Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Working in the field

Sometimes I get asked why I work in the field. The above picture is a continuation of my previous work experience threads -- if you click aerospace either here or to the right under labels it will bring up the previous posts with that label.

A few items of note in the above image - I'm in Montreal integrating part of our structure (things with the holes) to a sub-contract item (yellow metal thing) which when combined got delived back to our plant for more integration and test. The item is a Receive Feed Array which is part of the antenna for the ACeS spacecraft. Incidently this piece that I am hanging over cost more than most golf courses - even in 1998 dollars. I'm wearing a hat, smock and gloves because the feed isn't supposed to get dirty. I went up with a team of three technicians - Steve, Frank and Chuck - for about a week. I mentioned Montreal because it is a very fine place to be for a week.

The traditional role of the engineer is to design and plan the system and write specs galore detailing the integration and test portions - this antenna needs to be placed in a rocket ship, survive launch into outer space then deploy and function. During the integration - or build - there are so many steps to check off and document that is usually a full time job in itself.

My first engineering job after college was with a large medical device company in one of their research and development departments. I used to hang out in the machine shops watching the parts and tools get built. Why? - because it made me a better designer - seeing how a ball end mill machines a radius stays in your mind as you design - it is so much more tangible.

So why am I lying on a gurney attached to a fork lift? One, no one else knew how to build this antenna without my instructions - at this point even I wasn't too sure how as it was a first of its kind. Two, it was a great learning experience for me and the crew. Three, it was a lot of fun - not just the Montreal part with Steve, Frank and Chuck.

What does this have to do with golf course deisgn? Everything. Some people may consider my efforts working on the construction at Wolf Point were for me to have some glossy images for my brochure and to say how I built the course. Some architects do practice this with great effect - especially pointing with rolled up drawings under thier ams. For me it was the same three above reasons -- I am the one with the most design details in my head and I don't think it is fruitful to draw every detail -- I learn how my instructions and intent get put in the dirt -- and it was fun. I didn't build Wolf Point - Don with his crew did - I did help a lot, sometimes crucially, and the reasons for my help are invaluable to me, Wolf Point and my future projects.

I added this picture so it doesn't look like I did all the work. Cheers.

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