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EREBUS0
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
EREBUS0   2/1/2012 10:20:10 PM
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The question depends upon what type of engineer you are dealing with. EE should know EE things, SE should know softwre things, and CE should know civil engineering things. So you really have to put this question in context. As a systems engineer, I could answer correctly on a wide range of engineerng topics that are not part of any particular engineering field. Plus good engineers, are also knowledgable on any engineering discipline that interacts with their field.

WKetel
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
WKetel   2/3/2012 8:21:24 PM
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In one job interview the interviewer sketched the symbol for a 4-way 2 position valve and asked if I understood what it was. I was able to explain in more detail than he had been expecting. Not bad for an EE? My goal has been to learn a lot about everything related to the work that I do, which has been valuable over the years. I have not figured out the answer about the cream and coffee, but any explanation would be interesting.

zeeglen
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
zeeglen   2/1/2012 11:05:55 PM
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Good observation, Bill, begs another question - How many hiring managers (while choosing among a stack of engineering resumes) could answer these?

old account Frank Eory
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
old account Frank Eory   2/1/2012 11:55:57 PM
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Even among EEs, there is so much specialization, it would be easy to stump a "real" engineer with questions that are outside of his area of expertise. Ask a digital EE, even a very talented one, to explain the difference between S11, S12, S21 and S22 and you may get a vague answer like "I learned about that in school a long time ago but I never had to use them." Ask an RF guy, or a data converter designer to explain how a cache memory controller works and you may get a similar "huh?" kind of blank stare...

BicycleBill
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
BicycleBill   2/2/2012 12:03:44 AM
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That's the challenge: to find a question that just about any EE would know the answer to--but fakers wouldn't! I once read a mystery story--don't remember by whom--where the detective figured out the nature of the murderer by a crossword puzzle partially filled in that he left-behind; the detective figured out that the murderer "hung around" with chess players but did not actually play, because he filled in an item about way the game is played, but not one related to board set-up: that the white square is positioned to the right-hand corner of the board--which is something every player knows, but is never spoken about, no need to.

SteveD_Aus
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
SteveD_Aus   2/8/2012 10:55:39 PM
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Sounds like one of the works of Donald Sobol. I remember reading his "Encyclopedia Brown" series at high school. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_J._Sobol

David Ashton
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
David Ashton   2/2/2012 1:57:43 AM
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I once read an article about how to make a set of cufflinks from a pair of old blown 2N3055 transistors. The object being that anyone who recognised them would probably start a conversation. But then how many new engineers would know the 2N3055 these days? (And how many would wear cufflinks??)

larsen
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
larsen   2/2/2012 8:52:20 AM
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and how many would need to know about 2n3055

cdhmanning
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
cdhmanning   2/10/2012 1:20:39 AM
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I made my sister a set of ear rings using dead EPROM micros.

LiketoBike
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
LiketoBike   2/2/2012 2:06:35 PM
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Well, I've used 2N3055s...but I try to avoid cufflinks :-)

W1PK
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
W1PK   2/7/2012 4:59:44 PM
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I try to avoid 2N3055s. The beta curve is lousy.

Hughston
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Hughston   2/14/2012 7:18:01 PM
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A good question to ask an analog engineer would be about the beta curve.

anon9303122
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
anon9303122   2/2/2012 8:07:27 PM
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Isn't a TO-3 case a little large for cufflinks? I like the old op amps in the cans.

David Ashton
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
David Ashton   2/3/2012 10:32:57 PM
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I remember reading that story and thinking TO-3 cases would be a bit too ostentatious, maybe 2N3054's (TO-66) would be better. The 2N3053 was in the small can (TO-39 for transistors, TO-5 for ICs with 8 leads). I've got a bunch of 709's, 741's and even 555's in the old TO-5 cans if you'd like some?? :-)

krwada
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
krwada   2/8/2012 6:45:49 PM
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Real men wear TO3 cases ... as earrings! Arrgh Matey!

DAH2136
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
DAH2136   2/7/2012 4:43:20 PM
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Nowadays you'd have to implement the thing as a piercing.

zeeglen
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
zeeglen   2/8/2012 11:22:14 PM
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As a kid I hacksawed the lid off a 2N3055 and was amazed to see that shining a light on the innards would cause about 5 mA to flow from a junction. My first intro to photoelectric.

Rubberman
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Rubberman   2/9/2012 6:45:15 PM
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Or how many of us remember the Signetics April Fool ad for a "write-only" memory chip, complete with schematic - the drain was a dripping water tap! :-)

BradDavis
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
BradDavis   2/2/2012 3:51:59 AM
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How about asking about the effect of temperature on some key design parameters? Often gets beyond textbook.

Robotics Developer
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Robotics Developer   2/6/2012 2:32:50 AM
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Consider asking a EE what the effect on a resistor that temperature has or on a transistor. I do wonder how many EE grads have grounding in the basic physics of the devices. What is the effect on CMOS devices of temp/voltage?

afton
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
afton   2/2/2012 7:57:03 AM
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I was very encouraged to find this site. I wanted to thank you for this special read. I definitely savored every little bit of it. http://www.travelbirdcars.co.uk/heathrow-minicab

