Coaches, Cars, and Character

Here is one of my favorites. Enjoy the short read.

Engineering Stories

Team after team, the endurance race pressed on. No car came anywhere close to beating us. Hopes were high. But when it was all over, the maroon and white competitors from Texas had the highest overall score, and my team, the boys in blue took second in the annual hybrid race car competition.

“Not next year.” Stephen, our team rookie, sulked out loud.

Lance, the team captan glared at Stephen, then with a disappointed but knowing grin, he looked over at the coach and said. “Was I really like that last year?”

“You’ve come a long way,” the coach responded, his face changing from concerned to encouraged as he also looked at Stephen then back to Lance. “I expect to hear great things about you’re career.”

Most crews went over to congratulate the winning team. “Great design! Impressive driving. I’d love to see your finite element analysis for your suspension.”

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Reading for Pleasure – by Henry Petroski

(an excerpt from ASEE Prism – Refractions)

“Engineering and fiction seem polar opposites, but several recently published novels may encourage the reading and writing of more tales about engineers–and perhaps generate wider appreciation of their work. Even when based on real events, engineering stories can be stimulating. Here is a sampling of the riveting reads I enjoyed over the past year:…

Engineering Stories: Realistic Fiction in STEM is an engaging collection of short stories that involve engineers tackling real-world design problems. Author Kenneth R. Hardman, a registered professional engineer working in the aerospace industry, uses the narrative form effectively to explain the nature of engineering and design. He hopes that teachers of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics will use his stories to inspire students to explore engineering as a college major and career…”

(by Henry Petroski, from Reading for Pleasure, Refractions, Prism, ASEE, January 2014.

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Watching humans set foot on the moon fixed an engineer’s passion to go farther

Dear Engineering friends, please read this man’s journey and passion for engineering.

A Boeing Technical Fellow – A world away

“The more challenge I get, the better I get…” (Kauser Imtiaz, Boeing Innovation Quarterly)

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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,

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.


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.”


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

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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.

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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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