Archive for the ‘Engineering Challenges’ Category

Tip: 2-12-2012 – Drafts first or fillets first? Big ‘uns or small ‘uns?

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

We are building and testing our Android Application, as part of a larger schedule to get things out. So, this will be a quick update.

CAD Model Design – the order of drafts and fillets…

You may not be designing a dozen models a week, so this may not concern you much. But when you do, drafts come first and fillets next. If you find yourself in the need to apply different draft angles, which is a bit atypical, then the larger drafts come first.

Similarly, larger fillets come first! This is the order in which you should create the models in the design tree. Take a look at the example below:


[Click on image to enlarge]

In this example, the larger fillets are 6mm, and the smaller fillets are 4mm. Yes, it is a simple enough example that they could have the same radii, but this is a demonstration for the situation you will run into when in your designs. As you can see above, everything appears in order. This is because when the parametric model for this component was built, the larger 6mm fillet was applied first, and then the 4mm fillet was applied.

Now, let us see what happens if this order was reversed, that is, the 4mm fillet had been applied first, and then the 6mm fillet was applied:

[Click on image to enlarge]

As you can tell, creating the smaller fillet first causes quite a bit of havoc. This can potentially cause sharp corners and other potential errors, or simply cause the model to lose fidelity and fail!

You can create a similar example for drafts. If you have accidentally created them in the wrong order, you might be in luck if your model is more symmetric. In a future episode, we will show you how to re-order features in the design tree or design history. If you are using a parametric modeling program such as SolidWorks, SolidEdge, Creo or Inventor, you can look up the help files.

Send us feedback to tips [at] or leave comments with your thoughts!

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Where are all the engineers? The developing world needs YOU!

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Are you an engineer looking for your calling? If so, you don’t have to wait much longer. The Science and Development Network recently broadcast some very somber news based on the first ever international report on engineering. There are simply not enough engineers in the developing world, and this appears to be stifling growth. The UN Millenium Development Goals require an increase in standards of living in the developing world, and this is not achievable without innovative engineering feats.

What the heck are UN Millenium Development Goals?

The UN Millenium Development Goals are a set of eight lofty goals adopted by the UN to eliminate poverty and alleviate life in developing nations across the globe. These include the following:

1. End poverty and hunger
2. Universal Education
3. Gender Equality
4. Child Health
5. Maternal Health
6. Combatting HIV/AIDS
7. Environment Sustainability
8. Global Partnership

As an engineer, you can readily see how you could potentially influence every goal stated above. These goals have a deadline of 2015, and progress has been slow. Additionally, the lack of engineers who are really influencing things on the ground is appalling.

How bad is it?

Well, the report uses developed nations as a benchmark. In these nations, there are about 20 – 50 engineers per 10,000 people. Now compare this to 5 per 10,000 in most developing nations, and less than 1 in certain African nations!

What can engineers do? Well, the three basic necessities of life are typically fulfilled through large scale engineering – we are talking about food, shelter and sanitation.

Several innovations through engineering are required to solve the problems faced by over 1.1 billion people on a routine basis.

Why are we missing so many engineers?

The shortage appears to be a consequence of a simple lack of interest and a lack of engineering academies. Of course, it is also simply possible that people are not aware of the feats that can be achieved through engineering. In general, when reports and studies are commissioned through the UN, the recommendations for major investments and course corrections are made. Ideally, these recommendations if followed, can solve the problems of course. However, smaller changes can be effected quicker on the ground.

Meeting the challenges

There are, of course several ways to bell the cat or meet the challenges as an engineer. There are several opportunities for you as an engineer. Let us take a look at a handful:

1. Engineers for a Sustainable World

Engineers for a Sustainable World is an example of an organization that can bring together students, engineers, teaching professionals and others to work towards a sustainable

future in both developing and developed nations. Started in 2002, the US based non-profit organizations makes key connections between student teams and local communities to

drive success through a curriculum based approach.

Take a look:

2. Engineers without Borders

This is a more international organization, with chapters in several countries across the globe, working towards the same goal – a sustainable future fostered through engineering. Of course, like every other organization worth it’s weight in gold, they have their own mission and vision that I encourage you to check out:

3. Social Entrepreneurship

Of course, ESW and EWB (abbreviations for the organizations mentioned above) are two of the major resources I was able to find online. Aside from these organizations, there are several large and small organizations that are popping up every day. They all have a common goal in sight – solving social problems through entrepreneurship. Whether you start one or volunteer with one, or join one, there are several resources such as business plan contests through Universities and other organizations that allow you to compete with your plan for a better future, win some money and hit the ground with innovative solutions.