Fabio007
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Fabio007   2/2/2012 8:01:41 AM
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Suggestion for a power engineer: Draw a standard simple single-phase rectifier bridge comprised of a 4-diode bridge and DC capacitor. The AC feed to this is (lethal) mains supply, and the DC load is a resistor, the capacitor is sized such that voltage ripple is small. Ask them to draw waveforms in correct time relation of: AC voltage, current in the AC lines, current in the capacitor, voltage and current in the load resistor, and voltage and current for ONE diode. Then tell them: OK, now you have this set-up operating on your test-bench, and you want to look at the voltage across the load resistor. The test bench has a standard scope - show how you would set up the test bench to do this. (You could say "mains-powered scope" but that could be giving too much away, best to see if they ask for clarification first - better yet, prepare the drawing showing a scope with a mains lead attached.) You would be amazed at how many power engineers think that it is OK to connect the earth of the scope probe directly to the negative output of said rectifier, without considering whether either the rectifier or the scope should be powered from a mains isolation transformer. Then if they do mention "oh, you need a mains isolation transformer" the next question is: OK, the test bench has one of those; now where is the best (safest) place to put it, on the supply to the rectifier or the scope?" For those that know their stuff, there is only one answer... and it could mean the difference between life and death....

zeeglen
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
zeeglen   2/2/2012 3:29:17 PM
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At one job interview I was asked to the lab to demonstrate I could use a current probe and digital storage scope to measure the startup current surge of a piece of equipment. Did that easily, but still no job. Another interview I was drawn a diagram of RF amplifiers, attenuators, splitters and was asked to determine the final output with 10 dBm input. The interviewer did not agree with my answer, he had forgotten that a 2 way power splitter is -3 dB, not -6 dB. After we discussed his error he said "Do you realize how many candidates cannot do this?" Got the job.

LiketoBike
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
LiketoBike   2/3/2012 1:45:09 PM
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That is a very good one. As an RF (particularly PA) guy, I see that a lot. Couplers, dividers, etc really tease out a person's understanding of systems issues, dB/dBm, and conservation of power :-)

larsen
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
larsen   2/2/2012 8:50:20 AM
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What about this one: You like milk and sugar in your coffee. Should you put milk in your coffee before stirring or after stirring if you want to have the hottest drink? This system can be described by overwhelming equations but a simple knowledge about heat transfer should be all you need to answer... Regards Henning

palf
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
palf   2/3/2012 6:52:04 AM
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I actually think about the answer to this when making coffee :) However, I can't think of an EE or CE job where Newton's Law of Cooling would predispose a candidate to be a better engineer. On the other hand, engineers with physics degrees aren't too shabby. And I confess bias on this statement!

gsdg90
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
gsdg90   2/3/2012 4:30:32 PM
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Should we consider the extra stirring required due to the change in solubility at the lower temperature or is the "correct" answer based solely on the conjecture that the problem is 100% bounded by a simple thermodynamics model? If the candidate does approach the problem outside the bounds of your conjectured correct answer, is he then deemed incompetent?

larsen
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
larsen   2/5/2012 1:36:44 AM
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Any arguments are good as long as the candidate can justify them. Taking such considerations as the solubility into account tells a lot about the candidates understanding of physical phenomenons. However on the other hand, in engineering it is often much better to simplify a problem as much as possible without significantly change of the result. I.e. in this case ignore the solubility issue and assume same stirring time. After all, how can you tell if the sugar is actually dissolved or not when the coffee is strong - let alone with milk? But bottom line: any assumption goes if justified by arguments. The arguments tells as much about the candidate as the result. henning

K1200LT Rider
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
K1200LT Rider   2/4/2012 2:37:27 AM
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I would think that you put the milk in first so that the overall liquid temperature is lowered up front, thus lowering the heat loss through the cup surface (for a short time) and conduction through the spoon. I'm geeky enough that I've actually thought about this when fixing my coffee in the morning. I can't even talk to my wife about details like this because she sometimes thinks I'm half-looney. :-]

David Ashton
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
David Ashton   2/4/2012 3:42:31 AM
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Maybe that's a good way to do it: "What does your wife think about engineering?" "She thinks I'm half looney...." "Right, you're hired!!"

zeeglen
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
zeeglen   2/5/2012 4:38:52 AM
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"Mine thinks I'm 3/4 loony" - Good, we'll make you the boss. Can you cook when you're not working in the lab?"

David Ashton
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
David Ashton   2/5/2012 5:16:56 AM
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As the old saying goes....."You don't have to be mad to work here....but it helps...."

zeeglen
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
zeeglen   2/9/2012 4:52:59 AM
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something is wrong here - I did not post this message- is there a hacker in the house?

mr_bandit
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
mr_bandit   2/9/2012 3:11:17 AM
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It took my wife about 5 years to really grok the implications of being married to an engineer. She will still look at me and proclaim "You are a freak of Nature". but the bright side is I generally don't do things that make her mad. She was a Marine. Helps that I make her laugh. My Christmas present to her this year is going to be a WizBang Chicken Plucker. She is always mellow after slaughtering 40..50 chickens, but the plucking is the downside.

Hughston
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Hughston   2/14/2012 7:23:38 PM
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No, that was called the coffee problem in differential equations. Let the coffee cool first before putting in the milk. The coffee will cool down faster when the temperature difference to the rest of the environment is greater. Then add the milk.

larsen
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
larsen   2/15/2012 1:31:25 AM
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So to have the coldest coffee: Add milk late, and vice-versa. It assumes that the milk is _colder_ than the coffee! It's not a caffe-latte for instance, where this assumption would not necessarily be true.

Hughston
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Hughston   2/29/2012 2:43:40 PM
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No such thing in the 70s. This was in the pre-caffe-latte days.

