Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Engineering FUNdamentals


Engineers have a funny bone. They can sit around a table, deconstructing the Dyson-Eddington experiment, doodling differential equations on napkins and swapping jokes with the best of 'em. Chances are their chitchat might include these two items...

Q: What’s the difference between engineers in the military and civil engineers?

A: Engineers in the military build missiles. Civil engineers build targets.

*******************************************************************

An unemployed engineer, desperately needing work, decided to try a career change. He got an interview almost immediately with a company that wanted to hire an accountant who's been an engineer. "Perfect," he thought.

Two days later he was fidgeting nervously as he sat in front of Henry Bucks, owner of Bucks CPA. As the interview went on, he rattled off the answers that he'd rehearsed. The interview was going well -- he had an uplifting sensation that he hadn't had in months -- until Bucks pulled a question out of left field: "How much is four times eight?"

The engineer went pale. His mouth dried up. He felt a single drop of sweat roll down his nose and hang on the tip and then plummet into his lap. "I, uh... I'm an engineer," he said; "I always use a calculator, feed the results into my portable computer and double-check the answers. I never rely on memory."

Bucks sat back in his chair to consider the engineer. "Fine, fine," Bucks said. "Humor me... tell me the answer from memory. No calculator. Four times eight..."

The engineer, mentally counting on his fingers and toes, took a frantic stab: "Four times eight is, uh, thirty-four." Then he got up, shook Bucks' hand and ran into the hallway, where he punched the numbers in a pocket calculator and, seeing the answer, cursed loudly.

To his surprise, Bucks called that very evening to offer him the job. Six months later, feeling confident in his position, he said to Bucks, "Sir, I'm curious. Why is it that out of all those engineering candidates, you hired me -- and I gave you the wrong answer to four-times-eight?"
Bucks looked at him over the top of his glasses and said, "Your answer was the closest."

Engineering FUNdamentals


Engineers have a funny bone. They can sit around a table, deconstructing the Dyson-Eddington experiment, doodling differential equations on napkins and swapping jokes with the best of 'em. Chances are their chitchat might include these two items...

Q: What’s the difference between engineers in the military and civil engineers?

A: Engineers in the military build missiles. Civil engineers build targets.

*******************************************************************

An unemployed engineer, desperately needing work, decided to try a career change. He got an interview almost immediately with a company that wanted to hire an accountant who's been an engineer. "Perfect," he thought.

Two days later he was fidgeting nervously as he sat in front of Henry Bucks, owner of Bucks CPA. As the interview went on, he rattled off the answers that he'd rehearsed. The interview was going well -- he had an uplifting sensation that he hadn't had in months -- until Bucks pulled a question out of left field: "How much is four times eight?"

The engineer went pale. His mouth dried up. He felt a single drop of sweat roll down his nose and hang on the tip and then plummet into his lap. "I, uh... I'm an engineer," he said; "I always use a calculator, feed the results into my portable computer and double-check the answers. I never rely on memory."

Bucks sat back in his chair to consider the engineer. "Fine, fine," Bucks said. "Humor me... tell me the answer from memory. No calculator. Four times eight..."

The engineer, mentally counting on his fingers and toes, took a frantic stab: "Four times eight is, uh, thirty-four." Then he got up, shook Bucks' hand and ran into the hallway, where he punched the numbers in a pocket calculator and, seeing the answer, cursed loudly.

To his surprise, Bucks called that very evening to offer him the job. Six months later, feeling confident in his position, he said to Bucks, "Sir, I'm curious. Why is it that out of all those engineering candidates, you hired me -- and I gave you the wrong answer to four-times-eight?"
Bucks looked at him over the top of his glasses and said, "Your answer was the closest."

Friday, March 27, 2009

Environmental Debates Becoming Carbon Copies

Coal Power Station in Tampa FL
Discussions about methods for scrubbing contaminants from the atmosphere haven’t changed. They’re simply becoming louder and more frequent. Meanwhile, those who seem to have solutions in hand are running out of time to implement them.

