Jeri Ellsworth’s wildly entertaining and informative videos.
And every corporate attempt in between. It’s happenin’, kids, hey what’s that sound? Every look what’s going down….
If you need another example of social media traction among engineers, let's look at design contests. We’ve done them forever, but social media takes this to a new level.
Just ask Gammell and Ellsworth, who teamed up to build—almost on a whim—a design contest around the (age-old, even "venerable"--yep that's what Bill Schweber called it) 555 timer IC. (It's ironic that this ancient device is the focus of a social media-driven design contest, isn't it?)
“Aside from the history and the instructional information available, the 555 is accessible to a broad range of people,” Gammell said in an interview. “With some care, it's possible to use in more complicated systems, as a lot of our early entries have shown. However, students and hobbyists can just as easily pick one up and use it in a new application.”
Next Tuesday, March 1, is the deadline, so get cracking if you're interested.
Why does social matter?
Flexibility: This project started out as Twitter chatter and once the decision was made, was rolling in two days
Reach: The chip’s creator, Hans Camenzind, is one of the judges
Openness: “Once we started working on the project, other tools like Skype, Wordpress, Email and Google Docs (to help keep track of our sponsors) was all we needed to get the project off the ground. And this all across a 3 hour time difference and 2,500 miles away,” Gammell said.
More traditional design contests, like the ones EE Times is involved in, also are leveraging social media in a big way, building microsites to house information and entries, using video to show design examples, and leveraging comments to get audience votes.
Cypress' challenge and the contest from STMicroelectronics are the most recent examples.
Engineering arguably is one of the most collaborative professions around, so it all makes sense, even if it took a few years for traction.
And if you wanna develop a new generation of engineers, what better way to engage and inspire than through social media and stuff like design contests.
P.S. Here’s Ellsworth’s video explanation of the origins of the 555 contest.
Duane, couldn't agree more. Sometimes I call that the engineering paradox (that hardware guys lag the software guys in adoption). The software guys are in many ways responsible for the user experience, so they have to be involved.
And to your point, hardware guys are early adopters in other areas (I'm thinking back to the EV-1 electric car and the all the engineers who had early versions and hacked into their computers for fun.
My hypothesis is that it's not that Engineers are not compatible with social media, but that hardware engineers are about half a decade behind the rest of the world in this respect. It's important to differentiate between hardware and software. Many software folks have been living on the Internet for a very long time.
Most electrical engineering types that I've known over the years are fine being early adopters, provided the technology being adopted has a high usefulness to time-wasting ratio. Certainly there are aspects of the Internet that meet that criteria and are embedded into the lives of just about every EE. Digikey has been on the leading edge of the Internet and has always been far more function than form. Amazon and many of the other online retailers make many life tasks quick and easy.
The biggest problem that I've seen with much of social media is in its roots. So much of it started with the non-technical youth set or was over-hyped by high-ego'd promoters.
That is changing now though. The 555 contest is a good example. Last year, electronics folks really didn't spend much time with social media. Next year, we won't remember that social media ever didn't exist.
That's right... social media is catching up with us engineers. But I think the reason why is that being sit in front of a computer screen removes a part of the social interaction and thus makes us think we're still working and doing some engineering stuff.
And the fact that the internet allow it to address a broader audience makes us think of it like an OpAmp amplifier doesn't it? Social Engineering perhaps :-)