Fabio007
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Fabio007   2/2/2012 9:09:07 AM
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For a embedded systems designer (who should know both analog and digital): Question: we have several analog signals coming in to an analog MUX, and considering the signal paths and the MUX itself, the effective signal impedance at the output of the MUX is 1kohms. We need to acquire the MUX output with a 10-bit A to D. The input to the sample-and-hold has capacitance of 100pF. What is the fastest sample rate to ensure accuracy of better than 1/2 lsb? I've had answers like "oh, that's easy, that's just the Nyquist rate, twice the frequency of highest frequency the signal contains", or "There's no limit, just whatever speed the AD can handle". The right answer can be obtained without a calculator or even pencil and paper. Then ask them to draw a typical A/D front end, showing analog signals, analog MUX, S+H, A/D, showing how they would connect the analog ground, and digital grounds to the MUX select pins, and ask what effect there would be if some of the current going to the MUX select pins also flowed in part of the analog gnd... the fun really starts then...!

o2engineer
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o2engineer   2/2/2012 7:21:01 PM
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If I understand this correctly its essentially a voltage divider circuit, where you want Vcap to be within 10^2 / 2 of Vsig. Vcap / Vsig = 1 / sqrt(1+(2*pi*f*C)^2).. Seems like a pencil would come in handy.. Unless I'm totally mistaken

PatrickY0
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
PatrickY0   2/3/2012 8:45:30 PM
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Maybe I'm missing something, but I think what Fabio007 is looking for in part is the settling time of an RC system: if your input impedance is R, how long before the voltage across the holding capacitor C stabilizes. In the instance above, the time constant of the system is R*C = 100ns. An RC system is generally considered settled at 5*tau (98.2% charged - had to look up the percentage). You would have to wait at least 500ns per sample, plus corrections for 1/2 lsb based on the ADC, plus ADC calculation time. On a per-channel basis, switching and settling time of the MUX comes into play.

Fabio007
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Fabio007   2/5/2012 9:02:14 AM
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Correct PatrickYO, I was looking for the candidates understanding of "settling time"; nothing to do with Nyquist rates... The aim is to tease out the candidates practical understanding of how signals can be acquired accurately, and many engineers simply do not understand the basics - that signals have impedance, that capacitors need time to charge/discharge, and that careful attention to analog signal paths (and a host of other practical issues!) is required before even a 16bit ADCs can be used to its full accuracy with any confidence, let alone these 24-bit wonders...! For a 10bit ADC, the least sig bit represents 1x10E-03 (actually, 1/1024) of the FSD of the signal. So, the voltage on the 100pF cap must get to 0.999 of its final value. Some basic math shows that this requires a time of about 7 taus (RC time constants), which is 7 x 100ns in this case. Perhaps one can argue that knowing that a 10bit DAC needs 7 taus of setting time is a bit specialised; I mean, that number is very specific to 10-bit DACs, of course. However, 10-bit ADCs are very common, and I would expect an engineer involved in any form of signal interfacing to know this to within +/- 1 tau.

mvos
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
mvos   2/2/2012 10:16:15 AM
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Does asking anyone to provide the solution to a polynomial (given or presumed) make them an EE or an old Calculator? That capital C indicates ProNown.

RaviShankar
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
RaviShankar   2/2/2012 11:44:10 AM
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One of my favourite questions which really seemed to work everytime was "Why is the power supply ever VCC ?"

RaviShankar
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
RaviShankar   2/2/2012 11:45:18 AM
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Errata read the question as "Why is the power supply ever VCC ?"

RaviShankar
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
RaviShankar   2/2/2012 11:46:17 AM
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Ever called VCC

John R. Strohm
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
John R. Strohm   2/6/2012 8:00:04 PM
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Collector common voltage. Left over from TTL specs, I think.

seaEE
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
seaEE   2/11/2012 4:56:18 AM
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This discussion no VCC and also the one on anode and cathode brings up something I've dwelled on in the past. Often when one is in school, such terms will be presented but not always explained as to why the word itself is used and what its significance is. This can unfortunately make the study of engineering seem much more mysterious than it really should be. A good engineering education should include the explanation of various words and abbreviations and their origins.

Hughston
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Hughston   2/29/2012 2:46:56 PM
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Or it could have been common cathode from the tube days.

Fabio007
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Fabio007   2/16/2012 7:32:37 AM
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@seaEE: Yes I Completely agree, having an understanding of why certain terms are used makes it clearer, and easier to remember, and actually puts a human story to the learning. The story of how the transistor got its name, for instance: "transistor" comes from "transconductance-varistor", refer here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/johngineer/6116137343/sizes/o/in/photostream/ Re: VCC: I learned that the "cc" sub-script for positive supply rails meant "collector-collector" rather than "common-collector", for the same reason that negative rails had sub-script "ee" for "emitter-emitter" ie: just for emphasis... maybe others have different views about this..??

K1200LT Rider
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
K1200LT Rider   2/16/2012 1:04:54 PM
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Asking the history or makeup of certain terms might be going a bit far. I've never heard of where "ee" or "cc" comes from (at least I can't remember). And, even though I know pretty well how transistors work, I would have never remembered how the word "transistor" evolved.

David Ashton
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
David Ashton   3/1/2012 9:35:24 PM
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Didn't the C and E come from Collector and Emitter in transistor circuits?

Urb Anwriter
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Urb Anwriter   2/2/2012 3:54:44 PM
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The problem with 'questions that a real engineer would know the answers to' is this: I'm most emphatically NOT an engineer, damn, I can hardly keep pico, femto, nano and nono farads straight - I'm a hobbyist. But I know the answers (yes, without cheating) to the 'DIP' problem, 0 = 32 and 212 = 100, -40 = -40. So there's some right, right off the bat. The 'high voltage' question I'm guessing is lower current, reduced copper required, lower heat (and I'm hoping that whoever corrects me is polite) and the most important question, the difference between static and dynamic ram? The static ram is dead, the dynamic ram is frolicking with the sheep.

