(Continued from Part 1)
“I can’t open my jar of peanut butter,” he exclaimed from the corner of his mouth with an overturned jar in his lap. “You’re a mechanical engineer; let’s design a mechanism for my wheel chair that will grip the bottle while I unscrew the lid?” Such needs launched my mind into new and page-turning design activities; as usual. (I love it when this happens. No, I mean, not when people have strokes, or can’t eat their peanut butter, but you know the english proverb, “Necessity is the mother of invention?” I’m surprised he didn’t suggest a capacitive or inductive solution.)
I watched him try to open jars and spread peanut butter. I sketched some ideas, I walked up and down isles at the hardware store for inspiration, then I purchased some aluminum bars, springs, thick rubber coating dip, and a polypropylene bread board and went home to my garage. I drilled mounting holes and a smooth gripping-slot in the cutting board, made wheel chair mounting brackets, bent the aluminum into a round jar-gripper in my vise-clamp, dipped the hand lever in liquid rubber, then mounted everything to the board, and headed back for a test drive on the wheel chair. We tried it, changed it, collaborated on it, revised it, and… Such challenges accelerate and often consume my mental capacities. Just like my father-in-law, I love these creative mental gymnastics. In good taste (or full disclosure), I can’t say that this invention was a gripping success, (I probably should have meditated on a park bench in a national park before going to the hardware store); we eventually set it aside and went on to other things. But I can say that it was gratifying to collaborate with and serve a great scientist who loved engineering, who served humanity, and who persisted spreading his spectrum-modulation, and… his peanut butter. Such are the minds of engineers.
(If you really must know what ‘frequency-hopping spread-spectrum-modulation’ is, just ask Ferril Losee , or look it up on the internet.)References:  Losee, Ferril, RF Systems, Components, and Circuits Handbook, 1997 Artech House, Inc  Morrill, Jenn, Ferril A. Losee, A Man of Honor, Edited by Jenn Morrill
Ken, What a treat to hear “the rest of the story”. Thanks for sharing.
I can fully relate to the satisfaction of “mental gymnastics”. And what engineer worries about the need for a “gripping success”. I love the journey, the challenges, the hard work, the learning, and the successes when they show up.
Recently, I replaced the valve cover gaskets on my son’s ’01 Avalon. Not an easy affair due to the transverse mounting of the V-6 (i.e., location of the back bank of cylinders).
Between the trips for parts and special tools to four different stores, and the tight working quarters near the firewall, I invested about 2 1/2 days. But what I learned allowed me to then do the same job on my ’01 Avalon in only 5 hours. I enjoyed the entire process each time. Yes, luckily I was successful each time, but it was the journey that was so enjoyable! It was just me, the car, the garage, the tools, beautiful fall weather, and “classic rock” on the radio. Can’t beat it!