Copyright 2012 – Kenneth Richard Hardman
A realistic experience-based fictional Short Story in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
In Foot Notes, the engineer is faced with a technical problem, driving him to search for and consider a number of potential solutions. As is usual with engineering, he is constrained by time, cost, and technology, navigating these three constraints to achieve the best solution. He must use and build upon what he has and knows to find and achieve what he does not yet possess. He must take clues from the near and far, the past and present, the people and places all around. As he iterates in this fashion, he fashions great products.
Reader be warned; have your paper and pencil, or digital device ready. It is very likely that you will think of options and solutions different or better than options considered here. If you do, great! Welcome to engineering.
“Ken, why are you standing on the desk?” Joan said, laughing at her husband as she entered the home office finding him in a most unusual position. “And why is your foot on the printer?”
Ken’s left foot was on his desk, right foot on the glass of the printer’s built-in scanner, left hand gripping the back of the chair , and right index finger reaching for the scan button on the four-in-one device. The reclining office chair was wobbling back and forth.
“How em….. embarrassing.” He stuttered trying to keep from falling. I had a feeling she might walk in at the wrong time. He thought. “Well, you’ve seen me do stranger things than this.” Ken shifted his weight. “It was part of the deal when you married an engineer.”
Ken didn’t look up, but imagined his wife smiling at his little joke. The scanner hummed as the light sensor moved slowly across the scanner under the glass supporting his foot. If I could just hold steady for a few more seconds. He raised his chin slowly, looking across the room. Joan stood with eyebrows raised and hands on hips.
“Well?” Joan repeated.
“We’ve got to find a better way of scanning the foot.”
“Scanner companies charge too much and won’t tell us how to connect our computers to their scanners.”
The chair began to roll away from the desk. Joan leaped forward and caught it keeping her husband from breaking his foot instead of scanning it.
“Your gonna need a different kind of scan if you’re not careful”
Ken slowly lifted his foot from the scanner and placed it on the desk. Then he stepped onto the chair, then onto the floor never taking his eyes off the computer screen. He grabbed the mouse, kicked his shoe out of the way, sat in the chair, and leaned forward.
Joan, proud of her husbands engineering passion, stepped up behind him, kissed him on the top of his head, glanced at the screen and whispered, “I recognize that foot.”
He did not respond.
She leaned to one side so she could see his face. His eyes were fixed on the screen. She politely left the room.
Just five minutes earlier, Ken was sitting at his desk, sketching in his engineering log book, reviewing websites on commercial 3D scanners. There has got to be a better way. He had thought. We’ve tried other scanning methods available on the market and it’s just not getting us anywhere. They are too expensive for our application and the manufacturers are too restrictive in how we use their scanners. There has got to be a way to capture the shape of the foot in a simple manner.
Ken had been thinking of various devices already on the market that capture images. I wonder if I can use an existing device, something that is cheep, made in the millions and could accomplish the task. At that moment, he had leaned back in his chair and looked around the room. What about a desk top scanner, there’s one in almost every office, in every home for that matter. Thats when, almost without thinking, he had pushed back his chair and stepped onto the desk.