BicycleBill
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
BicycleBill   2/2/2012 4:54:54 PM
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We all know that no test is perfect, we're just looking for a level-of-confidence assessment here!

EDA360 Insider
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
EDA360 Insider   2/2/2012 5:26:39 PM
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Here's a no-fail question is all you want is to separate the engineers from the others: "Are you an engineer?"

Tloose
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Tloose   2/2/2012 8:03:49 PM
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I had an interviewer ask me to picture a cube of wood painted on all sides, cut three times through each face (like a Rubik's Cube). How many of the resulting pieces are painted on two sides? Three sides? Engineers find it difficult to believe that non-engineers have difficulty visualizing things like this.

pmartel
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
pmartel   2/3/2012 5:18:35 PM
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Well, usually there are four cuts through each face, two vertical and two horizontal. Six total cuts to make a (3x3x3) Rubik's cube.

Brian.Walker
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Brian.Walker   2/2/2012 8:20:59 PM
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I have my standard obscure interview question that candidates answer to varying degrees of accuracy. But, I am more interested in how they answer than what they answer. Are they curious? Do they approach it as a challenge or a threat? Do they ask questions? Are they working the problem or do they go for the quick answer? We can train them in what they need to know but they will be lost if they do not know how to figure it out.

gkidwell
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
gkidwell   2/2/2012 8:56:29 PM
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for PCB design engineers, I ask them to give me a good layer stackup. There is no best answer but what they come up with reveals a lot.

Hughston
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Hughston   2/29/2012 2:50:53 PM
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That's a good hardware engineer design question. You could come up with those types of questions for RF, digital and analog engineers. These days, if the board design is no good, it's not going to work.

gkidwell
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
gkidwell   2/2/2012 9:01:43 PM
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Another good question for high speed digital guys, got this from Dr Bogatin... Lets say we have a 50 ohm coax cable stretched between earth and the moon. It is open on both ends. If you put a standard ohmmeter between the two conductors at one end what would you measure? This reveals their understanding of transmission lines, and what impedance really is.

zeeglen
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
zeeglen   2/3/2012 12:04:18 AM
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Another good one! Um, about 2 seconds reading 50 ohms, then open when the reflected round trip charge returns. Long ago a customer tried to return a length of RG8 to a Heathkit store (one of my first jobs) because it did not measure 50 ohms on his ohmeter. It took a bit of explaining, just like having to rectify another customer's firm belief that LSB and USB (upper sideband, not universal serial bus) signals were generated by a diode clipping the negative or positive peaks from the RF signal. It takes all kinds...

zeeglen
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
zeeglen   2/3/2012 12:32:51 AM
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Oops, better make that 3 to 4 seconds, velocity factor in standard coax is generally about 60% of the speed of light.

David Ashton
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
David Ashton   2/3/2012 12:33:49 AM
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Wouldn't it theoretically go up and down a bit while the signal reflects back and forth and eventually attenuates itself down to nothing? I guess that would depend on the impedance of your meter too...? Ya gotta love those customers....

zeeglen
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
zeeglen   2/3/2012 1:20:36 AM
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Right you are, but am conveniently neglecting attenuation and the resistance of the copper and making assumptions of the "ideal lossless" transmission line. So, assume a center superconductor and outer cylindrical superconductor with zero ohms resistance, and assume zero dielectric absorption. And assume the meter has 50 ohms series impedance (cancelled in its reading) to terminate the reflection. But even if the meter looked high impedance, the energy being reflected is from the original pulse, so the meter should not respond. (My head is beginning to hurt...) All these assumes, u know what that makes me? :) Also assume the cable is weightless, otherwise could not support its own weight of almost 400 kilometers. Now to get a bit more serious, I think the meter reading would very quickly rise over time due to the copper resistance of a real cable. I remember seeing that effect with TDR measurements on pcb traces, the longer the length the impedance increased by a few ohms. Is a very interesting question for a job interview or discussion over pints.

zeeglen
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
zeeglen   2/3/2012 1:21:31 AM
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400,000 kilometers

David Ashton
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
David Ashton   2/3/2012 5:00:11 AM
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Yep, there's a lot of IFs. As you say, a few beers would help sort those out :-)

Jon M. Kelley
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Jon M. Kelley   2/17/2012 7:08:38 PM
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Sorry, but you just described a high voltage power source. A standard ohmmeter would vaporize on contact! Lookup discussions of "Tethers in Space Handbook" (NASA & Smithsonian). The first cable I designed for a vacuum chamber got laughed at (thought not meanly) because MY design called for standard Cadmium plated backshells on the connectors. How many engineers would know that in a vacuum, Cadmium evaporates, and then plates out on cooler surfaces. In this instance it would have been the cooled IR sensor we were to test.

