The Engineering Commons Podcast

The Engineering Commons Podcast


Practical insights for the engineering crowd


Episode 132 — By Any Other Name  

We discuss the case of an Oregon man fined for “practicing engineering without a license” in this episode of The Engineering Commons. Both Jeff and Adam have attended a few plays authored by William Shakespeare. A line from Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet is often used to assert that names do not change what something … Continue reading Episode 132 — By Any Other Name

Episode 131 — Five Years  

Chris Gammell returns to The Engineering Commons to discuss how his views on engineering education (and the engineering profession) have evolved over the past five years. Jeff is coming to appreciate that learning is a social event. Massively open online courses (MOOCs) were once thought to be the next “big thing” in education. Our guest … Continue reading Episode 131 — Five Years

Episode 130 — DC Motors  

In this episode of The Engineering Commons, we discuss an electromechanical component commonly used to achieve physical motion; the ubiquitous direct-current (DC) motor. Carmen admits to getting turned on by electricity… and sugar! Although differences between engines and motors can be argued, at least one definition claims that an engine converts chemical energy to mechanical … Continue reading Episode 130 — DC Motors

Episode 129 — Noticing  

We are joined once more by Dave Goldberg, author of A Whole New Engineer, to discuss the critical engineering skills of noticing, listening, and questioning. Brian takes a 50/50 shot at guessing whether President Lincoln faces left or right on the United States one-cent coin. For younger listeners, Jeff describes the features of a telephone … Continue reading Episode 129 — Noticing

Episode 128 — Industrial Academic  

Dr. Dave Vandenbout offers up his insights on choosing between academic and industrial careers in this episode of The Engineering Commons. Carmen wastes no time in revealing his secret method for stress-testing CMOS chips. X-ray systems can be useful in locating bad solder joints hidden underneath a ball grid array (BGA) integrated circuit. Our guest … Continue reading Episode 128 — Industrial Academic

Episode 127 — Technical Writing  

We talk with iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens about documenting and sharing technical procedures, especially those related to the repair of consumer devices. We start this episode by catching up on some past episodes… In Episode 111, “Environmental Engineering,” we talked with Bronwyn Bell, an environmental engineer from Western Australia, who is now featured in an … Continue reading Episode 127 — Technical Writing

Episode 126 — Diesel Power  

Aeronautical engineer Clay Coons joins us to discuss the many applications of diesel engines. Adam’s Kubota BX tractor is powered by a 23 HP diesel engine. During his high school years, Jeff learned that gasoline (petrol) engines don’t run too well on diesel fuel. Ska Punk music often features horns, as evidenced on a song … Continue reading Episode 126 — Diesel Power

Episode 125 — Cubicle Farm  

We discuss how the workplace environment influences our productivity in this episode of The Engineering Commons. Jeff is currently sharing an office, so although he doesn’t have much extra space, he does have a door he can close when necessary. Brian uses his office as a storage locker, collecting old printed circuit boards and spare … Continue reading Episode 125 — Cubicle Farm

Episode 124 — Mad Skillz  

The gang discusses how one acquires the skills most frequently used by engineering professionals. Brian knows that parliamentary procedures are described in Robert’s Rules of Order, but he has not had to use such procedures in the course of his engineering career. A quorum is the minimum number of voting members from a deliberative group … Continue reading Episode 124 — Mad Skillz

Episode 123 — Transitions 2016  

In this episode of The Engineering Commons, we discuss transitions experienced by Adam, Carmen and Jeff during the past year. Brian participates in our round-robin discussion, but it seems his 2016 was fairly routine. Adam has been residing in his new estate since mid-November, and is still uncovering new surprises on his property. A power … Continue reading Episode 123 — Transitions 2016

Episode 122 — Jared Asks  

In this episode of The Engineering Commons, we answer questions from listener Jared about coping as an engineering student. Carmen informs us that making accurate estimations is an important engineering skill. In this episode, we answer questions from listener Jared about surviving the math-science death march encountered in the typical engineering curriculum. It’s normal to … Continue reading Episode 122 — Jared Asks

Episode 121 — Idle Doodling  

In this episode of The Engineering Commons, our intrepid crew discusses planning, leading and attending the dreaded corporate meeting. It seems that Brian elects to daydream when in boring meetings, whereas Jeff has been known to doodle extensively. Jeff located a website claiming to offer doodle analysis and interpretation, although the disclaimer notes that it … Continue reading Episode 121 — Idle Doodling

Episode 120 — Augmented Engineer  

This episode of The Engineering Commons finds Adam, Brian, Carmen and Jeff predicting how virtual and augmented realities might soon be incorporated into daily engineering activities. Adam’s not so sure he’s ready to plug into the Matrix. Brian suggests that understanding differential calculus is much less practical than knowing Kung Fu. Bullet time is a … Continue reading Episode 120 — Augmented Engineer

Episode 119 — Gears  

Brian, Carmen and Jeff discuss mechanical gears in this episode of The Engineering Commons. Although a mechanical engineer, Jeff isn’t much for working on cars. We share a few stories about synchronizing generators, including use of a synchroscope. Brian mentions mechanisms with extremely high gear ratios. The two main functions of gears are trading off … Continue reading Episode 119 — Gears

Episode 118 — Practical Engineering  

In this episode of The Engineering Commons podcast, we talk with civil engineer Grady Hillhouse, producer of YouTube’s Practical Engineering channel. Carmen has been known to wield a reciprocating saw as he refines his woodworking skills. Our guest for this episode is Grady Hillhouse, a professional civil engineer from Austin, Texas who runs the Practical … Continue reading Episode 118 — Practical Engineering

Episode 117 — Soft Skills  

This episode of The Engineering Commons dives into the importance of “soft skills” to engineering professionals. A fictional giant from the 1984 Ghostbusters movie, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is the chosen form of Gozer the Gozerian. We use the LinkedIn article “Top 5 Must-Have Soft Skills for Professional Engineers” as a framework for our … Continue reading Episode 117 — Soft Skills

Episode 116 — The Grid  

Adam, Brian and Jeff discuss the electrical grid in this episode of The Engineering Commons. The difference engine, conceived of by J. H. Müller in 1786, and designed by Charles Babbage in the 1820s, is often considered the world’s first computer. Brian notes that electric furnaces are increasingly used in steel production. Adam and Brian … Continue reading Episode 116 — The Grid

Episode 115 — Bearings  

Carmen and Jeff discuss mechanical bearings in this episode of The Engineering Commons podcast. Carmen has a pretty good sense of his navigational bearing, but is less knowledgeable about mechanical bearings. U.S. interstate highways are numbered with even numbered roads going primarily east-west, and odd numbered roads passing mostly north-south. Differences between skateboards and longboards … Continue reading Episode 115 — Bearings

Episode 114 — Driven Electrons  

Brian leads our discussion of electric vehicles in this episode of The Engineering Commons podcast. Carmen notes that a single resting electron has a mass of 9.11 x 10-31 kilograms. Brian suggests some form of positronic vehicular propulsion might be possible, although radiation issues would make it impractical for most earthbound applications. One of the … Continue reading Episode 114 — Driven Electrons

Episode 113 — Chemical Engineering  

Chris Welch joins Adam, Brian, Carmen, and Jeff to talk about the field of chemical engineering. Jeff believes in unicorns, even though he’s never seen one! From his childhood, Jeff recalls watching a DuPont film about “Better Living Through Chemistry.” Our guest for this episode is Chris Welch, a chemical engineer from New Brunswick, Canada, … Continue reading Episode 113 — Chemical Engineering

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