Education: The gift that keeps on giving

As my alma mater’s basketball team, the Purdue Boilermakers, prepares itself for what I hope will be a deep run in the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, I’m reminded of how my Purdue mechanical engineering education set in motion my profound thirst for knowledge.

Throughout my engineering career, I’ve never stopped learning. Whether it be a technical conference or webinar, researching and authoring a technical paper or taking a deep dive into a colleague’s publication, I am intentional in seeking out knowledge to better me personally and professionally. And you should too.

Purdue University president Mitch Daniels said, “Every successful enterprise has a very clear strategic purpose.” My personal strategy, one that has served me and my consulting business well, is to be curious and to never stop learning. 

Celebrating National Engineers Week

It’s National Engineers Week (Feb. 18-24) which gives me the chance to reflect on the opportunity I’m afforded to work with so many talented fellow engineers.

Photo by Gazette Review 2018

Photo by Gazette Review 2018

As vice chairman of AGMA’s vehicle gearing committee, it’s cool when great minds come together to talk shop while crafting industry standards.  And in my daily consulting work, I get to help my clients, leading-edge manufacturers in the United States and around the world, with gear and gearbox design and analysis. Finding innovative solutions for my clients never gets old. 

So, this week, and as I did last year, I applaud the talented professionals I’m lucky to work with ― engineers who contribute to society in so many ways.

Innovation for every generation

It’s National Engineers Week (Feb. 21-27) and there’s plenty to celebrate. Engineers have been making our world a better place since the beginning of time. 

The first ‘engineer’ was God who, in the beginning, created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1) and then marveled at his design. And from that day forward, inventive minds have propelled us out of the Neanderthal era of living in caves to 4,000 B.C. China and when the first evidence of wheeled vehicles were used in rice farming.

Inventors like Nikola Tesla and Henry Ford challenged norms and changed the way we live. And today, iconic creative minds like Steve Jobs, Dean KamenElon Musk and Burt Rutan continue to dream big and make it happen.

As always, engineers are solving society’s technical problems by applying scientific principles to advance civilization forward.  

For those of us who make our living as engineers in a career identified as a “hot job” and those who benefit from our inventions past, present and future, happy National Engineers Week.  

Finding space for Martian problem-solving

Recently, my wife and I watched The Martian, Ridley Scott’s movie starring A-list actor Matt Damon. In this thrilling science fiction drama, NASA astronaut Mark Watney, portrayed by Damon, found himself stranded on Mars, completely alone and with no way to signal Earth 140 million miles away that he’s alive. Against insurmountable odds and with dwindling supplies, Watney refuses to be the first man to die on Mars.  

To survive, Watney draws upon his ingenuity, his incredible resourcefulness, his engineering and botany skills, and a dogged determination. He solves seemingly unsolvable problems one after the other in a masterful display of intelligence, wit and engineering prowess.

In the science fiction novel The Martian by Andy Weir, the lead character Watney is portrayed as having earned master’s degrees in botany and mechanical engineering, yet the movie reveals Watney as having a Ph.D in botany with no mention of an engineering degree.

Whether it be the movie or the novel, with a botany degree and/or a mechanical engineering degree, it’s clear that Watney is one thing – a master at solving problems.

When failure brought the surety of death, Watney solved problems. And on Mars, alone and left to his own devices for his very existence, he engineered his way to survive and ultimately be rescued.

As an engineer, I solve mechanical problems for a living. Sometimes the solutions are simple and obvious, but often times they are as mind-bending as trying to find ways to live on Mars.

I’d like to think I could engineer my way home from an unsustainable planet called Mars, but that’s the folly of science fiction. For now, I’ll keep unleashing my creativity as if my life depended on it from the safety of the planet I call home – Earth. 

Rick Miller is president / sole owner of Innovative Drive Solution LLC, an engineering consulting firm specializing in gears and power transmission devices.

Hot job: Mechanical engineers keep things working

Recently the Indianapolis Star identified my career field as a "hot job" and asked me a few questions to help illustrate how mechanical engineers blend technical skills, science knowledge and creativity to improve and advance mechanics. 

Indy Star hot jobs 1-8-16

For as long as I can remember, I knew I was going to be an engineer. For others, their talent, training and intellect opens many professional doors one of which might be engineering. To learn more about the career I love and the hot job others seek, click here.

Rick Miller is president / sole owner of Innovative Drive Solutions LLC, an Indianapolis-based engineering consulting firm specializing in gears and power transmission devices.