Hughston
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Hughston   2/29/2012 2:52:18 PM
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You also can't use teflon insulation in space. It degrades.

mr_bandit
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
mr_bandit   2/3/2012 12:56:22 AM
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What toys did you play with as a kid? If the answer is legos, Erector set (Meccano), or anything else of similar nature - yep, they is an engineer. I have 35 years in the biz, been an embedded systems engineer for the last 20+, but only play EE on TV. But - I can tell EE's what I need and how I want the device controlled. Actually, I would ask about their pet peeves - the bad design decisions and why they are bad and why they are unhappy. (I have some choice words about status bits that clear when you read them if I ever meet the guy who designed the 16550. Grrrrr.)

zeeglen
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
zeeglen   2/3/2012 3:11:16 AM
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Good idea, Bandit. Most will talk forever about their (or others') successes, but an important factor is failure and what was learned from it, mainly to never make that same mistake again.

mr_bandit
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
mr_bandit   2/4/2012 3:24:19 AM
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Talking about one's mistakes is a useful thing (if not abused for making the mistake - a separate and long rant). My point is: as engineers, we have to deal with brain-damaged decisions by other engineers (granted that they are either under pressure from management, or do not understand the person who will be using their design, or the design is mis-applied.) As someone who has lots of years writing device drivers, I have seen a lot of EE-driven designs that are *very* difficult to control. My simple, personal example is status registers that clear themselves when you read them. See the 16550 UART. I want to be able to *explicitly* clear the status bits. Yes, there is a fairly simple work-around, but there are plenty of examples that cause me to desire that a device should be designed, or at least spec'd, by the poor schmuck that has to write the driver. Simply put, if you have a good example of a brain-damaged design, you have experience to be a "real engineer".

zhgreader
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
zhgreader   2/3/2012 2:46:11 PM
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in the "glory days" of DIP ICs, we would take an unmarked IC, place it on a table, ask the person to look at it, and then close his or her eyes for a few seconds. We'd rotate the package 180°, then ask them to open their eyes and tell us if they saw anything different about it. If they said "no", we knew they weren't a real EE rediculous test.

zhgreader
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
zhgreader   2/3/2012 2:52:41 PM
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you can even ask these question which is better than your one: resistor, color, red green yellow and gold. capacitor, 104, 101, how much? How much is this chip's fun out..... what is fuzzy control:) here you are.

David Ashton
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
David Ashton   2/3/2012 10:39:48 PM
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Not to be pedantic, but a 250K 5% resistor would be unusual?

tcousins
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
tcousins   3/1/2012 8:58:25 PM
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Simply ask them to tell you the color code, it's surprising how many don't know that.

Jay Sinnett
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Jay Sinnett   2/3/2012 7:13:14 PM
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I once interviewed for a job where one of the questions was "what's two to the twelfth power?" I answered so fast and so matter-of-fact that the interviewer did a double take and paused a second to comprehend what had just happened. Heck, I knew the answer to that as well as I knew my own name. But I'll grant that's a "niche" test, not a universal one. More generally, I think engineers NOTICE things in their environment: odd mechanical noises, a wobbly chair, a clock that's stopped. I once was walking across an unfamiliar college campus and a professor happened to walk by in the opposite direction. He stopped and introduced himself - very much the "people person" - and immediately said "you're an engineer, aren't you." I don't know all the clues he used, but I wish I did.

mr_bandit
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
mr_bandit   2/3/2012 7:45:41 PM
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I'm sure the pocket protector with 8 different colored pens + mechanical pencil and separate eraser wasn't a clue :^) ... I was going to lunch with a friend I was working with. As we left the building, he took off his badge to "de-nerd himself." When I pointed out the pocket protector, HP calculator on the belt, etc, he looked abashed, and gave up on the task. I was in a Costco standing in line at the pharmacy, and lifted the plastic pipe protector (there to guard the corner of the wall). A woman in line said "You must be an engineer", and I asked her what the clue was. She said she was a realtor, and could always spot the engineers, because they looked under the sinks at the plumbing, and no other group (other than plumbers) did so. Two engineering students meet up on campus. One had a new bike. The other commented on it, and the first recounted how a gal had ridden up on the bike, got off, took off her clothes, and said "You can have anything you want." The other replied "Good choice, the clothes wouldn't fit."

jimfordbroadcom
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
jimfordbroadcom   2/3/2012 7:26:45 PM
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I once interviewed at a company who gave a test with some really basic analog and digital stuff on it. They apologized for insulting my intelligence and said that originally it was their technician test, but they started using it as an engineer weed-out test. I said it was really easy, but I didn't have a clue about the C programming language part (I'm a hardware guy). Proves the assertion that very competent engineers may not know anything about stuff outside their area of specialty. They didn't offer me a job, and later I found out it was a lousy place to work, and I was glad they didn't!

Erickk
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Erickk   2/3/2012 7:27:51 PM
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When I was about 6 years old, my father (an EE) asked me to write a description of how a flashlight works. (This was decades before LEDs-- just a tungsten lamp, dry cells, and switch.) He would then ask candidates the same question, and use my paper as the standard by which their replys were graded. Of course, any engineer knows how a flashlight works. But surprisingly few are capable of explaining it coherently and simply, and their ability to do so tells a lot about their engineering skills, of which communication is one of the most important. It proved a quite effective test.

JamesCarpenter
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
JamesCarpenter   2/3/2012 7:55:11 PM
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How about "What are your hobbies?"

uncommon emitter
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
uncommon emitter   2/3/2012 7:55:30 PM
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The qu

tijet
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
tijet   2/3/2012 9:14:31 PM
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With a Math background (like many in SE) i find the Monty Hall problem (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_Hall_problem) exquisitely sensitive and definitive in identifying technical poseurs. Even if a candidate initially gives the intuitive (wrong) answer, after the correct solution is explained only those incapable of "thinking like an engineer" continue to insist on "going with their gut", and sticking with their original decision.

David Ashton
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
David Ashton   2/3/2012 10:43:43 PM
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The link doesn't work, this should with luck: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_Hall_problem I find if you put links in the text they go wrong, if you put them on a separate line with blank line above and below, they work. Lets see if I'm right.....

tijet
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
tijet   2/3/2012 10:57:50 PM
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Thanks much for the URL fixup . . .

