Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Learning | Engineering Word of the Day

Last month, I had a wonderful time at the Bay Area Maker Faire 2014.  Maker Faire is nicknamed "the biggest show-and-tell on earth" with good reason; wherever one may wander on the site, there will be a person excited to explain whatever you see, like upcycled furniture, or armor for small animals.

I went with my husband (an electrical engineer) and son (an Electrical Engineering major.) This was their fourth year attending, and my third. It's hard to avoid catching their enthusiasm when they spot some cool thing, like a mechanical device for calculating square roots, or some new innovation in three-dimensional printing.

My guys were busy looking at some little teeny tiny thing I didn't understand, so I wandered over to a booth with furniture that was clearly Steampunk-inspired.  I admired the display, and asked a few questions about the uses of various pieces, and how they were made. 

I was surprised when the man in the booth asked if I was an engineer.  I laughed and replied that I was surrounded by engineers, but I was not one. An engineer himself, he told me about his wife's experience working as an office assistant for a bunch of engineers. She has developed a coping mechanism: identifying an "Engineering Word of the Day."

I love the idea so much, I'm tempted to steal it. From time to time (but certainly not every day) I will share an engineering or science word with you, just for fun. You never know when it might be useful.

Here's a word I learned from my father: ullage. Sometimes called headspace, this is the unfilled portion of a container. Some space needs to be there, to allow for expansion of the liquid.

External Tank ET-138 Rolls Out at Michoud Assembly Facility from Marshall Space FlightCenter's photostream on Some rights reserved. 

My father was an aerospace engineer; at one point, his job was calculating precisely how much fuel could be loaded into the enormous external tank used for Space Shuttle launches. He had the responsibility of making sure the ullage was as small as possible.

If you regret missing Maker Faire 2014, try to save time around the third weekend in May...and watch this blog for news.

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