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Hydrogen Properties for Energy Research (HYPER) Laboratory Cool. Fuel.

Buyer vs. Builder

Buyer from Aerospace Company A walks into a room of potential suppliers and says, “The only thing I care about is how cheap you can meet spec.”

Builder from Aerospace Company B walks in later and says, “We want to be able to rely on you and you to rely on us. What’s the price you need to be able to provide reliable parts that keep us competitive for the long haul?”

Being the builder is about much more than buying parts, managing a budget, and building components. You’re building confidence in your suppliers, sponsors, and team-members that can’t be bought. You’re building relationships that … » More …

Recorder vs. Reporter

A ritual hazing practice in many organizations (including department meetings) is to ask the newest person in the room to “take the minutes”, “secretary” is too loaded of a term now, so we call them a recorder:



12 years ago I thought I was novel for typing meeting minutes in an e-mail window in real time and sending to the team at the close of the meeting. After awhile though I realized that nobody went back and read the minutes. Thank goodness they didn’t! My recording was sloppy relative to the free audio recorder apps on most cellphones nowadays.

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Leader vs. Liaison

It’s always gone without saying that the first step in team formation is to identify a leader. That’s why the team member roles we defined in ME 316 last Wednesday caught many off guard. We defined roles of Builder, Compliance, Reporter, Theory, and Liaison for each team. Note no “Leader.”

Some of you that know my background are immediately saying, “But Jake, you’re being a hypocrite, you led almost every team you’ve been on since elementary school.” While that’s mostly true, and I’ve won with more teams than not, for some reason, I stopped seeking leadership positions after high school. Why I stopped when I … » More …

My opinion on great AND informative poster design

I was a first year Ph.D. student when I created my first original research poster. In engineering we’re always surrounded by these posters attempting to communicate our research as they are akin to wallpaper in the common hallways. That’s why I spent way too much time on it. I was so frustrated with how typical and common the legalistic design meme of these posters was that I wanted to break the mold. I wanted to create a visual that would stop people in their tracks outside the lab and stand alone, i.e. would tell the story without … » More …

Evolving Professionalism in Engineering Education

Last Friday in my Systems Design class something incredibly wonderful emerged from the students. It was the first time I’d observed this in an engineering course. In short, it was professionalism– an evolved form of professionalism that I will attempt to describe here. But first, some definitions for context.

For many years I taught “professionalism” in Experimental Design via the standard US-Engineering way, starting with the Attributes of a Profession:

Work that requires sophisticated skills, the use of judgement, and the exercise of discretion. Also, the work is not routine or capable of being mechanized.
Membership in the profession requires extensive formal education, not … » More …

Work flow identification

We ran an interesting experiment in the HYPER lab the other day. The following picture was handed to all of the lab members and they were asked to:

Identify which diagram best describes how work/tasks/information flows in the lab (dots are people, arrows are flows).
Identify which diagram best describes how things should ideally flow.

The exercise helped change how we communicate. We now have a weekly member lunch and activity on the blog has increased. I’ll leave you to decide on how the image relates to spiral memes.

Lab organization exercise» More …

3 Rules for Engineering Communication

What if I told you that the key to effective communication lies in following just three simple rules? I’ve found that the following three rules tend to correct the majority of engineering communication problems, and indicate when I consume information:




I haven’t seen these rules elsewhere, so let’s expand on each. I’m going to use the Spiral v-Meme value taxonomy to apply each rule on many value levels.

1) Relevancy — to the audience. Indicators of relevance depend on audience and include one or more (if not all) of the following:

Story/fable approach (“…and that’s why we no longer … » More …