Frustration with that inertia reached new highs when President Barack Obama floated a cap-and-trade scheme in the wake of a Congressional Budget Office projection that an economy-wide cap-and-trade program would generate at least $50 billion per year, but could reach up to $300 billion. Obama claims his version of a cap-and-trade program will reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. However this plan is getting stiff opposition.

What gets little attention is the fact greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide have an upside. In fact, they find their way into the atmosphere through the natural carbon cycle. Christian Lastoskie, an associate professor in civil and environmental engineering at the University of Michigan, pointed out that, without the heat-trapping ability of greenhouse gases, subzero temperatures and inhospitable conditions would render the Earth uninhabitable. However, there’s a threshold past which the process turns deadly. Burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas has created alarming volumes of CO2—in the last 200 years, atmospheric CO2 has increased 27 percent. Automobile emissions get the most publicity, but 30 percent of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere originates from fossil-fuel fired power plants.

These carbon contaminants are a major cause of death, illness, and long-term environmental damage. They shorten lives, damage children’s development and growth, cause chronic illnesses and kill thousands of people indiscriminately. Yet debates about the solution to the problem have created more argument but little action.

The March 24 Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) public information session is one example. Those in attendance faced off over the construction of a $2.3 billion, 800-megawatt coal-fired power plant proposed for the existing Consumers Energy Karn-Weadock complex in Hampton Township, Michigan. DEQ officials claimed the plant’s emissions would have minimal effect on the environment and public health. Protestors disagreed vehemently.

The argument isn’t a new one in the State or elsewhere. However, no one has resolved the debate. But various potential solutions, including the Obama cap-and-trade plan, have emerged.

ClimateChallenge.org and its Michigan student chapter have focused on renewable energy and energy efficiency technology as a means to eliminate atmospheric contamination and stimulate the economy, creating construction jobs and "long-term green collar career jobs."
Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is yet another approach that’s getting more attention. Lastoskie has been conducting research on this approach for years. “Carbon capture and sequestration strategies focus on locking away carbon dioxide, not preventing its creation,” he said. “But they'll be increasingly important as society makes a gradual transition to energy technologies that don't rely upon fossil fuels.”

One CCS strategy, geologic storage, involves capturing CO2 and sequestering it underground in places such as depleted oil and gas reservoirs or coal seams that can't be mined. If emissions remain at present levels, there's enough global geologic storage space to accommodate CO2 for at least the next century. But there are uncertainties, the biggest of which is leakage of the CO2 into the biosphere.

Researchers have developed other sequestration schemes, such as injecting captured CO2 into oceans. However, these investigations have been slow to get traction because of concerns about possible ecosystem damage.

Meanwhile, discussions continue. The atmosphere becomes increasingly poisonous. And no amount of debate seems to clear the air.


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Environmental Debates Becoming Carbon Copies

Coal Power Station in Tampa FL
Discussions about methods for scrubbing contaminants from the atmosphere haven’t changed. They’re simply becoming louder and more frequent. Meanwhile, those who seem to have solutions in hand are running out of time to implement them.

Frustration with that inertia reached new highs when President Barack Obama floated a cap-and-trade scheme in the wake of a Congressional Budget Office projection that an economy-wide cap-and-trade program would generate at least $50 billion per year, but could reach up to $300 billion. Obama claims his version of a cap-and-trade program will reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. However this plan is getting stiff opposition.

What gets little attention is the fact greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide have an upside. In fact, they find their way into the atmosphere through the natural carbon cycle. Christian Lastoskie, an associate professor in civil and environmental engineering at the University of Michigan, pointed out that, without the heat-trapping ability of greenhouse gases, subzero temperatures and inhospitable conditions would render the Earth uninhabitable. However, there’s a threshold past which the process turns deadly. Burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas has created alarming volumes of CO2—in the last 200 years, atmospheric CO2 has increased 27 percent. Automobile emissions get the most publicity, but 30 percent of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere originates from fossil-fuel fired power plants.

These carbon contaminants are a major cause of death, illness, and long-term environmental damage. They shorten lives, damage children’s development and growth, cause chronic illnesses and kill thousands of people indiscriminately. Yet debates about the solution to the problem have created more argument but little action.

