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Life With Spock: When Your Father Is an Engineer

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Duane Benson
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My own guilt
Duane Benson   7/12/2013 7:06:21 PM
I can't seem to hear the word "organic" without making a snide remark about liking my food to be carbon-based.

Also, I've talked to my kids so much about autonomous robotics that neither of them want to learn to drive. They want robot cars to drive them around. Now I have to remind them that they're a decade too early.

I'm pretty sure I've imprinted this personality trait enough to curse not only my kids, but any future offspring they might have. For example, one of my kids, in a moment of teen angst, stated: "In five billion years, the sun's going to go out anyway, so what does it matter?"

Susan Rambo
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Re: My own guilt
Susan Rambo   7/12/2013 8:00:35 PM
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Thanks, Duane. LOL. These are good examples. You're warming my heart to know the tradition continues. Very interesting point about the autonomous cars. I remember telling my father 10 years ago (when I started working on electronics publications) that cars will drive themselves one day. He said, "no way." Different generation.  I agree with your kids about the sun. It's the ultimate excuse. 

Sheetal.Pandey
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Re: My own guilt
Sheetal.Pandey   7/15/2013 2:33:12 AM
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Well its great if our father is an engineer. The whole perspective of life changes. You got to be ready with answers for questions like Why, when and how? You dont hev to worry if something doesnt work because they will always fix it or atleast will try . Also you will always get the best of everything, because many engineers like to explore and then decide. Nice video games, all trendy gadgets and other technology stuff will be easily accessible.

Susan Rambo
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Re: My own guilt
Susan Rambo   7/15/2013 11:10:12 AM
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Agreed, Sheetal. It's inspiring to have a parent who is an engineer, not just for the trendy gadgets they bring home, but for the outlook on life: understanding how things work and how to fix things; the creative problem solving; etc. Were your parents engineers? Are you an engineer? If you have children, what upcoming technology will be dominate when they reach college age? Should they go into engineering?

Sheetal.Pandey
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Re: My own guilt
Sheetal.Pandey   7/15/2013 2:20:59 PM
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@srambo941, I am an Engineer ,Electronics and communication. My husband is also an engineer, software. None of our parents were engineer. But you wont believe, our parents generations they always wanted their kids to be doctor or engineer. But for me, my daughter can be whatever she wants. We dont want to put any pressure on the child on what career is good. Let them choose and innovate. May be an artist or professional dancer. But if she chooses engineering, she must learn things practically rather than just reading text books.

But I have seen, engineers have different approach towards life. They are very analytical and love reasoning.

Bert22306
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Having a daughter ...
Bert22306   7/15/2013 11:58:10 AM
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... who always makes fun of me, I can certainly relate to this article. She always excelled in physics and math while in school, but then she would reassure me that "this is really boring" anyway. Just to make the point. Wouldn't have been credible to make such a comment if she didn't excell in those subjects, right? Girls.

Susan Rambo
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Re: Having a daughter ...
Susan Rambo   7/15/2013 12:19:01 PM
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Hi Bert22306. What did your daughter end up doing for a career? Did she go into the sciences? Does she still think STEM is "boring"? Maybe that was peer-pressure? Fascinating when you juxtapose what Dean Kamen says about the US having a culture problem, not a education problem, when it comes to STEM education. And then compare that to what Big Bang Theory actress Mayim Bialik said about how, because STEM subjects didn't come easy to her, she didn't think she was good at them and therefore gave up on STEM until she fell in love with neuroscience later in life. Your daughter didn't have any of those issues but she just didn't like science, even though she excelled? Interesting. (Sorry she made fun of you...I must have been mean to my dad, too. Hmmm.)

Bert22306
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Re: Having a daughter ...
Bert22306   7/15/2013 12:31:08 PM
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Yes, she became a veterinary doctor, board certified in internal medicine. So she definitely went into the sciences, although not so much the physical sciences.

No, peer pressure never phased her. Her comment about physics was only to "get me," it wasn't an indictment of STEM at all.

Susan Rambo
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Re: Having a daughter ...
Susan Rambo   7/15/2013 12:44:16 PM
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Thanks for sharing. So she did go into science; cool. And yes, torturing your father is a rite of childhood (maybe more for girls?). Thanks again for your comments.

Frank Eory
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Helping with homework
Frank Eory   7/15/2013 12:49:34 PM
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Susan, I chuckled when you mentioned your dad trying to help you with your math homework and that he was too smart to do that effectively. My kids tell me they had the opposite experience. They were always grateful -- and surprised -- that I could explain math concepts and problem-solving techniques in a way that was usually different from the way their teachers explained them, and which improved their understanding.

One of my three kids -- my daughter -- is pursuing an engineering degree. She is finally at a high enough level where she knows she can't expect any real help from me -- not that she needs it -- because she's finally taking higher-level courses that are beyond what I did, and in a different engineering discipline.

