exercise? Those who lived on this earth before us, gave us so much, and there is so much we can learn from them. Take a look! Each story can be read in 90 seconds or less. And from one engineer to another, try writing some of these yourself, about your ancestors; it’s good writing practice for any anyone in any vocation, including engineering, it takes skill to write in so few a words. And each story is uplifting. Besides, you might find and engineer in your family tree; I did! Click here and FOLLOW my #AncestorClips blog. To help you write a short short meaningful story about your ancestor, engineer or not, I prepared a worksheet for you. Click here and start writing. www.ancestorclips.com #familyhistory #genealogy

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