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Apr 25, 2005

About a week and a half ago, I volunteered at the “Western Massachusetts Guidance Symposium for Engineering and Engineering Technology” at Smith College. The forum brought together engineers and guidance counselors to talk about careers in engineering. The purpose was to help the counselors better understand what engineers do. In turn, the counselors can better advise students about educational requirements and future career options in engineering.

The forum had engineering professionals and college professors from various fields including from civil engineering, electrical engineering, and biomedical engineering. I represented mechanical engineering (specifically acoustics). Also representing mechanical engineering was Professor Erich Haffner, the Chair of the Industrial Engineering Department at Western New England College.

The keynote address by Smith College Professor, Dr. Glenn Ellis, set the direction of the Symposium: encouraging women (and under-represented minorities) to chose careers in engineering. It’s a point well worth making, and it was a point that I was going to make in my discussions with counselors had Dr. Ellis not beaten me to the punch.

In short, Dr. Ellis explained that the U.S. is facing a shortage of engineers due, in part, to post 9/11 regulations that make it harder for foreigners to emigrate here to study and practice engineering. As a result, the best and brightest foreign engineering minds are going to other nations. Dr. Ellis argued that one way to overcome this shortage is to tap into an underused resource: women. Although women make up half of the U.S. population, they make up less than 15% of engineers. Frequently women that excel in math or science are steered toward the life sciences (biology, chemistry) rather than engineering, while the opposite occurs for men.

I would argue for greater inclusion of women and minorities for a different reasons: in may experience (both college and professional), diversity brings many different prospectives to engineering problems, which leads to better products and innovative solutions. People from different backgrounds bring ideas to the table that may never occur to you. Dr. Ellis briefly touched on this idea when he talked about the “Windstar Moms,” who brought family-friendly ideas to Ford’s Windstar minivans (the linked article mentions that GM “has no formal process for ensuring that the woman’s viewpoint is reflected” in the design of its minivans - no wonder their minivans all suck).

The ultimate lesson is that if your business depends on innovation and out-of-the-box thinking, you need a wide-range of viewpoints. Diversity is an easy solution to that problem. And if you don’t agree with me? Good - I’m trying to grab as many ideas as I can, and if your beliefs hinder your ability to compete, that makes my life easier.

By the way, when I speak about diversity, I’m not talking about a token women or a token black guy. I mean diversity in it’s truest sense: different socio-economic backgrounds, political beliefs, sexual orientations, religions, races, and so on. Everyone has something to offer.

In any event, I’d like to congratulate Christine, Melissa and the whole PowerUP!/MOS gang for organizing a great forum.

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A couple of weeks ago I mentioned Matt Bartlett’s mechanical design project, and I made a comment that his measurements may have been misleading because of the dipole response of the Linaeum tweeter. Turns out the Matt had already made the same observation in his report and I missed it. Sorry Matt!

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Apr 05, 2005

Just in case you were wondering about the orange “XML” icon to the lower right, the New York Times presents a primer on RSS.

In addition to providing a ‘site summary’ of this blog, I’ve also played with RSS as a noise monitor reporting tool (this for example). This file was sent to a Java-based RSS reader that runs on my Sony Ericsson T616 cellphone. Just an example of the possibilities…


More cube speakers: Mission’s M-Cube, based on the NXT flat panel technology that was all the rage a few years ago. Mission attempts to compensate for the lack of low-frequency output by coupling the flat panels (mounted in a cubic enclosure) with a subwoofer. All this can be yours for $2200.

[Gizmodo via Tech Digest]


The Institute of Acoustics is accepting nominations for the Award for Promoting Acoustics to the Public. From Dr. Trevor Cox’s announcement:

“With noise increasingly on the public agenda and to encourage activity to create a greater awareness of the importance of acoustics outside the acoustics fraternity, the Institute of Acoustics (IOA) is delighted to announce a new Award for Promoting Acoustics to the Public.”

“Promoting acoustics can help encourage more people to study and follow careers in acoustics. It can also help prevent acoustics being treated as a “Cinderella” subject by industry and legislators.”

Nominations will be accepted until May 31, 2005.

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Apr 01, 2005

Bill Machrone of PC Magazine has published detailed measurement results of bass performance of several popular MP3 players (including the Dell DJ20, Creative Zen Micro, Apple iPod, iPod mini, and iPod Shuffle). Bill goes into pretty good detail about his measurement methodology and choice of test signals.

The surprising result is that the iPod Shuffle has by far the best bass performance of the bunch.


A letter to the editor in the Hartford Courant (scroll down to “Honk If You’re Annoying”) makes reference to the practice of mounting train horns on automobiles, but I can’t find an online version of the article in question.

Is this actually a fad? Aside from the extreme difficulty in getting a train horn to work in a car (train horns are driven from air pressure, not electricity), does anybody really feel the need to generate 106 dBA of sound at 100 feet?


Matt Bartlett has written up the his senior mechanical design project: Design of a High Fidelity Loudspeaker. The speaker is based around the Linaeum dipole speaker and a Seas 6.5-inch mid-woofer. Matt explains his design goals and the logic behind his various component selections and speaker design.

The final results look good, but I think his high-frequency results might be misleading because of the dipole nature of the tweeter – it looks like he only measured the response directly in front of the tweeter, and the results fall off sharply above 10 kHz. In my experience with the Linaeum tweeter, I’ve found that the response falls sharply directly in front tweeter because of the dipole configuration, but if you move a few degrees off-axis, the response flattens out.


Hey, you never know when you might run into a pipe organ. Springfield’s Old First Church has a nice organ that was restored back in 1997. Info about the organ is available here (scroll down).

Old First Church Organ

Sorry about the picture quality, the proscenium was not well lit when I took the photo.

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