The March 24 Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) public information session is one example. Those in attendance faced off over the construction of a $2.3 billion, 800-megawatt coal-fired power plant proposed for the existing Consumers Energy Karn-Weadock complex in Hampton Township, Michigan. DEQ officials claimed the plant’s emissions would have minimal effect on the environment and public health. Protestors disagreed vehemently.

The argument isn’t a new one in the State or elsewhere. However, no one has resolved the debate. But various potential solutions, including the Obama cap-and-trade plan, have emerged.

ClimateChallenge.org and its Michigan student chapter have focused on renewable energy and energy efficiency technology as a means to eliminate atmospheric contamination and stimulate the economy, creating construction jobs and "long-term green collar career jobs."
Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is yet another approach that’s getting more attention. Lastoskie has been conducting research on this approach for years. “Carbon capture and sequestration strategies focus on locking away carbon dioxide, not preventing its creation,” he said. “But they'll be increasingly important as society makes a gradual transition to energy technologies that don't rely upon fossil fuels.”

One CCS strategy, geologic storage, involves capturing CO2 and sequestering it underground in places such as depleted oil and gas reservoirs or coal seams that can't be mined. If emissions remain at present levels, there's enough global geologic storage space to accommodate CO2 for at least the next century. But there are uncertainties, the biggest of which is leakage of the CO2 into the biosphere.

Researchers have developed other sequestration schemes, such as injecting captured CO2 into oceans. However, these investigations have been slow to get traction because of concerns about possible ecosystem damage.

Meanwhile, discussions continue. The atmosphere becomes increasingly poisonous. And no amount of debate seems to clear the air.


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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Holy mackerel! Holy mackerel! Holy mackerel!

Engineering students... beware!

The amount of new technical information is doubling every TWO years. That means, for students starting a four-year technical degree, half of what they learn in their first year of study will be outdated by their third year of study.

Holy mackerel? Yes, Holy mackerel! But there's more. Much more and not just for engineering students...

1. If you're one in a million in China, there are 1,300 people just like you.
2. China will soon become the number one English speaking country in the world.
3. The 25 percent of India's population with the highest IQs is greater than the population of the United States.
4. California uses more gas than China
5. The top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004.
6. Schools are currently preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist, using technologies that haven't been invented in order to solve problems that we don't even know exist.
7. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that today's learner will have 10-14 jobs by the age of 38.
8. 1 in 4 workers has been with their current employer for less than a year.
9. 1 in 2 has been there for less than five years.
10. 1 out of 8 couples married in the U.S. last year met online.
11. There are more than 200 million registered users on MySpace. So, if MySpace were a country, it would be the fifth largest in the world (behind Indonesia, ahead of Brazil).
12. The Number One ranked country in broadband Internet penetration is Bermuda. The U.S. ranks 19th. Japan is number 22.
13. There are 31 billion searches on Google every month. In 2006, this number was 2.7 Billion.
14. The first commercial text message was sent in December 1992. Today, the number of text messages sent and received each day exceeds the total population of the planet.
15. Years it took to reach a market audience of 50 million: radio - 38 Years, TV - 13 Years, the Internet - 4 Years, iPod - 3 Years, Facebook - 2 Years
16. The number of Internet devices in 1984 was 1,000. The number of Internet devices in 1992 was 1,000,000. The number of Internet devices in 2008 was 1,000,000,000.
17. There are about 540,000 words in the English language, about five times as many as there were in Shakespeare's time.
18. Estimates say that a week's worth of the New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th Century.
19. It's estimated that 4 exabytes (4.0x10^19) of unique information will be generated this year. That's more info than was produced during the previous 5,000 years.
20. NTT Japan has successfully tested a fiber optic cable that pushes 14 trillion bits per second down a single strand of fiber. That's 2,660 CDs or 210 million phone calls per second. Those figures are currently tripling every six months and are expected to do so for the next 20 years.
21. By 2013, a supercomputer will be built that exceeds the computational capabilities of the human brain. Predictions are that by 2049, a $1000 computer will exceed the computational capabilities of the entire human species.

