I think if you were to ask the man or woman on the street, What do Engineers Do?, you would get a pause and then the standard responses of "build skyscrapers, operate trains, fix furnaces or make phones work." In other words, they don't really know what engineers actually do in a substantive way.
Looking back in my life, I recall many years ago when I was in that line of work, I told people where I went to do my work. Here's a few: I recall going to work at a gold mine in Winnemucca, Nevada, on a Christmas Eve to figure out why the electronic controls of their pumps were tripping off line and shutting down production, costing everyone an immense amount of money. Another: I recall going to Denver to do some work at its WasteWater Treatment Plant--not the greatest smelling place, but vital to the health of any community. No, I didn't try to explain what I actually did there, but it involved its anaerobic treatment process. Final one: I recall going to steel mill and did some power quality work for its hot rolling flat slab mill; I didn't tell people what I actually did there, but I did tell them it was a sight to behold to see a slab of essentially molten metal rolling down the mill!
I'm currently reading Walter Isaacson's new biography of Leonardo Da Vinci. Most people don't know that Leonardo got fed up with painting [masterpieces] and essentially gave it up to explore science -- optics, the human body (literally), water hydraulics, bird flight, etc. While some of his projects were never completed, they gave him great satisfaction. I'm sure the man on the street (circa 1500) didn't have the foggiest idea what Leonardo was doing in the field when he studied optics, bird flight, and more. And I'm sure his first flying machine puzzled the people of the Renaissance at the time.
The engineers of today are also Renaissance men and women. They can put a rover on Mars. They can map the human genome. They can build autonomous vehicles. They can even use nanotechnology to manipulate of matter on an atomic or molecular level. Let's not forget the Internet Things!
So, for Engineers Week, I thought I would ask some Element14 Engineers to tell me what work they do. I asked them first to tell me what industry they work in. It's a non-engineering question for sure but it gives us a simple context to understand their work. As you can see from the pie chart, element14 engineers work in a variety of industries.
Element14 Engineers: In Their Own Words
Enough of me talking. Let me turn it over to our engineers themselves. I will share with you what the engineers told me about their work (in no special order).
genebren says: I am a retired engineer that does some consulting in electronics design (PCB, electronics, firmware....). Throughout my career, I worked in a wider variety of industries (aerospace, military. test equipment, chemical, banking, research, consumer electronics.....)
dougw says We make counter-terrorism products like robots and bomb suits. Our bomb suits include the most sophisticated wearable electronics suite ever produced and the next generation will have far more electronics.
kk99 says: I worked for few years in TV/RADIO service. Now I am working as embedded systems software developer. We make software for IPTV/OTT/DVB set-top boxes.
ntewinkel says: I'm building and maintaining the iOS app for the world's first video smart lock.
DAB says: I am working with a small start up to use multispectral sensing to support agriculture. We are currently using modified GoPro cameras with special filters to use with spectral algorithms for crop health and other issues.
fmilburn says: I am a retired mechanical engineer, but when I was a "real engineer" my specialty was thermodynamics and multiphase fluid behavior. Early in my career, I developed FORTRAN models in a research facility. By the time I retired, I had moved on to project management of the design and construction of large process plants. I got interested in electronics as a way to keep my brain active, learn something new, and do something with the grandkids.
gpolder says I have now opted for Agriculture, but Research is an equally good choice, because I am in agricultural research. I mainly work with (hyper) spectral imaging systems, for example, for measuring fruit quality and detection of plant diseases. My education as an electronics engineer helps me a lot when it comes to building image acquisition equipment. In my spare time I play as a Radio Amateur with RF electronics and SDR - Software Defined Radio
Jan Cumps says: I'm an application integration lead for an American company.
koudelad says: I currently work as manufacturing analyst at a company producing vehicle tracking units. My first job that allows me to be close to development of electronic devices (I used to work in IT before).
steve76 says: At the moment, I work mainly in the field of renewable energy.
three-phase says: Definitely had to go 'other' on this one - working as a high voltage test engineer in the utilities / power generation sector.
Instructorman says: I work in research management. Currently, I'm building a research lab for evaluation of microgrid innovations.
neilk says: I started in digital electronics but slid into software. My last job before I retired was heading up the Computer Department in a large Hospital. Now a hobbyist, Im still much better at software than hardware.
rusgray says: I work for an engineering services company that mainly provides services in the consumer electronics and entertainment sectors. I'm currently working on a couple of different (but related) projects involving immersive audio spatialization.
ralphjy says: I'm also a retired EE. I've done design at all levels - system, module, circuit board, semiconductor devices (analog, digital, programmable, ASIC). I started my career doing tsunami detection research at a university, transitioned into aerospace designing guidance systems, and ended my career designing and testing custom ASICs for a semiconductor tester manufacturer. I enjoy both the hardware and software aspects of engineering and am looking forward to using AI for data analysis.
michaelkellett says: I'm an independent electronic and software designer. Mostly I design small embedded systems using analogue, digital and software techniques. I use analogue chips and devices of pretty much every kind, FPGAs, microprocessors etc.Current or recent projects include, gas sensing, weighing cows, FPGA controlled data acquisition, DSP-on-ARM based accelerometer calibrator.
cghaba says: I am working in education and I try to make young students get passionate about electrical engineering in general and embedded systems in particular. The research part of my activity is now related to embedded systems with application in health, remote sensing and monitoring.
That's it for now! I would like to thank all these engineers for the work they do and participating in the element14 community. Cheers!
RoadTest Program Manager (among other things)