4. Spread the passion

Are you finding satisfaction in your career as an engineer? Then maybe it is time to spread the passion. While it is understandable that organizations such as the UN would like to inspire engineers locally, an engineer can solve a problem from anywhere. Moreover, there will always be the challenge of issues such as “brain drain” where young engineers could potentially find satisfaction in financially lucrative pastures. Given this, you could inspire a student to consider an engineering career.

Of course, we have the image of a “mad scientist” through fiction and lore, but not one for a “mad engineer”. So, inherently, taken negatively or positively, engineering is not considered to be one of your brightest options out there.

Reinforcing a positive view of engineering

Whether it is in the United States or anywhere else in the world, you will have opportunities to motivate young engineers. For example, I spent the past weekend volunteering with Splash, teaching middle school and high school children about cancer research, being green and associated career opportunities. You can find out more about Splash here:

Essentially, you should explain to people what it is that engineers do and why it is “cool” to be an engineer. This will motivate more children to think about using engineering as tools to make the future always a bit better than the present! May the developing world see more engineers.


1. UN Millenium Development Goals:

2. The SciDev network article on the missing engineers:

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Engineer, inspire thyself: Oil Cleanup XChallenge announced!

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Preface: This blog is brought with passion both for the oil clean up, and the summer of blog, my effort to blog severally and variously across my websites in Summer 2010!

While politicians rushed to capitalize on the BP oil spill, someone finally decided to do something practical about it. After the BP oil spill, when everyone was merrily (they were almost celebrating the disaster as a media opportunity), reporting about how it was bigger than the Valdez spill of 1989.

All the time, one was left to wonder why no one brought up the fact that for 21 years, practically nothing was done to prepare for future oil spills. As BP and the Government scrambled to find solutions, it looked like things were only going to get worse and that was about all that was to be expected…

Along came the “Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge”! Finally, someone is belling the cat – rather enabling you to do so, for a whopping $1 million USD!

X Challenge and the XPrize Foundation The XPrize foundation is a non-profit organization, billing itself as an educational organization motivated to provide radical breakthroughs. From space to oil spills, I should say they have had an amazing propensity to push for radical breakthroughs.

In the improbable likelihood that this is the first time you are hearing about them, take a peek:

The X Challenge for oil clean up will go from August 2010 through August 2011, and the project that can demonstrate most effectiveness in cleaning up spills will take home $1 million USD. The second and thrid prizes are not too shabby either!

Clean up Brainstorm

Ideas, though dime a dozen, have been aplenty for the oil cleanup. There have been ideas for unique skimmers, using human hair and many many other ideas that a quick internet search can throw up. Many of these ideas are worth a second look,and I am sure you can come up with several ideas yourself!

Yet, as even a mediocre engineer would recognize, you can’t simply shoot from the hip unless you are in a choreographed “Gun Smoke” or “Bonanza”. In real life, great ideas need to be “reduced to practice”, that is, great implementation through trial and error, prototyping and such. Keep those ideas coming, keep noting them down and more importantly, keep thinking about how you would go about implementing them.

Team work is key

Ideas also do not occur in vacuum. Edison might impress you otherwise, but he has been known to routinely steal ideas (not bad, if not done with vengeance). This is why I like the XPrize and the associated challenges. They inherently promote teamwork. Do not underestimate the amount of effort, the variation in thought and the exercise in building such a challenge would take.

This is why you should look to put together a great team. You will need designers, engineers, artists, physicists, and of course, more importantly chemists to start with..

Each thought has it’s own roots – a physicist, at least the classic one, will talk about the differences in density for oil and water. A great civil/water engineer will tell you about the possibilities to distill and/or use techniques such as reverse osmosis. A designer will get you grounded on scale, an artist will remind you to build something effective, and simultaneously appealing.

Looking beyond the contest

When you think of your team for the oil clean up challenge, I want you to explore the possibility that you may not be among the top 3. No, I am not being the pessimist you think I am – as an entrepreneur, I have always thought there is a need for at least a rudimentary form of pragmatism. Just rudimentary will do, I know :).

Think about recruiting at least one or two folks who might think about commercializing your ideas, filing the IP and such. The contest’s point is not to serve simply as a boost for the winners. As a somewhat successful and unsuccessful alum of many business plan contests, I can say with certainty that, you most definitely should get in the habit of looking past these contests.

Going on the record

Since I am posting on the challenge, I thought I would go on the record about my own willingness to participate in the contest. I have always thought about the XPRIZE contests and I have wanted to be part of at least one of the teams. But, I have always found myself busy, and now find myself much busier than I have always been.

However, if you come across this blog and are looking for someone who can help you out, I bring with me the following skills – previous participation in business plan contests, great ability to facilitate successful brainstorming sessions, intellectual property creation, business planning, strategy, mechanical engineering design, CAD and design analysis and great amounts of energy in general. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you could use any of my skills.

I wish you great success in your efforts as you go through the Oil Cleanup X Challenge!


VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On TwitterCheck Our Feed