THERE'S MORE: http://tinyurl.com/holymackerel

Holy mackerel! Holy mackerel! Holy mackerel!

Engineering students... beware!

The amount of new technical information is doubling every TWO years. That means, for students starting a four-year technical degree, half of what they learn in their first year of study will be outdated by their third year of study.

Holy mackerel? Yes, Holy mackerel! But there's more. Much more and not just for engineering students...

1. If you're one in a million in China, there are 1,300 people just like you.
2. China will soon become the number one English speaking country in the world.
3. The 25 percent of India's population with the highest IQs is greater than the population of the United States.
4. California uses more gas than China
5. The top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004.
6. Schools are currently preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist, using technologies that haven't been invented in order to solve problems that we don't even know exist.
7. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that today's learner will have 10-14 jobs by the age of 38.
8. 1 in 4 workers has been with their current employer for less than a year.
9. 1 in 2 has been there for less than five years.
10. 1 out of 8 couples married in the U.S. last year met online.
11. There are more than 200 million registered users on MySpace. So, if MySpace were a country, it would be the fifth largest in the world (behind Indonesia, ahead of Brazil).
12. The Number One ranked country in broadband Internet penetration is Bermuda. The U.S. ranks 19th. Japan is number 22.
13. There are 31 billion searches on Google every month. In 2006, this number was 2.7 Billion.
14. The first commercial text message was sent in December 1992. Today, the number of text messages sent and received each day exceeds the total population of the planet.
15. Years it took to reach a market audience of 50 million: radio - 38 Years, TV - 13 Years, the Internet - 4 Years, iPod - 3 Years, Facebook - 2 Years
16. The number of Internet devices in 1984 was 1,000. The number of Internet devices in 1992 was 1,000,000. The number of Internet devices in 2008 was 1,000,000,000.
17. There are about 540,000 words in the English language, about five times as many as there were in Shakespeare's time.
18. Estimates say that a week's worth of the New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th Century.
19. It's estimated that 4 exabytes (4.0x10^19) of unique information will be generated this year. That's more info than was produced during the previous 5,000 years.
20. NTT Japan has successfully tested a fiber optic cable that pushes 14 trillion bits per second down a single strand of fiber. That's 2,660 CDs or 210 million phone calls per second. Those figures are currently tripling every six months and are expected to do so for the next 20 years.
21. By 2013, a supercomputer will be built that exceeds the computational capabilities of the human brain. Predictions are that by 2049, a $1000 computer will exceed the computational capabilities of the entire human species.

THERE'S MORE: http://tinyurl.com/holymackerel

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hokey Smokes, Bullwinkle -- Bad Engineering

Taken by Apollo 8 crewmember Bill Anders on De...

All engineers -- young and old -- could learn a lot from Rocky and Bullwinkle, the 1960s cartoon duo. That is, you could learn from their mistakes -- they used an awful lot of really bad science. Like upsydaisyium (a rare anti-gravity mineral). And let's not forget that large reservoir in which corks sank to the bottom.

Atmospheric Oceanic and Space Sciences engineers will be interested in the episode where our hapless heroes visit "Pottsylvania" and a mooseberry pie explodes (moosberries, as all engineers know, are an unharnessed source of energy). The blast launches the stove, sending it on a wacky, zigzag trip to the moon. A stove traveling 250,000 miles, powered by moosberries? No need to say how bad THAT science is (by my calculations, mooseberries would get a stove only halfway to the moon). What turns out to be really rotten is what follows. So, back to Moose and Squirrel...

The stove arrives on the moon, where two moon men immediately send it back to Earth with themselves on board. Even aliens should be careful about what they ask for because, when they want to go home, Bullwinkle tells them that the supply of mooseberries is kaput. At that point, one of the aliens says, "Awww, I miss my home on the moon. I miss sitting on the porch in the evening and watching the Earth come up."

I hear all AOSS engineers saying, "Aha! What bad science!"

The problem is that, from the moon, you can't just sit and "watch the Earth come up." Why? Because the same side of the moon always faces Earth, so the Earth has a fixed position in the lunar sky. Those moon men would've seen either the Earth from their porch ALL the time or never -- there's no way to watch the Earth rise from the moon.

