Monday, July 18, 2011

Engineering is All About Challenges.

The recent dust up over repealing the 2007 light bulb energy standards got me thinking. I’ve been in engineering for over 35 years now, but I really started that journey at age 6 watching the attempted launch of Vanguard TV3 on the family’s tiny black and white TV screen. Right then, I was captured by the challenge of “How can this be made to work?” Although I didn’t realize it then, that was when I became an engineer. By the time I graduated from college the space program had wound down but the first “oil crisis” was upon us and the new challenge was energy. I gravitated to power electronics and have been involved with the challenges of converting electrical energy from one form to another ever since.

Many of the challenges we face as engineers are market driven such as reducing the life cycle cost of equipment or redesigning obsolete equipment, but some are the result of the broader goals of society to improve life. The goals of urban sanitation in the late 19th century and auto safety of the late 20th century both come to mind.

The 2007 energy legislation set several goals beyond light bulbs, such as electric motor and appliance efficiency. All of these challenges triggered development of solutions, much of it here in the United States, which continue today. They are already having the intended effect of improving overall efficiency.

Rolling back even the lighting efficiency standards would be like deciding we could get by without seatbelts or baby car seats. In 12 years we overcame the Vanguard failure to land men on the moon; we can build a better light bulb.

My message to our government representatives is; bring on the challenges and set or raise the bar. The only thing you can’t do is violate the laws of physics.

Engineers meet challenges; it’s what we do.