Stephen.Sywak
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Stephen.Sywak   2/3/2012 11:39:08 PM
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My favorite quiz question is this: Given two glasses of equal volume, containing different (though miscible) liquids (though it could be fine powders, too): Take a teaspoon of "A" and place it in "B." Stir well. Then take a teaspoon from "B" (which has a little "A" in it), and put it back in "A." Here's the question: Is there more "A" in glass "B," or more "B" in glass "A"? And why? There are a number of ways to solve this. Pure algebra, by using coarse examples ("Let's say I have 1,000 colored pebbles in each glass..."), and (my favorite) an elegant logic-based solution. Again, it's good if they get it right, but it's a way to see how they work through problems.

StevenHunter
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
StevenHunter   2/8/2012 4:24:54 PM
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There is insufficient information to give an answer. The question states that the glasses are equal volume, but it doesn't state how full each one is.

mosspp
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
mosspp   2/4/2012 12:06:37 AM
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This one should work with any engineering discipline: Set an 12 ounce glass containing 6 ounces of water on the table and ask the interviewee to describe it. The liberal arts optimist will say it is a half-full glass of water. The liberal arts pessimist will say it is a half-empty glass of water. The engineer will say that the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

Duane Benson
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Duane Benson   2/9/2012 10:15:06 PM
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Not twice, because the required headroom to adequately prevent spillage would be determined by the diameter of the opening and the motion of any movement. Certainly, though, it is overly large for its required task. On the other hand, the same engineer that would use a 10V capacitor in a 5V circuit might say that the glass is sized exactly at the capacity needed.

K1200LT Rider
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
K1200LT Rider   2/4/2012 2:45:18 AM
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Why not just ask them up front what area(s) of engineering they have experience in and/or are best at? Then throw the appropriate questions at them. Also, add a wide range of very easy questions just to see if they remember anything from school or have learned anything outside their (hopefully) strong areas.

hithesh
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
hithesh   2/4/2012 4:13:38 AM
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Don't burn yourself trying to come up with a technical question. Just ask the poseur, if he wants to be a designer or manager. You'd surely get Manager.

Logical Projects
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Logical Projects   2/4/2012 4:17:54 AM
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My favourite test for techs is a simple diagram of 4-20mA loop between two boxes. One containing the process indicator, the other the transmitter. Between them is a detachable cable. Each box has 24 screws to open. The candidate is asked to determine the fault- the customer is waiting. His virtual tool box contains anything he/she thinks he/she needs. I provide the results to his virtual tests. The experienced ones usually jump to ohming the cable because it is the highest probability, but they usually forget to test for shorts. Some can make a few tests before deciding to undo 24 screws to make a test they could have done from the cable connector. Many fail to ask if the power is on before tearing the system apart. Sadly, few have aced the test. Experience, knowledge, practical sense, and performance under pressure, all revealed from a excercise nearly as simple as a battery and light bulb.

Battar
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Battar   2/5/2012 11:49:56 AM
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1. The fuse test - A long time ago we used to give rercuits a 20mm glas fuse and ask them which end was the positive and which negative. If the recruit looked to see if it was marked, he failed (you'd be suprised how many...) 2. Draw a wiring diagram of a stairway light that can be switched on or off at either end of the stairway (you'd be suprised how many can't...)

sharps_eng
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
sharps_eng   2/5/2012 1:43:48 PM
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My thought process would be: 'This looks like a fuse, of course, but it might be a recent development in the field and they want to know if I am up-to-date. So I would look at it.' Engineers specifically do not think like con-men when dealing with people. They do, however, specifically learn not to be naive about trusting stuff that has been made by people. the physical world. In this case I would question my knowledge being current (it ages several times faster than I do). Being trusting with people or taking things literally, are characteristics of engineers (for better or worse) and testing for them isn't a negative. I also suspect I might look at the fuse anyway as I was thinking, simply because I always would look at something given to me in a test.

sharps_eng
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
sharps_eng   2/5/2012 1:45:46 PM
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delete phrase 'the physical world', a typo, sorry

sharps_eng
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
sharps_eng   2/5/2012 2:03:35 PM
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My standard analog test is a zener shunt regulator. A few can correctly solve for the ballast resistor, but how much more they can say about what is going on is very revealing. As a simple embodiment of non-linear resistance behaviour in a practical circuit it takes some beating. They tell me they never looked at a zener in the same way again. Next I would ask an candidate to explain what is actually going on in an inductor, and why we should care. More mechanically, it is always fun to ask how the energy is stored in a spinning flywheel. The better their maths, the harder it is to get the simple answer.

NBV83
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
NBV83   2/6/2012 8:33:34 AM
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Greetings from Denmark. As an EE I once had a MEMS course together with a group of physics students. During the lectures on simple electronics I was stumped at how little they actually knew about electrical networks. Filters were way out of their league, and we are talking about master students in their final year. So to identify a true EE I would simly ask for the expression for the 3dB frequency of a simple RC filter. That is something that every EE knows, no matter the specialisation.

Anonymouse1234567891011121314151617181920
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Anonymouse1234567891011121314151617181920   2/6/2012 1:06:55 PM
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I suggest picking questions from "Suddenly the Inventor Appeared". TRIZ questions tend to be good choices to see if people can think about things creatively.

dirk.bruere
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
dirk.bruere   2/7/2012 5:49:00 AM
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Ask them what Ohms Law is or why capacitors pass AC but not DC

sharps_eng
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
sharps_eng   2/7/2012 10:03:31 PM
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Have a small device on the table that isn't screwed together. Se how much time is spent looking inside, how long is spent operating it. Engineers are more interested in what us inside something than what it does. This assumes the device is a well-known gadget, not a functioning TriCorder!

