Much is written about the low interest of today’s students in science and engineering. Dismal numbers are given, painting a grim picture. It’s tempting to fall into despair, but recently I met a group of undergraduate engineering students who significantly brightened my outlook for the future of engineering. They’re part of the Oregon State University Solar Vehicle Team and they introduced me to their latest solar vehicle with which they had placed first in the in the 2013 Formula Sun Grand Prix. Tektronix is a corporate sponsor of the team. These young engineers impressed me not only with their solid understanding of engineering (I learned a lot) but also with the creativity with which they tackled challenges and their ability to speak the language of design. Two of the team members wrote a paper on troubleshooting a noise problem on hall sensors in their motor feedback loop using a mixed signal oscilloscope. The paper describes a good use of the scope, but even more interesting is the debugging process they followed. Check out the paper here, and see what I mean. If, like me, you’re no expert in motor controls, you may even learn a few things.
In the end, their enthusiasm for engineering was infectious. I ended up taking much more inspiration than I gave.