marches inextricably forward, my appreciation for the artistic ability, craftsmanship, and creativity of others seems to be growing
on an exponential (or maybe it's geometric) scale - particular pertaining to the younger
subset of humanity. It probably has something to do with having crossed the half-century threshold and realizing
that I don't have enough time left in this world to accomplish the multitude of activities or reach the many personal
goals set. Everything seems harder these days, particularly when trying to learn something completely new; the old
adage about not being able to teach an old dog new tricks is hitting closer to home all the time. Nevertheless,
I persist in spite of diminishing odds.
Generational pride still causes me to admonish an uppity teenager or twenty-something who boasts of all the 'stuff'
being created by his or her age group by issuing a reminder - or informing for the first time - that it was my age
group that advanced technology, medicine, art, mathematics, science, astronomy, automobiles and airplanes, and everything
else to the point where his/her comrades picked up on it. However, without hesitation I give credit and thanks for
the work being done by my generation's progeny (them) - much of which is utterly amazing.
Watching a video of some high-schooler confidently and competently demonstrate a unique talent is at the same
time uplifting (as one who doesn't hold much hope for mankind's future overall) and somewhat depressing when I realize
how dumb and lame I was at the same age. Those kids, if they don't screw up, will be forever way ahead of the bell
curve throughout their lives. Headlines regularly report on teenagers creating apps for mobile devices, organizing
worldwide advocacy groups for (usually) worthwhile causes, discovering a new approach
to a form of medical testing, a prophylactic method, or a prosthetic device, a way to purify drinking water for developing
countries, or demonstrating an ability to solve math problems of which most people cannot even understand the first
Because of its need for both creativity and technical rigor, it is important to make engineering as a career
attractive to all sorts of kids. Some effort is starting to be put forth in quashing the lame notion that math is
hard and therefore socially acceptable- even laudable - to excuse oneself from having any working knowledge of it.
There is a popular
T-shirt making the rounds that claims something like "The day is nearly over and I haven't needed algebra once."
The "Math is hard" Barbie was opposed not because of the message in general, but because feminists thought it was
stereotyping girls; a "Math is hard" Ken doll would have been fine with them, I'm sure. We
(including me) like to laugh at Dilbert's predicaments because they remind us of life in the real world of
engineering, but the truth is things are normally nowhere near that bad. Fortunately, a lot of pro-engineering material
is finding its way onto the Internet, in magazines, and even in movies and television shows. Let us hope it is successful.
One type of teaching format I really like - and it is relatively new - is the sampled hand-sketching video where
the artist's work is shown real-time, but in a much speeded-up manner. A friendly, easy-to-listen-to narrator (not
necessarily the person doing the drawing) accompanies the video. Many such videos exist. Below is one I found when
searching for engineering promotional videos.
RF Cafe began life in 1996 as "RF Tools" in an AOL screen name web space totaling
2 MB. Its primary purpose was to provide me with ready access to commonly needed
formulas and reference material while performing my work as an RF system and circuit
design engineer. The World Wide Web (Internet) was largely an unknown entity at
the time and bandwidth was a scarce commodity. Dial-up modems blazed along at 14.4 kbps
while typing up your telephone line, and a nice lady's voice announced "You've Got
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