I was recently in New York City for work. I stopped by to see a friend in the area. He said “I have something interesting to show you.” I was pretty excited because when Mark says “I have something interesting to show you.” you know it is going to be good. He’s a writer and his passion is finding strange and interesting things. My personal Indiana Jones. Many days he wakes up and just gives himself some adventure assignment and the goes searching for it.
The Apex Ridge article series covers a diverse set of topics that relate to many of our reader’s work, interests, and experiences. The articles are inspired by industry experiences with the intent of sharing, educating and assisting you with your career challenges and growth. The content is targeted for a diverse audience with backgrounds even extending beyond engineering (Hmm talking to you project and business managers). My hope is that these topics inspire you to have discussions with your colleagues or right in the comments of the series. I look forward to seeing you on-line soon.
If you recall I went on a slightly crazy adventure up to the edge of the article circle with my adventure buddy, my daughter Natalie, 11. We almost froze to death on a mountain just to see the Northern Lights (story here). But we also did something we both have always wanted to do and knew would be epic, a dog sled ride. The first thing I have to say about it is holy crap those dogs are fast. It felt like you could blow the doors off a snowmobile if you came across one.
I was recently giving a presentation for IEEE at MIT Lincoln Labs here in the Boston area. The topic was one of my favorites, my new playground, Use Case 7 ! The crowd loved the idea of expanding how we access use cases and came up with great examples. and experiences, of their own. They found many areas in their work where the Use Case 7 exercise may yield some interesting insight.
In February I did a hit and run trip to Fairbanks Alaska with my daughter, age 11, to try and see the Northern Lights. It was a long shot but I’ve done nuttier expeditions and she was game. It was actually her idea, and she knew who the right person was to ask for such a trip. She turned 11 in January. I asked her what she wanted for her birthday. I was ready for the “this or that electronic” request. Instead she said “I want to see the Northern Lights.” First thought was “Geez that’s a bit extravagant” but then my second thought was she’s 11 and this could have a great impact on her and what an interesting/cool thing to ask for. It might energize an interest in physics or natural photography, or cold weather clothing design. I also thought about how in a few years she may not want to do anything with me because I’ll be an “idiot who doesn’t get it.”
In the past five weeks I have been to Miami, Orlando, Cleveland, Chicago, Fairbanks Alaska, Fortuna Costa Rica. For one stint of that I went Fairbanks to Boston to Costa Rica in a 24 hr period. I walked into my home dropped the Alaska suitcase, grabbed the prepacked Cost Rica suitcase, slept for 6 hours ,and was back on a plane 13 hrs later. I think that qualifies as a HALT test considering the lowest temperature I experienced in Fairbanks (Arctic circle edge) was -30F on top of a mountain and then 85F in Costa Rica in the Rainforest.
So why did I do all of this? Because it’s me and it seemed fun.
Anyone who knows me knows I love modifying things. I always feel there is a better design. This is the goal of a reliability engineer at heart. I enjoy sports and I enjoy running. I do believe that we were born to run. If you look at the human body that is clearly what it was built for. Our big toe faces forward, which makes them no longer good for gripping things like branches. But it does make them great for landing a foot in forward motion. We have extremely long legs in proportion to our bodies compared to all other primates. We are slender which provide a great ratio of surface area to mass for cooling. The ability to sweat without hair is a great temperature control method as well. We are also the only mammal that can uncouple our breathing to our running pace because we are bipeds. This let’s us optimize our breathing for long distance.
The Mars Rover is an incredible reliability story. And as you may know they have decided to permanently shut it off. A friend recently sent me this email when he saw an article on it.
The Opportunity rover was supposed to last 90 days, and instead lasted 15 years.
Is that due to remarkable engineering, or was the machine really supposed to last that long and the scientists blew their calculations as to its “lifespan”?
I introduced my new program tool “Program Risk Effects Analysis” (PREA) at the RAMS Conference in Orlando this week. It’s a great tool to assist in accessing if program schedule or resource should accommodate found design risk from testing or analysis.
A very personal Use Case 7
(Have you been introduced to Use Case 7? )
“Use Case 7” is a concept I am rolling out. Use Case 7 is the way a customer may use your product in a manner that is way beyond anything you expect.
- Me using a power drill as a hammer. “I’m not walking all the way back in the house to get a hammer just to put a nail in!”
- My Dad when he used to load 300lbs of firewood into the back of his Nissan Sentra. Then make us kids lay on top of it since the seats had to be folded down. But I think that last part is more of a child services situation.
- That wire shirt coat hanger with the leather motorcycle jacket on it, and three pairs of wet ski glove clipped to it…and you hold onto it when you bend down to pick up your shoes.
- You when you were sixteen and had your parents car in a full drift in the mall parking lot on Saturday night (I’m projecting here), or when you owned that same car and didn’t change the oil…ever (sorry Dad)
Happy New Year! And thank you for letting us break your stuff to improve your design in 2018. This is a story of when I was NOT invited to break things but did anyway.
When something is working it is easy to just keep going forward. But how do you know things will keep chugging along? Is it worth stopping and asking “Why is this going well?”
I like lock picking “Lock Sport.” Of course I do. It’s a mechanical puzzle. It can also make you look like James Bond when someone forget’s their keys. I continue to challenge myself by getting progressively harder and harder locks. Throughout the years lock designs have come up with some great features to resist being picked. But there is still not one out there that is “pick proof”, so there is always a next level. I would say I am a mid-intermediate in the world of Lock Sport. So any lock that actually has good picking defenses can give me a good struggle.
As a reliability guy I love seeing how stuff works. Was recently given an opportunity to mess around and compare a new product to it’s siblings in a field I love, welding. I recently provided some input on an article release by Superiorglove about types of insulation and heat conduction. Superiorglove is a glove manufacturer that makes about every type of glove you could imagine, many are really impressive industrial applications gloves. I like how much they get into the science of it. In our discussions I used an example of how my TIG welding gloves protect against conductive and radiative types of heat transfer. They informed me that they had a TIG welding glove line and would love if I would review four of their models. I happily accepted because I love to weld, check out how things work and …free gloves.
I had the unbelievable pleasure of piloting a retired 1953 T-34 Air Force plane. The plane is owned by a friend and it has recently undergone a full restoration. A few year ago this model was grounded by the FAA due to an unusual issue. After the investigation the fleet was cleared to fly and the root cause was ruled as “mis-use.” Something many of use may not consider enough when creating our own products.