Top 10 Ways to Use the Summer to Your Advantage

Now, we’re talking in an engineering context here. There certainly are plenty of ways to use the summer to your advantage if you like to water ski or go backpacking, but this is a specific list. Here are my top-ten suggested ways to use the summer to your advantage as an electronics designer:

#Europa – Work longer. You can spend an extra few hours with you friend the Oscilloscope fighting the demons of clock jitter. With the longer days in the summer, you can do so and still get home just before sunset, as everyone else in the family is ending their relaxing evening and getting ready for bed.

#Luna – Be Green. All of those extra photons bouncing around during the summer will help to keep your solar panels producing at high-output. If only you had thirty years of continuous summer, you could pay for them before they wear out. If you live in Oregon, you’d probably need sixty years because even our summers can be pretty cloudy and rainy.

#Io – Debug thermal problems. Especially if you don’t have working air conditioning. Late afternoon, the ambient in your lab will have raised up to at least 90. With the stifling lack of air movement, now is the time to turn on the high powered design that seemed to work just fine when you first prototyped it over the winter, but burps at seeming random intervals when used in the field, down in West Texas.

#Callisto – Increase your workspace. It’s hot. It’s clear. And, the open road beckons you. Get out your bicycle and pedal the 20 miles from home into the office. You’ll be adding to #Luna, and if you don’t take a shower when you arrive at the office, you’ll be given plenty of extra lab workbench area.

#Mercury – Help marketing out with some product specs. Say you’ve developed a short-range wireless device. You know how well it works in a real world application. You’ve been testing it in the lab for several months now. You know how much things like walls and microwave ovens will reduce the practical range. But, it rained all winter and spring so you couldn’t go outside and get the absolutely-will-never-happen-in-the-real-world range specs that will go on the brochure and be used to entice and mislead potential customers.

#Titan – Blow some stuff up. Not in the Mythbusters sense, but taking a cue from #Io, you can forget to plug in the cooling fan on your deck of MOSFETs in that new H-bridge you’ve been working on. Crank the PWM up to about 95% and they seem to be handling things okay – at least from the outside view. Then, with the confidence built from that exercise, put a heavy load on the motor and set the PWM at 20%. It’s not gun shots. It’s not popcorn. It’s exploding MOSFETs!

#Ganymede – Waste some time. This works best if you have a window view. You’ve got a lot to do. You’re overworked, underpaid and not given the help you need to get your job done on time. Rather than stressing out of all of that, arrange your cube so that no one walking by can see you monitor, but you have a clear view out the window. Then sit back in your chair, stare past your monitor, out the window and daydream about golf and barbecuing. People will think you’re pondering solutions to design problems.

#Mars – Get more glory. All of your co-workers have been ahead of you throughout the winter. They’ve finished their projects and get to take vacation while you slave away back at the office. While they’re out, fake problems in their designs and then fake the solutions. They’ll all get reprimanded when they return and you’ll be the star of the department. At least you will until the next design review when your boss wants to know why your design is only half finished despite how busy you’ve been all summer.

#Venus – Slip out an actual working product. This is the complement to #Mars for people who are actually good at their jobs. Normally, you’d be under artificially created pressure to release the project before it’s quite ready. There’s some press tour or show or something else that everyone wants it done before. You mess with the company vacation calendar so that the people who want to show it off are never in the office at the same time. That way you’ll be able to ge that extra couple of weeks you need and should have been given to make sure the thing works right the first time and every time.

#Earth – And, drum roll please, the anti-climactic #Earth way you can use summer to your advantage: Clear your head. It’s been a long, rough year, with downsizing, parts on allocation, competitive pressures and a host of other factors that have put you on the fast track to breakdown. Schedule yourself some vacation time. Leave all that junk behind and take your mountain bike to Moab or something. Just don’t take a sharp left when you’re on the “Killer B” trail.

Duane Benson
Don’t look! Heisenberg may have been right.