Well, that's not entirely true. The moon wobbles in its orbit (librations), which makes it possible for Earthlings to see 59 percent of the lunar surface. So it would've been possible for the moon men to see an Earthrise -- but only from a few locations and only some of the time.

Obviously, Jay ward, creator of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, wasn't an engineer or didn't care to get things right.


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Hokey Smokes, Bullwinkle -- Bad Engineering

Taken by Apollo 8 crewmember Bill Anders on De...

All engineers -- young and old -- could learn a lot from Rocky and Bullwinkle, the 1960s cartoon duo. That is, you could learn from their mistakes -- they used an awful lot of really bad science. Like upsydaisyium (a rare anti-gravity mineral). And let's not forget that large reservoir in which corks sank to the bottom.

Atmospheric Oceanic and Space Sciences engineers will be interested in the episode where our hapless heroes visit "Pottsylvania" and a mooseberry pie explodes (moosberries, as all engineers know, are an unharnessed source of energy). The blast launches the stove, sending it on a wacky, zigzag trip to the moon. A stove traveling 250,000 miles, powered by moosberries? No need to say how bad THAT science is (by my calculations, mooseberries would get a stove only halfway to the moon). What turns out to be really rotten is what follows. So, back to Moose and Squirrel...

The stove arrives on the moon, where two moon men immediately send it back to Earth with themselves on board. Even aliens should be careful about what they ask for because, when they want to go home, Bullwinkle tells them that the supply of mooseberries is kaput. At that point, one of the aliens says, "Awww, I miss my home on the moon. I miss sitting on the porch in the evening and watching the Earth come up."

I hear all AOSS engineers saying, "Aha! What bad science!"

The problem is that, from the moon, you can't just sit and "watch the Earth come up." Why? Because the same side of the moon always faces Earth, so the Earth has a fixed position in the lunar sky. Those moon men would've seen either the Earth from their porch ALL the time or never -- there's no way to watch the Earth rise from the moon.

Well, that's not entirely true. The moon wobbles in its orbit (librations), which makes it possible for Earthlings to see 59 percent of the lunar surface. So it would've been possible for the moon men to see an Earthrise -- but only from a few locations and only some of the time.

Obviously, Jay ward, creator of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, wasn't an engineer or didn't care to get things right.


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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

New Stem Cell Guidelines -- Freedom for Researchers

President Barack Obama's Ked's are smokin' -- he's sprinting through his first six weeks in office, keeping a multitude of campaign promises, one of which was to establish new Federal stem-cell research guidelines, overturning the previous administration's policies. He did exactly that, taking the shackles off researchers across the nation and creating a storm of controversy.

The move was a clear message that science is once again a government priority. Obama said that "his Administration would make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology." The executive order coincided with a directive to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to "develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision-making."

Nick Kotov is a Michigan Engineering professor in the departments of Chemical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Materials Science and Engineering. He's conducting stem-cell research that would result in new approaches to the treatment of neurodegenerative disease. He has nothing but praise for Obama's move. "This change is much welcomed and necessary," he said. "When ideology and/or politics meddles with science and common sense, the population of this country suffers, the economy steadily declines, and education becomes deficient. Removal of restrictions on stem cell research can lead to effective cures for multiple diseases. New medical technology based on stem cells is much needed for the Michigan economy."

Michigan Engineering Associate Professor Peter Ma explained his work, saying that
his lab "develops temporary artificial extracellular matrices (scaffolds) for stem cells to regenerate tissues and organs, aiming for regenerative therapies. We also develop delivery systems within scaffolds to present signaling molecules locally to direct the fate of stem cells in combination with the scaffold design. These research directions have been exciting and fruitful in our lab." Ma, who's associated with Macromolecular Science and Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and the School of Dentistry, said that the new Federal guidelines "will allow us to choose the types of stem cells that are most promising for targeted therapeutic applications rather than the types of stem cells that were approved under the old guidelines. I believe that the new guidelines will give scientists and biomedical engineers the freedom to focus more on the science and technology development."

