About the same time I was playing with Lincoln Logs in the late 40s or early 50s I had a set of rubber bricks similaer to legos except narrower, they only had one row of prongs and holes. As I recall the bricks had two prongs and were redish brown (brick color) and there were longer gray blocks that could be used as foundations or to bridge openings in walls. Anyone remember what they were called?
Frank Hornby patented the Meccano set in 1901. The Erector set was first sold in 1913. I got my first Meccano set in 1949 at age 5 from my uncle in the U.S. Meccano rather than Erector was popular in Canada. It was my favorite toy, until I discovered Heathkit at 13. Meccano and Heathkit were my main influences in entering engineering.
At University I started noticing pieces of Meccano sets in my classmates homes. So I did a survey of the popularity of Meccano in Engineering students, Science students and Arts students. In that era, every engineer had a Meccano set and loved it. In the Science faculty it was about 50%. If an Arts student had even heard of Meccano, he hated it. Meccano encouraged creativity within strict part boundaries, just like engineering.
In our Electrical Engineering graduating class, it was only the students who were into Heathkit that ended up in electronic design for their careers. Heathkit's clear documentation really helped one to get into electronics. I still have my over 30 Heathkits in working order.
I found out quickly enough when hiring engineers that it was the ones really into related hobbies that ended up the best designers, not the ones with the highest marks. These days Meccano, Heathkit and cars seem to have been replaced by robotics as the most influential hobbies.
i didn't mix everything into a stew; i tried to get it to catch fire; after all, if smoke is good, flames are better! i had to do a double-take when i saw the Heathkit; i built a paper-tape reader and punch that was in a box almost exactly like the one shown, and it actually worked. couldn't use it too much, though, because it was *really* loud (huge solenoids).
With the multitudes of electronics learning kids out now, like Lil' Bits, kids born today have so much more. The next generations better be tech-masters! If they end up end-user plebians... all is lost.
What should be the perception of a product’s real-world performance with regard to the published spec sheet? While it is easy to assume that the product will operate according to spec, what variables should be considered, and is that a designer obligation or a customer responsibility? Or both?
Biomimicry has already found its way into the development of robots and new materials, with researchers studying animals and nature to come up with new innovations. Now thanks to researchers in Boston, biomimicry could even inform the future of electrical networks for next-generation displays.
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