Thursday, June 16, 2011

Korea Conference Wear

This post is on dress code, which is kind of an odd topic, but since it's my blog I can write as I choose - so here you go. As my dad says, it's good to be king.

During the conference I helped organize in Korea, the team wears a "uniform" of sorts. It's not an entire outift uniform, just some identifying piece of clothing. This is common practice every year, and the goal is to make it easier for the conference attendees to recognize the staffers, so they can ask questions, request help, or of course compliment us on the awesome job we're doing. :) 

Last year, we had blue ties for the men, and blue scarves for the women. But to be honest, the quality of the ties wasn't all that good, and the bright baby blue color was a bit loud (and so, looked a bit cheap). This year, we wanted to up the quality of the uniform.

So we had really nice ties designed, out of high-quality material, and with a subtle conference logo stiched in. I helped design them, and I was quite pleased with how they turned out. (As a side note - four engineers, sitting around a conference table, trying to converge on an aesthetically pleasing tie design? Hilarious.)

So the ties were no problem, but the issue was this - the minimum order of women's scarves was 150. And we only had five girls going. So, we girls could either a) wear a tie too, b) find a scarf in a similar color, or c) wear nothing. Well, not nothing, but no uniform at least...

I happen to think women in ties can look really professional - the woman in question just has to have the confidence to pull it off. (As another side note, I just googled for images of women in ties to find a picture to illustrate that point, and apparently a lot of men have women-in-suit fantasies. Definitely a NSFW search, who'd have guessed? Teach me to blog at work...)

Never having lacked in confidence (ahem, for better or worse), I opted to wear the tie. With, might I mention, all buttons buttoned on my shirt. Sheesh.

I had to get one of the guys to tie it for me the first day, though, because I didn't actually know how to tie a tie. I wore a suit, as shown above, and it didn't stand out too much.

The second day I chose a pencil skirt and no jacket, so the tie was more obvious. Still, nobody really did a double-take, so I think it still looked professional. I also learned how difficult it is to get a tie to hit right at the proper length at your waistband - you have to guess ahead of time, because you use up a lot of tie fabric while making the knot. I guess guys have a lot of practice at this, but for me it's a bit tricky.

Now, all the other girls on the team opted for the "no uniform" option. While I understand why they didn't want to wear a tie (have to have a collared shirt, it's an odd fashion statement, etc.), come on now, I think that's cheating!

Because hardly any of the conference attendees realized the other four girls were part of the hosting team - they had no identifier, and the rest of the guys and me all had the same ties. So none of the attendees asked the other women any questions, or bothered them about water bottles, or asked about getting a new nametag, or any other host-type questions. No fair! :)

Figure: Obligatory MySpace shot, dedicated to my sister who is the queen of  self-posing

In the end, nobody cared that I was wearing a tie, and in fact I got several compliments. What do you think - would you have gone for a scarf?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Post on Engineer Blogs

Check out my latest post on lab notebooks over at Engineer Blogs - more content coming for this blog this week. :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Goal of the Day

On Monday I took a step gym class, on Tuesday I took a strength gym class, and on Wednesday I played basketball outside with guys who were fans of fast-break, no-blood-no-foul street rules.

Today my main agenda was to figure out how to get to lab, do my work, and make it home again with the absolute minimum number of stairs, or other occasions for which I might have to use my legs.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My Newest Baby Lives!

The main reason that I chose the graduate lab that I am in, is because we BUILD things here. Of course I spend a lot of time on the computer, and a decent amount on theory and modeling, but in the end - I get to MAKE things. Hello, machine shop. My personal therapy.

My Master's degree was spent designing, building, and testing a machine. I built a second machine sort of between Master's and PhD project, which was a improved and smaller version of the first machine, applied to a different manufacturing process.

And now, I have built a third machine as part of the "make it happen!" stage of the PhD. This third machine is basically a stamping machine. The stamping manufacturing process will go like this: I put a rubber stamp onto a spincoating chuck, squirt on some ink, spin the stamp to spread the ink into a thin even coating, and then I carefully press a substrate onto the stamp to transfer the inked pattern. I then heat up the substrate to evaporate any remaining liquid and make sure the pattern is dry.

The trick here is that the substrate has to be very precisely aligned with the stamp. To do this precise alignment, I used kinematic couplings and designed a flexure to control the movement of the substrate during the stamping process. I wrote about the fixturing and the flexure design on Engineer Blogs, so go check it out there.

The key takeaway is that the machine I designed looked like this in CAD:

And then I spent some time in the machine shop, and the machine in real life now looks like this:

Two weeks ago, I prepared to press the "On" button for the first time. I had my safety glasses on, and I stood for a good thirty seconds with my finger poised over the button, running through everything in my head to make sure I had everything hooked up properly.

Finally, with a deep breath, I took the plunge.

And nothing happened.

Now, actually, this is not the worst thing that could happen. Nothing blew up, so it's still a minor success. The base of this stamping machine is a spincoater, available commercially. But of course the warranty is completely voided, because the first thing I did was take it all apart. And in the process of putting it back together, because I am making so many modifications (taking off the fairing and the bowl, adding an internal valve to change the vacuum chuck to a positive pressure chuck, changing to air purge instead of N2 purge, etc.), I had to short out all the safety interlocks.

So it's not at all unreasonable that something might blow up upon applying power for the first time.

(Actually one would think I should have turned this on and tested it BEFORE I took it apart... but where is the fun in that?)

Upon consulting the owner's manual, I discovered that the machine will not power on until sufficient vacuum and purge pressures are applied. So I proceeded to hook up the required inputs.

(Actually one would think I should have read the owner's manual first, but again, the fun? where is it?)

Then, not expecting much, I tried hitting the On switch again. Instant power! Lights started flashing, I could hear the pump running, and a faint hiss where I hadn't sealed a fitting well enough. Gees. I didn't even have my safety glasses on... and I didn't get to do any build-up or suspenseful pause, or anything!  Oh well, it turned on, fanfare or no. :) With that progress, I called it a day, and went home for dinner.

And by last week, I had the machine not only turning on, but programmed with recipes, a homing routine, manual internal valves, and a vacuum chuck on the substrate side. My presentation at my weekly progress meeting with my advisor last week was one small square of glass stamped (badly, at that) with green food coloring.

It's not much to look at, but this means that my PhD stamping machine is designed, fabricated, assembled, and capable of running experiments.

So I'm pleased to report, my baby lives!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Guest Posting at Engineer Blogs - May Roundup

Hey there - I'm sorry it's been a ghost town around here! I miss blogging, so I'm hoping to pick it up again regularly. In the mean time, check out my past few week's posts on Engineer Blogs:

I discuss my homeschooling background and how it contributed to my career as an engineer,

I jokingly disparage theoretical engineers as opposed to hands-on engineers,

but then of course I know theory is useful, so I talk about the design of flexures.

And then this week, I talk about what tools of the trade are essential for your job. What would your essential tools be?