Of the many tool that researchers need to conduct their work, the most important of those tools is freedom to work without restrictions. In keeping one of his more controversial promises, President Obama opened up avenues that, for the past eight years, have been lurching along in the slow lane.






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New Stem Cell Guidelines -- Freedom for Researchers

President Barack Obama's Ked's are smokin' -- he's sprinting through his first six weeks in office, keeping a multitude of campaign promises, one of which was to establish new Federal stem-cell research guidelines, overturning the previous administration's policies. He did exactly that, taking the shackles off researchers across the nation and creating a storm of controversy.

The move was a clear message that science is once again a government priority. Obama said that "his Administration would make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology." The executive order coincided with a directive to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to "develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision-making."

Nick Kotov is a Michigan Engineering professor in the departments of Chemical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Materials Science and Engineering. He's conducting stem-cell research that would result in new approaches to the treatment of neurodegenerative disease. He has nothing but praise for Obama's move. "This change is much welcomed and necessary," he said. "When ideology and/or politics meddles with science and common sense, the population of this country suffers, the economy steadily declines, and education becomes deficient. Removal of restrictions on stem cell research can lead to effective cures for multiple diseases. New medical technology based on stem cells is much needed for the Michigan economy."

Michigan Engineering Associate Professor Peter Ma explained his work, saying that
his lab "develops temporary artificial extracellular matrices (scaffolds) for stem cells to regenerate tissues and organs, aiming for regenerative therapies. We also develop delivery systems within scaffolds to present signaling molecules locally to direct the fate of stem cells in combination with the scaffold design. These research directions have been exciting and fruitful in our lab." Ma, who's associated with Macromolecular Science and Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and the School of Dentistry, said that the new Federal guidelines "will allow us to choose the types of stem cells that are most promising for targeted therapeutic applications rather than the types of stem cells that were approved under the old guidelines. I believe that the new guidelines will give scientists and biomedical engineers the freedom to focus more on the science and technology development."

Of the many tool that researchers need to conduct their work, the most important of those tools is freedom to work without restrictions. In keeping one of his more controversial promises, President Obama opened up avenues that, for the past eight years, have been lurching along in the slow lane.






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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cooking for Engineers

Bowl of "Wings"
Engineers and late-night chicken wings are no strangers to each other -- nothing piques the appetite quite like polishing the details in a journal article that's taken the better part of two years to complete, start to finish. But those wings don't always come in a bucket.Sometimes they're right out of the kitchen, because a lot of engineers like to mix technology and tartar sauce.

If you're one of them, you're not alone. The proof is at Cooking for Engineers, a site that caters to those with aprons and analytical minds. Don't put it on a back burner. Check it out now.


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Cooking for Engineers

Bowl of "Wings"
Engineers and late-night chicken wings are no strangers to each other -- nothing piques the appetite quite like polishing the details in a journal article that's taken the better part of two years to complete, start to finish. But those wings don't always come in a bucket.Sometimes they're right out of the kitchen, because a lot of engineers like to mix technology and tartar sauce.

If you're one of them, you're not alone. The proof is at Cooking for Engineers, a site that caters to those with aprons and analytical minds. Don't put it on a back burner. Check it out now.


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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Value Creation

Watt's steam engine in the vestibule of the Es...Watt’s steam engine was an example of the many technologies in the Industrial Revolution that satisfied emerging market needs.

The push of technology, not the pull of the market, tends to be the basis for current approaches to technology transfer and the creation of business ventures. However, an overemphasis on technology often leads to failure if there's no understanding of market needs, positioning strategies and fiscally-sound propositions for investors or partners who make the venture possible. That lack of understanding can have disastrous consequences – for every entrepreneurial company that succeeds, there are 100 that fail.

Addressing those key points -- market needs, positioning and investment propositions -- is critical. Fundamentally, it's about rethinking research and technology in light of value creation, which is simply a way to increase the value that consumers place on goods and services. Knowing where, how and why value is created -- within a company and markets -- is the best way to identify what's needed to provide a platform for sustainable and profitable growth. Before research begins, it's necessary to figure out if a problem is even worth solving – there needs to be an understanding of where the pain is. That is, is the technology-based solution one that has the potential to add value along the value chain of a target industry? (A value chain is a sequence of events or processes that needs to be in place to enable the sale of finished products to customers. The chain starts with the raw materials required and then tracks the value added by each step to the final product.)

