Doing our best
Two months ago I was at a WSU Women’s Basketball game with my 9 year old. Trailing most of the game, they fought back and missed a shot to tie at the buzzer.
9 year old: “What was the point? They lost anyways.”
Me: “They kept fighting until the end. They did their best. All you can do is your best.”
9 year old: “But how do I know if my best will be good enough? What if it isn’t?”
Me: “You don’t know. You can’t control whether your best is good enough. All you can control is whether you are doing your best. See … » More …Read Story
Cool Fuel: The class I needed
(This is a preprint of my column “Cool Fuel” for Cold Facts, the magazine of the Cryogenic Society of America.)
Flash back for a moment to that time in college when the professor had a typo on the assignment that caused you to lose a night in frustration. Anger, fatigue, and disrespect come to mind as you stormed to class the next day, handed in the assignment, and pointed out the mistake, now corrected. The professor, unmoved by the display, proceeds to pull up the original research publication on which the assignment was based, where the same error appears, an error, sans erratum, that … » More …Read Story
A key difference between science and engineering
… is practice.
We have a rule in the lab that any demonstration must first be trialed at least 5 times without error before being made public.
Why 5? 5 is a common threshold to begin using statistical methods to establish confidence (a.k.a. coverage factors and uncertainties).
In science, a single test can show a phenomena, verify a theory, and increase understanding of the Universe.
Engineering though, doesn’t care so much about understanding, as much as reproducibility. That that something, based on science, can be done over and over again, including by the public, without fail.
A key difference between science and engineering is practice. … » More …Read Story
Codependence in the development of people and teams
WSU may be the best developmental engineering program in the Western US. Nowhere else will you find a more rural Research 1 class institution that is typically viewed as the #2 school in the state. These two defining traits are directly aligned with our Land-Grant founding mission to bridge the technoeconomic urban versus rural divide. Where some schools just process through people who were already performers, WSU must reap the seeds we sow. Said simply, we’re going to do our best to develop you into your best. Since we’re the only liquid hydrogen research focused lab in US academia, everyone coming in the door … » More …Read Story
Some Suggestions and Feedback
I spent this morning combing through survey evaluations that included feedback from students, faculty, staff, external stakeholders, and administrators. It was amazing that many of the groups (save the administrative pool) demonstrated the same key feedback faults. Since quality feedback is essential for continuous improvement, I have some suggestions for you who are about to complete end-of-semester evaluations (only if you want them to have an impact and cause change):
Identify your goal — it’s often clear when someone is venting to try to help themselves feel better. But, I still believe that people feel better in the long run when they see decisive … » More …Read Story
Reasons to be thankful extracted from reference letters
Phrases I’m thankful for extracted from the reference letters I’ve written for the lab over the years:
“the quiet type that finishes everything they started.”
“I soon discovered that the majority of our recent hires applied because of them.”
“They quickly became a go-to member who could be relied upon.”
“They knew how to ask the types of questions that really engaged me.”
“Instead of asking for direction, they proposed paths and requested feedback.”
“They demonstrated continuous improvement by posting a plan, then improving on the plan for others.”
“They often saved time via quick calculations before heading to the lab.”
“Asked whether they are … » More …Read Story
Reflections on privilege, decadence, and my life to become an academic
It’s Labor Day weekend and the beginning of the third week of a quarantined fall semester due to COVID-19. Over the last couple of weeks our community was home to considerable displays of decadence — parties of 100s without social distancing or facial coverings. Now the National Guard is coming to town to help cope with the surge of COVID-19 cases. Pullman topped the New York Times list of highest percentage of COVID-19 cases per capita on Labor Day. I hear the increased frequency of the Medivac helicopter flying over my house transporting people to Spokane; reminding me of the day I nearly lost my … » More …Read Story
How we master engineering through daily practice
“How do you practice to perform as an engineer?” — HYPER lab mentor PK Northcutt II
The question was simple and sincere. But I (Jake Leachman) had no answer. I had been an ‘engineer’ for over a decade and was now teaching others to be ‘engineers’, but I had nothing. With a decade of experience practicing football, shotput and discus, Jazz trombone, you name it; I had practiced for decades but could not identify a singular act or trait in engineering that could be considered deliberate ‘practice’ as I had, well, practiced with these other professional performances. Sure I’d given students homework problems to do … » More …Read Story
Grit and Overcoming the Fear of Failure
By Yulia Gitter
As I sat on my back porch late one night chatting with some colleagues from the HYPER Lab, we somehow managed to come up on the topic of failure. This has always been a subject of interest to me because I have failed a lot in my life so far, but have always been able to bounce back quickly and thrive nonetheless. Knowing only a very small part of my colleague’s background, I just blurted out “have you ever failed at anything?” I meant no harm by the question but was genuinely curious as to what his response would be. … » More …Read Story
Core Tenets of Complex System Evolution from Thermodynamics
It was no less than Albert Einstein who said, “Classical Thermodynamics is the only physical theory of a universal nature in which, I am convinced that, within the framework of its basic concepts it will never be overthrown.” Around a century later this statement holds true; classical thermodynamics remains a cornerstone of physical law with physicists trying to resolve the predictions of quantum gravity with the laws of thermodynamics.
After over a decade of teaching thermodynamics and system design, it’s time to more formally merge these disparate fields. If the Laws of Thermodynamics do indeed apply to and govern everything in the physical universe, they … » More …Read Story