My boys also love math & science, but never quite caught the engineering bug the way my daughter did.

mcgrathdylan
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Re: Helping with homework
mcgrathdylan   7/15/2013 2:11:08 PM
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It's interesting to me that more than one EE on this thread has at least one child who is going the same route. So many times on EE Times we get comments from EEs that say they would never encourage their children to pursue the profession. But I really think it is more of a calling. You are an engineer, or your not. Personally, I'm not an engineer (though I play one on TV). But I can see that my youngest son, age 5, very well could be. I watch the way he approaches and solves problems of all types and I can see the instincts are there.

Susan Rambo
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Re: Helping with homework
Susan Rambo   7/15/2013 2:13:53 PM
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Dylan, you should give your kid a radio and see if he takes it apart and puts it back to together again. That's a good sign you've got an engineer.

Sheetal.Pandey
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Re: Helping with homework
Sheetal.Pandey   7/15/2013 2:25:35 PM
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My daughter, she is just in lower kindergarten, was watching some of her favorite videos on you tube and was searching new videos. I realized my internet limit was soon going to be crossed so I went and switched off the modem. Within a moment I saw she went and started the modem saying looks like you swtiched off the modem and my videos were stopped.

Susan Rambo
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Re: Helping with homework
Susan Rambo   7/15/2013 2:50:45 PM
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Kindergarten?! Smart girl. LOL. Makes me feel like I was born in the Stone Age. Talk about a generation gap: just think, kids may have a real reason not to trust "anyone over 30," as the old saying goes from the 1960s youth generation. (They may turn your modem off, for one.) Will generation gaps now only be defined by what technology you grew up with.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Helping with homework
junko.yoshida   7/18/2013 1:19:18 AM
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Susan, i can't tell you how much i loved this story! My father was an engineer; I don't think he ever understood where exactly in my math or physics homework I struggled. When I went to him for help, he used to ask me a few questions first, and told me, "Come back to me when you understood the basics." I learned then not to go to him for help, unless I was very well versed on the topic.

Susan Rambo
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Re: Helping with homework
Susan Rambo   7/18/2013 5:05:50 AM
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Thanks, Junko. Interesting. Your engineer father had an smart tactic for preparing you for your future career and life in general. It must have inspired you to work harder. 

junko.yoshida
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Re: Helping with homework
junko.yoshida   7/18/2013 8:08:48 AM
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Yes, let me tell you that I am still terrified when I interview an engineer! I strive to do as much homework as possible before the interview (because really, I don't know much). The good thing is that many people I interview are A LOT MORE forgiving than my father ever was!

Tom Murphy
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Re: Helping with homework
Tom Murphy   7/18/2013 9:26:23 PM
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Junko: I hear you, and I get intimidated, too. But I've always found that engineers are natural born teachers, eager to help dimwits like me understand what they do.  Many are surprisingly eloquent in the way they speak, reflecting their passion for what they do.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Helping with homework
junko.yoshida   7/19/2013 10:22:15 AM
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Very true, Tom. Over and over, I am astounded and grateful when engineers explain complex technical matters in the simplest, lay terms. What we need as a reporter, though, is a courage to tell them stuff we didn't really understand. I learned that lesson when I first became a reporter. An experience colleague of mine once said: "Junko, if you don't ask questions, you'd never learn."

So my life asking questions continues. 

Tom Murphy
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Re: Helping with homework
Tom Murphy   7/19/2013 11:18:41 AM
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Any senior engineers reading this who have something they'd like to share in the community should contact EE Times, which is looking for professionals who'd like to write occasional blogs.   To do that, please contact us at feedback@eetimes.com.  We'd love to hear from you.

 

mcgrathdylan
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Re: Helping with homework
mcgrathdylan   7/15/2013 2:51:34 PM
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He totally does that kind of stuff. Not a radio specifically (because who has a radio anymore?), but just about anything else when he has a chance he takes it apart. And I will confess, he cannot always put it back together (in fact frequently not). So maybe he's not an engineer but he's a reverse engineer. :)

Ghery
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Re: Helping with homework
Ghery   7/15/2013 4:25:44 PM
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Who has a radio?  I have a number of them, most work.  But, I'm one of those amateur radio nerds.  :-)

mcgrathdylan
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Re: Helping with homework
mcgrathdylan   7/17/2013 10:01:21 PM
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@Ghery- well there you go. You are the exception, not the rule. I find that in the age of MP3, even a CD player can be tough to lay your hands on. A couple of years ago I wrote a blog about my experience trying to listen to game four of the 2010 world series, which fell on Halloween (check it out: Where have all the transistor radios gone?). All about the perils of upgrading CE appliances. 

