Connecting the Dots

I believe I have always been an engineer. I cannot look at anything (and I mean anything) and not find some way that it can be done better. Its booth a blessing and curse. I bet most of you know what I am talking about. You see all these things around you, recall some other piece of knowledge you gained in some other experience, and think they could be combined in a new way to make a solution. That is actually how most if not all of my patents and other ideas started.

My first patent is a good example of this. I was working on a project where I had an exhaust air stream that was noisy and contained a small amount of ink aerosol particulates. I needed to capture the ink before sending to the environment and reduce the noise pollution as well. I knew of ways to do both, but what I had found was no one had combined the unique aspects of solving both problems in a single device. Hence was the birth of what I call the Milter (Muffler Filter combination). Here is a link to the Google Patents page if you are interested .

US Patent # 6,328,442 Brinkly

The same holds true for my Capstone project. My client has been living in a work nightmare using an outdated database system and every year she must go through and reset one checkbox for a large number of records. She must go through and locate each record entry one at a time, open the record, enter edit mode, make the change, save it, exit that screen and go back and find the next entry. It takes her many hours over the course of several days. Her expectation is the new system must work the same way. But even though it is not part of the core work, the engineer in me thinks I can fix that.

And yes, after looking at the new system we are making, it seems like I could combine some knowledge I gained in a different system make can make a custom solution for just this task. I can simplify the searching and collect all the records to make the change with a push of a button. It’s a little risky giving the client that much power at their fingertips, but with great power comes great responsibility. And I think they can handle it. Adding more knowledge of past user experiences, I think we can put enough information in front of the user that they can make good decisions and accomplish a necessary task. So I am going to put in some extra effort and see if I can make her life easier. And really to me that is the ultimate goal that we as engineers should always strive for. Making life easier or better. And if you are passionate about making things better, then the extra effort pales in comparison to the benefits of your work.

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