In a previous entry to this blog I mentioned that Matt Hilden, class of 2002 would be visiting. He did, and in a busy week full of good surprises, I enjoyed spontaneous visits with Josh Mulder class of 1997, and Brandon Karlsgdt, class of 2005 too. Matt and Brandon were able to meet with various classes of mine, but Josh’s visit needed to be too brief to get him into a meeting with students.
Matt described his company, Logic Products, and explained how the breadth of Dordt’s Engineering major has served him well. He brought three show-and-tell examples of products he has worked on. For the sake of brevity in this blog, I’ll only describe one. Matt’s company does consulting engineering. He worked on a project with Honeywell to eliminate mercury from their classic “round thermostat” product. (Some interesting history on the original industrial design for this thermostat–”Form Follows Function” ) Mercury is a heavy metal that can pollute the environment when the thermostats are disposed of at the end of their life. The new design retains the look and feel of the product but is all electronic inside. The look and feel is the same for builders and installers too. The connections are the same, the mounting holes are the same, and there is even a provision to level the thermostat on the wall, just like on the older design. Matt described how he was able to apply the courses he took here at Dordt college, including EGR 304, Microprocessor Interfaceing, a course I teach.
Josh discussed his work at Fagen Engineering in Granite Falls MN where he is Vice President of Engineering Operations. His company also does consulting engineering. They design ethanol plants. We discussed our views of the future of the ethanol industry, especially looking toward what might compete with the industry in the future, such as gasification of other substances besides corn, e.g. switchgrass, to produce a variety of liquid fuels such as gasoline (rather than ethanol) and plastics. Professor’s Brue and Timmer both have done research in the area of gasification or fluidized bed heat transfer–a process that can be used in gasification.
Brandon just finished his master’s degree in electrical engineering this past December and he is heading on to a job with Cisco Systems this summer. He was able to meet with our EGR 204 class. He discussed the challenges he faced in the transition to graduate school. On our campus most discussions assume Christianity is a good thing. Challenging questions might be something like, “can a homosexual be a Christian?” (Homosexuality is a topic on campus right now because Soulforce has decided to visit our campus in an attempt to promote acceptance of GLBT lifestyles.) In contrast, in a state university setting he was challenged with questions like, “How can you be a Scientist and a Christian at the same time?” (Christianity is seen as irrational. If you are irrational, how can you be scientific?) Brandon mentioned that classes, Bible studies and other meetings at Dordt helped him articulate his views effectively to the skeptics around him. He made an analogy between an engineering education and a car. In this analogy the technical subjects give you the horsepower to move your design forward. The perspective he gained at Dordt is like the steering system and suspension of the car. They determine how well your can direct your horsepower to navigate the bumps and turns in the road. Without a good suspension and steering system, horsepower is useless. He discussed how impressively the Christian perspectives he learned in depth at Dordt have served him in graduate school and in interviewing for jobs, and how often people seemed to resonate with these perspectives when he had time to explain them.
These are the kind of reports back from our graduates that fire me up to do my best. These meetings (and many others!) have made this a busy week–this is my first blog entry since last Friday–but the busy schedule is worth it.