Quote of the Day
To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have worked with engineers my entire career, which spans the last 31 years. During this time, I have noticed that almost all engineers went into engineering because of some important personal relationship early in their life. The same is true for me. I grew up during the 1960s in "Small Town USA." In many ways, this was a wonderful environment in which to grow up. Unlike today, in my home town all the different economic classes lived next to each other. They had widely different experiences in life, yet they had the common experiences of the Depression and World War II. My father was a common laborer, yet he lived next to a dentist, doctor, school district president, and university professor of electrical engineering. Sadly, I do not see this mixing of the economic classes today. It was important for me to see how all these people lived together. I babysat for them, mowed their lawns, and delivered their newspapers. I got to know all these folks very well. I smile just thinking about that time.
My story is about Frank Schiebe, the university professor of engineering. Frank died a couple of year ago and his high school recently posthumously gave him their 2010 Distinguished Alumni Award. I happened to be flipping through the local television channels recently when I saw that the local educational channel was playing a ceremony honoring Frank's life. Boy did that story bring back memories …
In many ways, Frank's story was like that of many engineers I have known. Frank grew up in a small town and wanted to attend the University of Minnesota, but his primary school work had been lackluster enough that a school counselor told him not to even bother applying. Of course, Frank did not listen, and he squeaked his way through the electrical engineering program and got his BSEE. In spite of weak grades, he was able to get into graduate school where he excelled and eventually graduated with a PhD in Electrical Engineering. During his university schooling, Frank had done a lot of work with computers and simulation. His first research was on using computers for simulating water flow, turbulence, and cavitation. He did ground breaking research in this area. Later, he worked with NASA on applying remote sensing to agricultural and natural resource management.
When I knew Frank during the 1960s, he was working on understanding cavitation and his research was very interesting to me. It turns out that I have encountered cavitation many times in my career, particularly when I worked on undersea vehicles. I first heard about Frank's research when he was over to my home and was having beer with my father. Frank and my father became good friends and frequently could be seen sitting outside of our home drinking beer. NASA's manned spaceflight program was in full gear at that time, and I was absolutely fascinated with it. Frank was a great source of information on how all that stuff worked, and I asked him questions constantly. I loved science and wanted to work in engineering like Frank, but I hated mathematics. I will never forget when Frank told me that I could not get anywhere in science without mathematics. I thought so highly of Frank that, grudgingly, I decided I had better get good at math. Because of Frank, mathematics eventually became my best subject. Like Frank, I became an electrical engineer. I owe him a debt of gratitude. My life would have been much different without him.