Dream Jobs 2007

The scene of a recent crime, the rim of an active volcano, deep in the woods at the dead of night--you never know where engineering will lead you

2 min read

There’s no rule that dooms engineers to dwell in a Dilbertian cubicle hell. Quite the contrary. As the 10 technologists we found for this year’s ”Dream Jobs” report all prove, engineering occurs in some amazing places and offers incredible experiences. It’s just a matter of pursuing ­whatever interests you—tenaciously.

One thing we learned from our 10 engineers is that you don’t need to have your entire career mapped out from the start. Andrew Paris, for example, took the first job offer he got after college. But he quickly fell in love with the work. Just like the fictional investigators on the TV show ”CSI,” he spends his days picking apart crime and accident scenes. Rabih Moussa wasn’t too happy with the jobs available in his native Lebanon, so he immigrated to Canada. Now he travels the world providing Internet access to isolated communities. (And fishing, when he isn’t working.)

An early passion can lead to a rewarding career. Gregory Makhov turned a childhood fascination with lasers into a livelihood designing light shows. Nels Peterson wanted to work on dinosaurs, but first he had to convince his paleontology colleagues to give him a chance. Now he’s developing radical new techniques to get more information out of digs.

In some cases, adversity can be transformed into opportunity, as Dale Joachim found after Hurricane Katrina swept away his lab and much of his life’s work. He soon landed at MIT, where he’s using cellphone technology to track owls in the New England woods. For Christian Anténor-Habazac, it was a volcanic eruption that gave him his opening. Now he designs and maintains a seismic sensor network to protect the population of his native Guadeloupe.

Sometimes, the trick is to combine two interests. Vasik Rajlich dreamed of becoming a chess grandmaster but realized he’d never make it. Instead, he’s using his talents as a programmer to write the world’s best chess software. Frédéric Kaplan’s passions are biology and engineering; now, as a researcher in artificial intelligence, he’s finding new and provocative ways to meld the two.

Expect the unexpected. Mary Lou Jepsen was interviewing for one job when she was offered an entirely different one: designing a cheap, durable laptop for developing countries. Ian Wright’s career as a telecom exec made him piles of cash, but when a friend suggested he try designing electric vehicles, he jumped at the chance. Now he gets his thrills doing 0 to 130 kilometers per hour in a single city block.

So even if digging for dinosaurs or staring down a volcano isn’t quite your thing, there’s a great big world of technology out there. By pursuing your passions and maybe taking a few risks, you, too, can find a fulfilling career that’ll get you out of bed in the morning (and make you the envy of your friends). And if you’re already living your dream job, let us know: write us at dreamjobs@ieee.org .

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Q&A With Co-Creator of the 6502 Processor

Bill Mensch on the microprocessor that powered the Atari 2600 and Commodore 64

5 min read
Bill Mensch

Few people have seen their handiwork influence the world more than Bill Mensch. He helped create the legendary 8-bit 6502 microprocessor, launched in 1975, which was the heart of groundbreaking systems including the Atari 2600, Apple II, and Commodore 64. Mensch also created the VIA 65C22 input/output chip—noted for its rich features and which was crucial to the 6502's overall popularity—and the second-generation 65C816, a 16-bit processor that powered machines such as the Apple IIGS, and the Super Nintendo console.

Many of the 65x series of chips are still in production. The processors and their variants are used as microcontrollers in commercial products, and they remain popular among hobbyists who build home-brewed computers. The surge of interest in retrocomputing has led to folks once again swapping tips on how to write polished games using the 6502 assembly code, with new titles being released for the Atari, BBC Micro, and other machines.

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Spot’s 3.0 Update Adds Increased Autonomy, New Door Tricks

Boston Dynamics' Spot can now handle push-bar doors and dynamically replan in complex environments

5 min read
Boston Dynamics

While Boston Dynamics' Atlas humanoid spends its time learning how to dance and do parkour, the company's Spot quadruped is quietly getting much better at doing useful, valuable tasks in commercial environments. Solving tasks like dynamic path planning and door manipulation in a way that's robust enough that someone can buy your robot and not regret it is, I would argue, just as difficult (if not more difficult) as getting a robot to do a backflip.

With a short blog post today, Boston Dynamics is announcing Spot Release 3.0, representing more than a year of software improvements over Release 2.0 that we covered back in May of 2020. The highlights of Release 3.0 include autonomous dynamic replanning, cloud integration, some clever camera tricks, and a new ability to handle push-bar doors, and earlier today, we spoke with Spot Chief Engineer at Boston Dynamics Zachary Jackowski to learn more about what Spot's been up to.

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How to Write Exceptionally Clear Requirements: 21 Tips

Avoid bad requirements with these 21 tips

1 min read

Systems Engineers face a major dilemma: More than 50% of project defects are caused by poorly written requirements. It's important to identify problematic language early on, before it develops into late-stage rework, cost-overruns, and recalls. Learn how to identify risks, errors and ambiguities in requirements before they cripple your project.

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