I grew up in the '80s, and I was a huge Star Trek fan - more so the original series than The Next Generation, but I think a lot of people my age and younger were drawn in by The Next Generation and the subsequent shows. It wasn't necessarily a direct influence on my becoming an engineer, since I had more or less stopped watching Star Trek by the time I was in high school (it wasn't "cool" enough), but I think it was probably a subconscious influence. I was always fascinated by the technical details - even when they didn't necessarily make sense in the real world - and this probably contributed to the kind of person I became as an adult.
Also, the general values expressed by the show (people should try to get along with one another instead of fighting, problems can be solved by creative thinking, friends should be dedicated and loyal to each other, etc.) had a big influence on me.
Now that I am married and have kids, I find that renting Star Trek videos now and then from the local public library is one of the ways I can keep myself sane.
I once read a factoid that enrollments in engineering programs in the 60's-70's were strongly influenced by Mr. Scott of Star Trek TV series. And likewise McIver in the 80s. And thereafter took a dine for want of a role model.
I was doing "assorted technical stuff" even in grade school, figuring out how and what it took to accomplish some goal. Of course, being a much better reader than my classmates helped me learn a whole lot by reading. One thing that did help was that my dad was also an engineer, and he was able to bring home all kinds of assorted things that his employer was replacing with more current and faster things. So I had a constant supply of neat stuff to take apart and examine,m which gave quite a boost to my creativity. All through high school, I also built things, but after high school, at my first full time job, it became fruustratingly clear that to do what I enjoyed most would take an engineering degree. So when I had saved up enough money I went to engineering school, and after graduating with a BSEE I eventually go an engineering position, and after some years of working became a real engineer. I am not convinced that all are engineers when they graduate, but that is an area for a whole different discussion.
I vividly remember talking to a friends mother when I was 12. I told her that I wanted to design computers. Big deal say you? Well, please know that this happened in 1965, when computers were fairly exotic objects.
Now, the odd thing is, I didn't really do anything about it. I wasn't interested in electronics, per se. It wasn't until my senior year of high school that I got really interested - I took the first programming class offered in Los Angeles Unified School District. Yep, time-share BASIC running on an HP 16-bit system, 110 baud teletype machine via modem to <somewhere in downtown L.A>.
Man, that was futuristic. I had my first program running in about 5 minutes, so I was assigned an "A" in the course and became a TA, helping the others learn to program. One girl never got it: she walked up to the teletype with a huge roll of tape. Her program ran perfectly, but the length of the tape was explained by her not understanding what a "DO" loop could, well, do. Pulled a couple all-nighters (yeah, high school) writing a Monopoly game. Helped the teacher write a statistics program to correlate NMSQT (now, PSAT) scores with GPAs.
My first real job was working for said teachers husband, building computer terminals. (1970s: computer big, muy expensivo. Serial lines to crt/keyboard units aka terminals.) Didn't know how to solder when I started. Got a chance to become production tech and learned all about how the logic worked. Swapped job with main tech, and didn't get much done for a week.
Then it clicked. Wow, logic made so much SENSE.
Became engineering-department tech. Fixed a couple busted designs, and was made junior engineer as punishment for my sins. Got to learn about microprocessors. Designed first working FPLA (Signetics) based display controller.
One day, I got an E-size sheet of vellum and designed a single-board terminal (told my boss to take a hike when he bugged me about something else) that became the company main product. Whole system fit under the keyboard. PLL-based display timing, so the screen aspect ratio was software-controlled, enabling one design to satisfy all of marketings apps. [You can actually briefly see a bunch of these things in an episode of The Twilight Zone ('80s version), the one where JFK is saved from assasination.]
Never looked back.
Somewhere in there I went to UCLA, but dropped out - I was learning so much more at work than in classes. It later turned out that the mighty UCLA School of Engineering was hovering around probationary rating with the academic accreditation people. No wonder, I thought when I found out years later. I did finish my BS at UCLA, but it was a pain working full time - I was paying for a house (never brought that up with my Anthro prof: he stopped talking to me when he found I was an engineering major) and raising a child at the same time.
Yeah, it's been a gas.
When I was finishing at UCLA, most of my classmates wanted to be engineers because they were good at analyzing problems, and they knew they could make money. They didn't know squat about putting things together, or have any respect for people who did it for a living. Beginning of the end.
Now, it almost literally brings me to tears when I think about how few American students are prepared to be engineers. They don't have the math/sciences skills, but more to the point, they don't have the imagination - they've spent too much time with PlayStation and not enough time with wooden blocks. I feel like a dinosaur among the general population - I've always liked making things that I could put in someones hands. Not as high-tone as being a lawyer, I suppose.
The path to engineering was not as direct for me as for some. Excelled in grade school/high school, especially in science and math. Also tinkered with bicycles and mini-bikes. Thought I would go into medicine in junior high. I realized that was influenced more by my parents idea of "success" rather than a fit of my talents and interests to a profession. Of my high school science classes I enjoyed Physics the most. I went to college set on being a physics major. There I realized that what I liked about high school physics was actually mechanical and electrical engineering. Took classes in both departments, and then realized mechanical engineering dovetailed with the mini-bike tinkering of my youth.
Yes, I've said that many times too, Bob - I'm proud to be a geek and a nerd.
Yes, I still also exclusively change the oil in my car, van, motorcycle, lawn mowers, etc. I don't trust the minimum-wage "technician's" with this incredibly important task - plus it takes me less time than driving the car over to the lube place to have it done...
I've wanted to design things ever since I can remember. I believe it's either born into a person or not born into them. I've worked with numerous Electrical Engineers with bachelor's and master's degrees that just didn't get it - did not have that instinct to dig in and create. I feel disconnected from any job - or any task, for that matter - where I cannot create, but only get to work with something that someone else created.
Obviously, all of our creating begins with things already created. Jack Kilby and a million other engineers before and since have come up with the parts that I get the privilege of creating with, but I still get to create something new and unique. I believe that is mostly genetic - and is a way of life. Many thanks to all who have created the parts and systems that I have the privilege of creating with...
In a bid to boost the viability of lithium-based electric car batteries, a team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has developed a chemistry that could possibly double an EV’s driving range while cutting its battery cost in half.
Using Siemens NX software, a team of engineering students from the University of Michigan built an electric vehicle and raced in the 2013 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. One of those students blogged for Design News throughout the race.
Robots that walk have come a long way from simple barebones walking machines or pairs of legs without an upper body and head. Much of the research these days focuses on making more humanoid robots. But they are not all created equal.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.