A few months ago I was invited to present at this year's EElive! Conference and Exhibition. Little did I know that this was to be so full of adventure and friendship. It seemed simple enough. All I had to do was prepare one main presentation and three much smaller presentations. The main presentation was on a topic I knew well, it just needed to be adjusted to my audience. The other three presentations were also pretty straightforward as they were on the hobby projects I am currently working on. What could possibly go wrong?
I really hate it when someone says, "All you need to do…" because it usually means that it will evolve into a much more complicated effort. This time was no different. In the two months before the show, I was out of town for five out of eight weeks on business travel. As you can imagine, this greatly complicated my efforts to prepare my presentations. I had three out of the four prepared the Saturday before the show, and the fourth one was almost ready the Monday before the show. I just had some finishing touches that I was going to add once I arrived at my cousin's house in San Jose.
I packed my bag (literally 10 minutes before I left) and ran off to the airport. I jumped on the airplane and made my way West. Unfortunately for me, my flight into San Francisco was delayed by almost two hours. I arrived just after midnight, only to discover that the car rental company had already closed for the night. The wonderful airline saw fit to tell me that the only accommodations they could offer me were the cold floor of Terminal 2. I found a wall socket and made myself at home. I spent about 30 minutes finishing up my presentation and then "slept" for a few hours. Did you know that even though there is no one in the airport, they still continue to announce that the TSA will go through your bags at will if you leave them unattended? I was reminded of this fact every 15 minutes as I tried to get some sleep.
Bed and breakfast at the San Francisco Airport Terminal "Hotel."
I made it to the opening keynote speaker to hear of some pretty interesting things regarding the issue with Toyota's automatic brake failures. This was an enlightening talk. One of the things that resonated with me is that everything, especially software, will fail. It is our duty as engineers to make sure that they fail in a safe and effective manner. This might seem like a simple concept, but it is a profound one. Sadly, I think that because so much of this effort happens out of the public eye, non-engineers do not understand that things are failing. Most people think that things are working normally. They don't realize that failures are happening all around them every day, and that it is the failures that are normal.
As the day progressed, I suddenly realized that I had left the quadcopter that I needed for my presentation at the airport. As luck would have it, the device had been turned in to the lost and found. I made a quick trip back to the airport and retrieved it. It was now time for my presentation, which can basically be summed up as: "Mechanical design for EE's demonstrated using a quadcopter." I'm delighted to say that this presentation was very well attended, with at least 80 attendees. The big takeaway for me was that there are many people who want to understand cross-disciplinary concepts, such as electromechanical integration. I was very happy to have had great audience participation, and I trust the listeners found this information to be useful.
My "workstation" on the floor of the San Francisco Airport Terminal.
With my main presentation over, and only the smaller talks for the three Gadget Smackdowns remaining, I started to explore the show floor. On the first day, I was only really able to scope out what was there and who I wanted to go and visit later. After giving my Gadget Smackdown presentation on my micro brushed-motor speed controller for RC applications, I went out with the guys and shared a Sierra Mist with them, and then I turned into bed early that night.
One of my presentations at the Fantastical Theatre of Engineering Innovation.
The next two days were filled with more great keynotes and presentations. I was able to get around the show floor and speak with many vendors. If you happen to come to a show like this, be sure to have one in your projects in your backpack, because this makes a great conversation starter. Not only did I speak with the vendors, I also had the opportunity to meet up with many of my fellow bloggers. It was great to meet the people who write for EETimes face-to-face. There are a lot of really talented people that are writing for this site.
After the show was over, I once again returned to have a Sierra Mist with the other guys and say my goodbyes. I got on the red-eye flight to Chicago with podcaster Chris Gammell. When I arrived in Chicago, I assumed that my traveling troubles were over, but once again I had spoken too soon. My flight home had been canceled, and the best the airline said it could do was take us home the following day. It is here that I met my last person from the conference, Nandu, who was also returning from San Jose. Nandu offered to share a rental car with me, so we ended up driving the five-hour trip back to Cincinnati.
To sum everything up, this was a great adventure. I met some wonderful people from all over the world. I look forward to cultivating these friendships and seeing them again at next year's show. Yes, despite all the travails, I am still looking forward to attending EELive! again next year.