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In the 1990’s and before…

My father (now retired) was a veterinarian and my mother worked as his assistant and bookkeeper. Oakwood Animal Hospital operated as a highly successful clinic that brought a devoted clientele from across two states. Helping out gave me a valuable experience in customer service and animal healthcare. Having grown up in the industry, I was eager to step into the world of engineering for my profession.

1999 -2001 – Oak Elm Dining Center (Iowa State)

I worked for the Oak-Elm dining center at Iowa State. This is the first workplace outside of a family business that I took a true passion in. I did “Pots and pans” and absolutely loved it. Being a clean freak about my food, I was particularly interested in doing this job well, but I was also speedy.

My parter assigned to me was able to be reassigned to a department that he enjoyed more. As I developed my skill, the previous shift was also reassigned. I loved coming in to see a 3-foot stack of pans and over the course of 4 hours, would have it completely clear and the surface and floor cleaned.

It was a wonderful place to work. Eric Sjoblom was simply a terrific person to work for there. The food really was cooked from scratch and was out of this world. I have recipes I use today that I learned there, and everybody always asks: “Where did you learn to cook like that?”

2000-2003 – Math Department Computer Lab (Iowa State)

The math department had a number of Apple Macintosh machines (48 of them) that had Mathematica installed. As a Calculus I student, I used this tool to help self-teach the subject. For the sake of maximizing the quality, I also typed my homework out using MS-Word Equation Editor to show a clear and concise logic.

I was offered a position to supervise the computer lab. I would answer questions, tutor students and proctor exams. Dr. John Vetter Burkardt was my supervisor there and I still occasionally contact him. It’s quirky to note that I came across him by chance on a number of occasions after working for him. It was a great opportunity to stay on top of my studies as tutoring seemed to help my own understanding of math. I also found ways to cut costs for the department.

Iowa State University : Center for Non-Destructive Evaluation

As I entered 2004, it was my final two semesters at Iowa State and I was employed in the Applied Sciences Complex out on Scholl Road off Ontario St in West Ames. A fascinating place to work on fascinating projects as an undergraduate research assistant.

I was tasked with designing and building a bias source to drive a transducer for ultrasonics research. These transducers would ping a sample at higher frequencies (about 20-40khz) and would detect the echoes. Delays and distortions would indicate discontinuities in the material (hairline, microscopic cracks).

For this transducer, I applied the Cockcroft-Walton voltage multiplier model. From an AC source, the wave charges stages of capacitors and diodes in-line with them prevent a backwards discharge. You can get about 10x multiplication using this model. I chose 8 stages for this design. The output voltage was regulated via a small variac installed before the stages. A simple voltmeter module displayed the output voltage. It worked very elegantly.

Picture of metal box with the lid removed, exposing a circuit inside.  There is a digital display, three switches and and BNC plug on the front of the device.
This was my first high voltage power system I designed. Word on the street is that it’s still operating as of a year ago. The tan discs are the capacitors of the voltage multiplier.  The reddish orange rectangles are the filter capacitors to minimize the output ripple.  The current setting is for nearly 1400 volts.

Aside from building the circuit, I also helped with folding the metal box that it was housed in and tack-welded the interior panels together. These interior walls actually isolated the low and high voltage sides from each other (part of the specification of the design).

Jet Finishers – Elk Grove Village

I graduated in December 2004 and was unemployed for about 8 months looking for work. It was a difficult time to find employment as the economy was weak and companies were tripping over themselves to outsource engineering tasks to third-world countries.

Using contacts from my father’s veterinarian business, I was self employed as a courier driving exotic pets for animal breeders across the country. It was a break-even kind of job, but it funded my travels around the US to visit firms and make contacts. It was how I become employed at Jet Finishers outside Chicago.

I visited a friend who worked at Jet Finishers with no intention of being hired.  I simply helped him solve a difficult problem and found a job offer at the end of the day.  It was an amazing place for me to work.  This is an unbelievably innovative workplace that has contributed to the industry as a whole.  Everybody wondered how we did it; we never told (at the time).

Cankdeska Cikana Community College

In December 2010, I was recruited by Cankdeska Cikana as a Pre-Engineering Instructor.  This position was very exciting for two reasons:  I felt a responsibility towards public service and found it as an opportunity to help reestablish an engineering society that is awakening via the nation’s tribal colleges.

I embraced the role by immersing myself in the best practices of pedagogy for the rapid improvement of the students.  I established weekend study sessions and facilitated National Science Foundation initiatives to foster a greater interest in the science, technology engineering and math fields.

Through the National Science Foundation’s PEEC program, we pipelined students from tribal communities into the College of Engineering and North Dakota State University.  In the fall of 2015, our first engineering graduates are completing the program.  To see the student success and rebuilding of engineering societies in tribal communities is a highly rewarding experience.

North Dakota State University

After wrapping up my experience at Cankdeska Cikana Community College, I resided in near Nürnberg, Germany for two goals.  A friend was restoring a postwar era cinema that I was heavily involved in.  An immediate family member of my friend was battling cancer and I offered to provide support towards the recovery.

The emergency lighting was a priority with this project.  Much of the lighting was being retrofitted the LED fixtures, but the more challenging task was the recessed floor track lighting. The light emitted from the LED’s was so intense at 12 volts, that a voltage regulator was installed to drive them at a lower voltage.  We determined a setting of 6.3 volts gave a satisfying brightness that was gentle for a direct stare in the light and wasn’t excessively bright.

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