DaveR1234
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
DaveR1234   2/8/2012 12:28:43 PM
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At a farewell lunch for the summer interns (all EEs) I went around the room and showed the symbol for a diode asking which was the anode. The answers were pretty much 50% correct.

zeeglen
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
zeeglen   2/8/2012 5:02:54 PM
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For hardware types ask them to draw a full wave bridge rectifier. At one place a recent-grad systems engineer was hired to do board repair. When asked to identify components, he said "I think those are resistors because they have colours on them." He lasted about a week.

David Ashton
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David Ashton   3/1/2012 9:38:15 PM
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With an answer like that I'm surprised he even got hired.....

cdhmanning
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cdhmanning   2/10/2012 1:30:32 AM
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I never remember which is the anode and which is the cathode. For the most part these are pretty arbitrary labels. What is important is knowing which way the current flows.

krwada
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krwada   2/10/2012 4:27:34 PM
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CATHODE == Cat on a hot tin roof... If you point the diode where the triangle points up; it looks like a roof. That side is the CATHODE. I always forget stuff too. This is why I use mnemonics and other stuff to help me remember.

zeeglen
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
zeeglen   2/10/2012 4:49:16 PM
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Anode is the Arrow end. Both begin with A. The cathode bar is marked as a band or dot on the diode body. So why are electrolytic capacitors marked on the negative lead and tantalum capacitors marked on the positive lead?

David Ashton
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David Ashton   2/15/2012 7:41:32 PM
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That's so interviewers can ask candidates about them and see if they know about them.....

windhorn
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
windhorn   2/15/2012 2:43:12 PM
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I have to imagine it's a vacuum tube -- I know which is the cathode of a vacuum tube diode, it's the one that's not the plate.

larryparts
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larryparts   2/8/2012 2:41:51 PM
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I simply ask if they own a soldering iron; the correlation seems pretty good.

StevenHunter
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
StevenHunter   2/8/2012 4:30:48 PM
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For a real engineer, ask how many soldering irons they own. We tend to upgrade from a simple one when we can afford it, but can't get rid of the old one because it may be useful for something. Then there are high power units for big jobs.

zeeglen
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
zeeglen   2/8/2012 4:57:55 PM
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Having 2 soldering irons and 2 hands makes it much easier to remove 2-terminal surface mount components.

mr_bandit
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
mr_bandit   2/9/2012 3:17:43 AM
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You have *two* hands? Hmm.. I can fix that. I have a chop saw around here somewhere.... (said the ambidextrous one-armed bandit who gets to do everything single-handed. hehe)

windhorn
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
windhorn   2/15/2012 2:50:15 PM
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I ask, "What have you built at home recently?" -- most good engineers are always building something, even if it's not technical. Also, "What books have you read recently?" If they give you a blank look, it's a bad sign IMHO. Engineers seem to prefer hard SF.

krwada
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
krwada   2/8/2012 6:39:04 PM
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In my opinion ... there are really no good tests. I have seen real EE-PhD fail miserably doing real projects with real consequences. I have seen technicians with just an AA degree literally pulling our collective buttocks out of the proverbial fire. I have also seen the inverse of this statement too. In general, I talk to the interviewee about the projects they have worked on. Most of my assessment is in general social in nature ... Things like body language, facial gestures and such. I can usually determine, within about 10-15 minutes or so whether or not a candidate, (employee or consultant), whether or not they will work our or be in over their heads. Many times, I remind folks that there are usually many many ways to solve a problem. Solving problems is primarily what we, as engineers are hired to do.

zeeglen
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
zeeglen   2/8/2012 11:48:33 PM
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A few more: Ask if they know what a junkbox is and how big is theirs? REAL engineers NEVER throw anything away (until their managers or wives demand them to). Ask why the B in dB is always printed in upper case, except on old Winamp skins. Ask them to correlate colour code to numbers, or at least recite the usual resistor colour code memorization crutch - "Bad Boys ... " etc Ask how to relate pico nano micro milli Kilo Mega And for the real old timers who used to smoke, can you light a cigarette from a soldering iron? (answer is yes, but it takes a while)

picowhat
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
picowhat   2/9/2012 1:34:39 PM
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Maybe the question could be ,what undesirable effects would occur if two paths in a PCB very close to each other carried a 1.High frequency signal (OR) 2.A low frequency signal (I was asked this and I couldnt answer)

juanito1st
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
juanito1st   2/9/2012 3:03:08 PM
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The question seems irrelevant. Define the set of skills you look for (technical and social), the level of experience and try to asses those. If you need soldering skills then you can just ask some one to show their skills. Most important is that the candidate can solve problems independently, in this case he will add value to the team.

Jongleur
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Jongleur   2/9/2012 4:15:05 PM
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I have hired quite a few SW engineers. My track record is pretty good. During the interview I try to get these 3 questions answered in this priority: Do you work hard? Do you get along with other people? Can you do the job? Engineering managers can focus so much on the technical, they hire people who don't work out. A good SW engineer can pick up a new tool or language in short order, but a lazy or obnoxious employee will upset the teamwork needed to get the job done.

emmsys
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
emmsys   2/9/2012 6:46:23 PM
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Finally a response that I agree with. I don't understand the chest-thumping going on here about trying to stump engineers. The thing I learned the most in university was how to learn. If someone tried to stump me with a riddle or old-school question about resistor colors I would not be interested in working there (too old school for me). EE has moved on. There's a lot more than PIC microcontrollers and color-coded resistors today. If anything, I would prefer an engineer who can learn something quickly and efficiently versus one that knows old basics. Seriously...a resistor color code chart question??? I haven't used one in over 10 years and I am in my early 30's. We have multimeters today that can read resistor values. Plus the resistors I have used in products are so small a sneeze would blow hundreds of them away.

zeeglen
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
zeeglen   2/9/2012 7:38:20 PM
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Having a good manager is good for morale. I made a caption for this month's Unicycle cartoon referring to a juggler that was inspired by a highly talented previous boss. He had been known as "Le Jongleur" at his previous position because he could juggle many projects at the same time. I don't suppose your initials happen to be YT by chance?

