(Editor's note: Check out TechOnline's Fundamentals of Electronics series of online courses that teach basic theory in many electronics topics.)
When I was a junior intern in the late 1970s, I once asked a senior mentor to tell me the secret of his great success as an engineer. After a brief moment of introspection, he replied, "Get the fundamentals."
That's all he said! I'm sure the puzzled look on my face was rather amusing, as I was expecting something more akin to a lengthy mystical mantra from a Jedi master.
Looking back over the last 30 years, I can honestly say that it was the best career advice I ever got. Once you truly understand the fundamentals of any technical topic, your potential to unlock the universe is unlimited!
Today, many educational institutions tout the "hands-on" emphasis of their technical curricula. While I generally support this approach, I am growing more concerned that instruction on engineering fundamentals
is being sacrificed on the altar of more glamorous "hands-on" experience.
My perspective on this has evolved over the last decade of teaching motor control seminars for Freescale Semiconductor. During this time, I have encountered many engineers who are trying to design motor-control
systems, but struggle because they don't truly understand the engineering fundamentals involved with motor control. It's kind of like trying to build a house. You can't lay the bricks for the second story until the bricks for the first story are solidly in place. In areas
where the fundamental foundation is missing, learning becomes more of an attempt at memorization than an exercise in inductive reasoning.
Emphasizing the fundamentals of motor control, and explaining them using common everyday examples, constitute the centerpiece of my motor control seminars. Judging by the feedback forms, it seems to be
working! It's especially gratifying to see the wide-eyed look of excitement on the face of an engineer when they finally grasp that missing fundamental piece required to understand a particular topic!
Unfortunately, the seminar venue only allows me to reach a few people in a given city, at a given time. But with the Web, I can virtually reach anybody, anywhere, at any time! (People a lot smarter than me figured this out a long time ago, but you can imagine the wide-eyed
look of excitement on my face when I finally got it!) As a result, I am now converting all my motor-control seminar material into video modules that can be posted on the Web.
(Editor's note: watch this blog for more information on Motor Control video modules as they get posted.)
David Wilson is a motion products specialist (and fundamentals advocate) for Freescale Semiconductor. He received a BSEE degree from John Brown University in 1979, and MSEE degree in 1986 from the
University of Wisconsin. For the past 30 years, he's held various positions working on projects ranging from nuclear pulse processing to artificial intelligence pattern recognition.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.