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I like this “Beginning Engineer’s Checklist,” from the PIClist site. Here are the first six items on the list:

1. NEVER loan out your copies of:

  • The Art of Electronics (Horowitz & Hill, Cambridge University Press) (you do HAVE a copy don’t you?)
  • Illustrated Sourcebook of Mechanical Components or Ingenious Mechanisms for Designers and Inventors
  • The Art of Computer Programming, Volumes 1..3 Boxed Set

2. Always quote at least twice the time you think it will actually take to do the job (if it’s good enough for Scotty…)

3. Always have someone (or a group of) real pro(s) to fall back on for advice when you get stuck. But, never rely on someone else’s circuit design to work as drawn.

4. Always document everything you do (why did you always see engineers and scientists with a log book?) and be ready to extract a complete history of actions at a moments notice. I don’t care how sharp you are, at some point, while trying to solve a complex problem, you will realize that you don’t remember exactly what you already tried… which means that you are duplicating effort, running in circles, and doomed…

When it really drops in the bucket, management WILL try to make you a scapegoat and being able to tell the customer exactly what you did may save your job (or get you a better manager or even a new job).

Watch your co-workers and boss… when they start to pull away from something, get your notes in order

5. Always understand that you may pick two of the following three, but not more:

  • It can be built well,
  • It can be built quickly,
  • It can be built cheaply.

6. Ohms law: Know it, look for it, use it. Very simple but often missed.

  • Ground planes, power busses, shields, etc… are not superconductors, they resist and a voltage will develop when current flows.
  • The heat dissipated from a component operating at its rated wattage might look small on paper but it can build up to a melt down in the real world. Use a higher rating and heat sink and ventilate.
  • Instantaneous currents can be huge in switching devices, even if the the average is low. Decouple every major and sensitive component. Overbuild the power supply. Power traces are part of the power supply.
  • Noise happens

Read the rest.

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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