Jongleur
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Jongleur   2/9/2012 8:59:36 PM
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No, but I've been a card carrying member of the International Juggler's Association for many years. I'm not a serious unicyclist, just enough to juggle on, but I'll have to check out the cartoon. Unfortunately, my company only allows career path progression through management, fortunately excellent engineers who are poor managers are allowed to return to the technical side.

cdhmanning
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
cdhmanning   2/10/2012 1:26:51 AM
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I absolutely agree. Specific skills are easily learned. I look for the ability to learn. What I find most important is if the interviewee asks lots of probing questions and is not frightened to show their ignorance of specific details. That tells me they won't just sit in the corner stuck for hours. One of the best embedded software guys I ever hired had done business computing. He was a wizard at Visual basic and databases and had never programmed in C. Within a month he was reading schematics and writing interrupt service routines.

K1200LT Rider
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
K1200LT Rider   2/11/2012 2:58:49 AM
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Right... the interviewer has to be intelligent enough to pick out the right person for the position. It's as simple as that. If the interviewer isn't intelligent enough for that, there are other problems within the company.

BicycleBill
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
BicycleBill   2/11/2012 10:15:23 PM
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How about asking this "test" question: how would you try to figure out the dissipation (watts) of an adult?

parkgate
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
parkgate   2/13/2012 9:43:12 AM
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If you want to know if someone is an engineer ask how there last project went, what was good and what problems did they have. This is a very fair question for the candidate as they should be an expert in their last project and you won’t get false negatives with good engineers who just happen to have a blind spot on your special question. If you want to know if they are a good engineer then ask what problems other people on your project had and were they able to help them. Notice the questions do not use the word technical problems allowing someone to start talking about non-technical issues which may be where their comfort zone is. In theory someone could fake it by talking about the experiences of an engineer they knew. In practice if they are a real engineer there response should start an interesting conversation. I once interview someone who in response to these questions got into a rage about how other people on his project would not listen to him and they were doing it a wrong. He was clearly an engineer but not one I wanted to work with. The test for the new manage is much easier. Where you get a new manager and a suitable technical problem occurs, go into his office and describe the problem and ask if he has any suggestions. This is a good question because the problem could be hardware, software or a systems issue and anyone with a technical background should have something to say. If he looks at you with a blank face you’ve got problems. Terry

horacechan
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
horacechan   2/15/2012 12:35:21 AM
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The temperature question won't work. No one use Fahrenheit outside of US.

TFCSD
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
TFCSD   2/15/2012 5:12:31 AM
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Don't help him out, let him burn through several candidates as punishment for not knowing that, and the several other such questions he asks.

wave.forest
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
wave.forest   2/15/2012 12:50:02 PM
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"what's the fundamental difference between a static RAM and a dynamic RAM?" This is a good one!

seaEE
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
seaEE   2/18/2012 5:53:06 AM
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I'm trying to remember some of the questions I was asked when I was interviewed. One involved two capacitors connected by a switch, with a charge on one of them. What happens when the switch is closed? I believe it was a resistanceless circuit. ;) It was kind of a theoretical question. Another, I believe, involved the gain of a a differential amplifier created with bipolar transistors. Another involved a D flip-flop. I believe there was a simple op-amp question. I remember in the interview mentioning to the interviewer something about a pot-core transformer from our student project, and then wishing I hadn't because it turned out he was a magnetics expert! I'm not sure what other questions there were. Maybe there was a question regarding a resistor voltage divider.

NickAllen
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
NickAllen   2/22/2012 2:52:20 PM
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Toss a small dense object up a few feet. Ask where the point of maximum acceleration is. (while the object is in flight and ignoring air resistance). Propose a small metal box with two terminals accessible. There is either a 5V voltage source with a 1 ohm resistor in series or a 5A current source with a 1 ohm resistor in parallel inside. Can the candidate tell which it is?

K1200LT Rider
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re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
K1200LT Rider   2/22/2012 4:23:26 PM
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quote: ignoring air resistance... Also ignoring distance from the earth (or moon or whatever)? The gravitational pull decreases as the item moves further away from a large mass, so the acceleration would be greatest just before hitting the ground (assuming no gas resistance, of course).

Hughston
User Rank
CEO
re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
Hughston   2/29/2012 2:59:06 PM
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Somebody asked me once: Why are voltage regulators needed? It's a basic question but a good one.

BicycleBill
User Rank
Rookie
re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
BicycleBill   3/1/2012 9:17:27 PM
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Not sure I agree with the color code as a test--that's more a test of how long they have been around, and how good their memory still is! I've been in this business a long time, haven't needed to use or know the color code since way back when. So even a good, but newer, engineer would fail the color-code test, IMO.

perzackrisson
User Rank
Rookie
re: What's a good "real engineer" question?
perzackrisson   3/7/2012 5:21:39 PM
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If you have to make a quiz like that you are uncertain of your own skills rather than the others. Maybe you should read about the topic and learn. If you have god skill in a field you know if the other person is real or not. And you are not afraid to ask him to explain himself.



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