Rube Goldberg would have loved National Engineers Week (19 to 25 February). The late Pulitzer Prize­ winning cartoonist had an engineering degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and in his cartoons he managed to combine engineering smarts with artistic inspiration. The most famous of his technology-taunting cartoons are the ones featuring the "inventions" of his character Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts--hideously complicated devices that do simple tasks in ridiculous ways [see illustration, right].

Rube sure had some fun. And so do lots of other engineers. Lots of chip designers, optical-switch mavens, nanotech specialists, technology teachers, and power-grid bigwigs all love what they do for a living. But in choosing 10 technologists for our annual special report, "Dream Jobs 2006," we looked for people who've found unusual, off-the-beaten-path fun in the careers they've created for themselves.

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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