This isn't an easy question to answer because engineers love creating new technology. But if engineers learn to pull themselves out of the technology space, the concepts of value creation click. One way of doing that involves "teasing out" markets, asking the hard questions to determine if a technology has the right type of value to turn people into customers. For example, researchers might want to pour time and money into accelerating the operational speed of a sensor but, in asking the hard questions, they might discover that the market values a sensor with durability rather than speed. The researchers could then change focus. The final technology would be much different than they had originally planned, but it would have value.

That example shows how technology drives entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurship drives technology. It's important for engineers to understand what they're making, what they're selling and to whom.

Here's an example that I love. You might might pose a question such as, "What kind of company is Google?" Many folks are often surprised to hear that the answer is "an advertising company."' The search engine is free. Google makes its money off ads. This is where the value-capturing opportunity resides.

By layering business basics on technical fundamentals, engineers can examine long-term capital risks to determine whether or not a certain technology or product is worth the capital investment . The worth is based on whether the investment is likely to yield returns for the private investor in a startup company or for corporate investment in research and development.

So... let go of technical bias and marry your love of technology to value creation. If a device isn’t going to sell, then no one’s going to make it. It’s an often discouraging but very important lesson about engineering in the real world. And it’s better to know it sooner than later, after the time and money have been spent




Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Value Creation

Watt's steam engine in the vestibule of the Es...Watt’s steam engine was an example of the many technologies in the Industrial Revolution that satisfied emerging market needs.

The push of technology, not the pull of the market, tends to be the basis for current approaches to technology transfer and the creation of business ventures. However, an overemphasis on technology often leads to failure if there's no understanding of market needs, positioning strategies and fiscally-sound propositions for investors or partners who make the venture possible. That lack of understanding can have disastrous consequences – for every entrepreneurial company that succeeds, there are 100 that fail.

Addressing those key points -- market needs, positioning and investment propositions -- is critical. Fundamentally, it's about rethinking research and technology in light of value creation, which is simply a way to increase the value that consumers place on goods and services. Knowing where, how and why value is created -- within a company and markets -- is the best way to identify what's needed to provide a platform for sustainable and profitable growth. Before research begins, it's necessary to figure out if a problem is even worth solving – there needs to be an understanding of where the pain is. That is, is the technology-based solution one that has the potential to add value along the value chain of a target industry? (A value chain is a sequence of events or processes that needs to be in place to enable the sale of finished products to customers. The chain starts with the raw materials required and then tracks the value added by each step to the final product.)

This isn't an easy question to answer because engineers love creating new technology. But if engineers learn to pull themselves out of the technology space, the concepts of value creation click. One way of doing that involves "teasing out" markets, asking the hard questions to determine if a technology has the right type of value to turn people into customers. For example, researchers might want to pour time and money into accelerating the operational speed of a sensor but, in asking the hard questions, they might discover that the market values a sensor with durability rather than speed. The researchers could then change focus. The final technology would be much different than they had originally planned, but it would have value.

That example shows how technology drives entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurship drives technology. It's important for engineers to understand what they're making, what they're selling and to whom.

Here's an example that I love. You might might pose a question such as, "What kind of company is Google?" Many folks are often surprised to hear that the answer is "an advertising company."' The search engine is free. Google makes its money off ads. This is where the value-capturing opportunity resides.

By layering business basics on technical fundamentals, engineers can examine long-term capital risks to determine whether or not a certain technology or product is worth the capital investment . The worth is based on whether the investment is likely to yield returns for the private investor in a startup company or for corporate investment in research and development.

So... let go of technical bias and marry your love of technology to value creation. If a device isn’t going to sell, then no one’s going to make it. It’s an often discouraging but very important lesson about engineering in the real world. And it’s better to know it sooner than later, after the time and money have been spent




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