Ghery
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Re: Helping with homework
Ghery   7/15/2013 4:24:27 PM
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My dad was a college professor (veterinary medicine) and mom was a history major (way back).  They did not understand Dilbert.  I kept telling them that Dilbert was not a comic strip, Dilbert was a documentary.  No joy.  Then I found the animated young Dilbert in "The Knack".  I showed them that video and they said, "That was you!"  I was always taking things apart and putting them back together.  I guess some of us were just born to be engineers.  Oh, and my son works in the same place I do as a technician.  He's been playing with computers for 30 years.  Started when he was 6.

pmartel
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Re: Helping with homework
pmartel   7/15/2013 9:36:03 PM
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You should have posted the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmYDgncMhXw

 

Susan Rambo
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Re: Helping with homework
Susan Rambo   7/15/2013 10:26:18 PM
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Thanks, pmartel, for the Dilbert video. Yes, that's classic.

rich.pell
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Re: Helping with homework
rich.pell   7/18/2013 11:31:53 AM
What's a "radio?"  Is it anything like an iPhone?  :)

junko.yoshida
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Re: Helping with homework
junko.yoshida   7/20/2013 8:06:55 AM
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This radio talk just reminded me of my father (engineer) being hospitalized due to some operation in late 70's. He was staying at a hospital for more than a few weeks ( post op). I was in high school then; asked my father if there is anything I can bring him, thinking maybe he wants to read a funny novel, the latest weekly news magazine or he may want to taste some fruits. I was wrong. He said, "Yes, bring me 'Radio Engineering' magazine." That's when I realized that I don't get my father at all. But of course, little did I know then I would be working for 'Electrical Engineering' Times in the future...

Susan Rambo
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How many physicists does it take?
Susan Rambo   7/20/2013 11:14:31 AM
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@junko.yoshida: "Yes, bring me 'Radio Engineering' magazine."

That's the hardcore engineer I know. Good story. Once at a family get together, my father and uncle--both physicists--spent a long time studying the berry cobbler, trying to decide how to best cut it. They were there for quite a while, discussing it. Finally, an impatient son-in-law cracked, "How many physicists does it take to cut the cobbler?"

Susan Rambo
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Re: Helping with homework
Susan Rambo   7/15/2013 2:12:38 PM
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Hi Frank, Wow. Congratulations on having a daughter in engineering school. Your kids were lucky to have you as a secret weapon on their homework. Explaining complex subjects clearly is a special skill; plus spending that quality time with your children is so important.  Great success story. Let's celebrate all the parents like you. Thanks.

kaydee512
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When Mom's the engineer
kaydee512   7/15/2013 1:55:31 PM
My kids got a double dose - I'm an engineer and Dad was a physicist.  It was probably pretty weird for them when Mom set up control charts for how long they spent brushing their teeth (they clearly weren't meeting spec!), or when Dad designed experiments to improve their batting average.  But both kids did well in spite of this and both went into match and sciences (youngest is an EE and oldest is getting a PhD in math which is way beyond his Mom's limited diffeq abilities!).  But I also shared a creative side too - I tried to teach them about liquid chromotography as preschoolers using food coloring and coffee filters.  We called them making butterflies because we cut out the shapes after all the colors had diffused and dried.

Susan Rambo
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Re: When Mom's the engineer
Susan Rambo   7/15/2013 2:23:24 PM
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OMG! These are hilarious stories. The control chart for brushing teeth...that is brilliant and funny. I can see it helping, though. Your kids were doubly lucky. (One of my parents was the English major, so there was always a push/pull there, to say the least.) Thanks for sharing your story. I feel like I'm in a support group here. 

Silverlock
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You Scratch my back, . . .
Silverlock   7/15/2013 4:39:35 PM
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    My nine-year-old daughter seems to have caught the programming bug cia MIT's software-creation site Scratch (scratch.mit.edu).  She loves to take other people's projects and "remix" them to do something fun.   

    I'm not sure, though, whether she likes the creation aspect of it the most or the social aspect.  Either way, I'll take it.

burn0050bb
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Re: You Scratch my back, . . .
burn0050bb   7/16/2013 12:29:23 AM
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Scratch looks awesome! I also found Kodu (http://fuse.microsoft.com/projects/kodu) the other day - visual game programming, I guess you could say. I hope I can get my kids interested in these things...

Susan Rambo
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Re: You Scratch my back, . . .
Susan Rambo   7/16/2013 5:35:46 PM
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Thanks, burn0050, for the Kodu link. And thanks to Silverlock for link to MIT's Scratch site for kids. Keep 'em coming. What are the best Internet tools do you like that teach kids some  programming or engineering skills? Thanks again.

kfield
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My dad wasn't an engineer, but....
kfield   7/15/2013 6:21:08 PM
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My dad wasn't an engineer, but he did have a knack for anything electrical or mechanical and always imparted useful hard-earned knowledge bits like: "Don't buy anything electronic in your cars, it's going to break first." I also learned not to carry credit card debt and be nice to people. :-)

rick merritt
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Mind of the engineer
rick merritt   7/15/2013 8:16:47 PM
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I never met an engineer until I started work at EE Times.

One asset I often see in common is a kind of no-nonsense view of the world that when posed with a mystery of how something works (like a TV set or the universe) feels compelled to tear it apart or think deeply.

rich.pell
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Re: Mind of the engineer
rich.pell   7/18/2013 11:39:52 AM
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I see a lot of discussion about engineers "tearing things apart" to see how they work, but it's important to emphasize that, at heart, engineers are designers and builders - which are much more creative endeavors!

Susan Rambo
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Inarguable facts = opinion
Susan Rambo   8/8/2013 8:58:26 AM
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"Your 'inarguable facts' are nothing more than a matter of opinion." It's another typical (and very Spock-like) response an engineer might have. It comes from a story on coding standards for embedded systems.

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