10 Things you Need to Know as a Starting Engineer

As a graduate engineer of 5 years as of this writing, I find it necessary to share some things I’ve learnt on my journey as well as things that I wish I knew when I just started. If you are not an engineer, don’t worry, some of these may still be applicable to you. So without further ado, here are the 10 things you need to know as a starting engineer.

1.People will want you to fix everything
dog giphy
One thing I have noticed time and time again is that whenever someone knows you’re an engineer at some point in time they WILL ask you to fix their fan, fridge, TV, you name it! With family in particular, you won’t be a ‘real’ engineer in their eyes until you fix something around the house for them. And although in most cases we can fix it, it is a little degrading to think that after years of studying the most advanced sciences and mathematics, people only see you as a ‘handyman’. What I try to do however is look on it as compliment and in some cases use it to my advantage to make some side money.

 

2. Your profession will be looked at in awe

reasons-why-i-want-to-become-an-engineer

Like medicine, law, and accounting, engineering is one of the traditional professions parents typical want for their children, because those jobs are usually in demand and most times pay well. In social settings, where you are asked what you study in school or where you work, and you tell them that you are an engineer, the “wows” and nods you get in response is truly a gratifying experience.

 

3. Google is your best friend

google

We live in an era where the world’s knowledge is just a click away; use it to your advantage! Whether if it’s for things you know already or don’t know, don’t waste the opportunity to verify with other sources online. In addition, traditional books, though credible, are outdated at times, compared to its contemporary online counterpart. There will be times where you are required to do things you haven’t the slightest clue about, but as the ‘expert’ you can’t look like you don’t know what to do. So it’s always best to pay for data service on your phone each month as knowledge protection for yourself.

 

4. You actually know less than you think

coolest-electrical-engineer-meme-electrical-engineer-meme-memes-electrical-engineer-meme-35bhf9ap9sb0j7hnk3h6ve

Just because you have your degree in engineering now doesn’t mean you’ll know what to do in the working world. Often times what you learn in the textbook is not how it goes in reality. Some things just come with experience. So don’t be discouraged if what you learn at school isn’t applied at your job, and be sure to stay close to your peers and learn from them.

 

5. Be open to learning

open-mindedness

Learning is your most important virtue as a starting engineer. As stated before you will not know everything you need to know even if it’s in your field. It might be tempting to try to impress the boss by taking on tasks solo, but the worst thing you can do is trying to be a ‘know-it-all’ and to not accept guidance from others more experienced. All that will happen is that you will make many unnecessary mistakes and waste a lot of time. This is why HR put a great emphasis on teamwork when hiring.

 

6. Don’t sweat the small details

small details

As engineers we pride ourselves on accuracy. So much so to our detriment sometimes. It stems from the fact that in school we were taught all these mathematical techniques to solve engineering problems to great degrees of accuracy. In other words, to solve by first principles. The problem with this is that it usually takes a considerable amount of time. Conversely, an estimate most times can get you ‘accurate-enough’ results. In the ‘real world’ wasted time is wasted money, so unless you work in research & development (R&D) with time at your disposal, its best you learn techniques to estimate accurately.

 

7. There is not much math at work

math

Unfortunately (or fortunately) in many engineering jobs there is not much math, and when there is math involved, it’s usually arithmetic or simple algebraic mathematics. Calculus is practically non-existent. This goes back to the previous point that doing those types of calculations are simply just too time consuming. So instead estimation techniques are used or in some cases software is incorporated to help generate engineering models. So if you’re a math enthusiast you may be in for a surprise if you choose an engineering job. At the end of the day math is just a tool engineers use to solve real world problems. If we can utilise computers to handle those tools for us it will make the engineering process quicker and flow smoother.

 

 

 

8. Keep up with the latest technology

tech improvement

Technology is advancing at its fastest rate ever and is accelerating at an exponential rate. Many of the baby boomers, and the generation X peers you have at work will not be able to keep up because they have gotten used to a static way of working. As a starting engineer you can use this to your advantage by using technology to make business much more efficient. Learn from your peers yes, but if you see where you could improve through technology speak up and you will rank up in your career. Just remember the only constant in life is change, and those who can’t keep up in this age will perish, however the ones who embrace change will prosper.

 

 

9. Salaries vary

wage-diff-cover

Like most other jobs, a starting engineer’s salary isn’t all that relatively speaking. But of course the salary will vary on a myriad of reasons, e.g. the branch of engineering, which company, which country, etc. That said, engineering jobs do generally pay better that the average job even at a starting salary.

 

10. Hone your skills and market your skills early

Artificial intelligence with human brain shape and gears

Lastly, if you have a passion for your engineering field, use this opportunity to continuously learn as much as possible quickly, so that eventually you can become a master of your trade. Education is something no-one can ever take from you. It will make you more marketable in the long run, and you can eventually branch off to start your own private practice. The end goal shouldn’t be ‘good enough’ to make a salary at some job, but to be the best at what you do so companies need you more than you need them.

 

 

 

-Dave 2018

 

Continue reading “10 Things you Need to Know as a Starting Engineer”

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How to install a GSM/GPS Tracking Module for your car yourself

If you’re ready to put a tracker in your vehicle but maybe you do not have the $20K+ to fork out initially, or do not want to add a new bill for yourself to pay each month; then you have come to the right place. This post will show you how to install the device yourself professionally.

The device we will use is the TK103A/B GSM/GPS Tracker. Accessories included in the box:

  • GPS Antennae
  • GPRS/GSM Antennae
  • 12V/40A Automotive Relay
  • Remote Controller
  • Cable Harness
  • Microphone
  • Manual

 

Other materials/tools used:

  • 5-20Ft 18AWG 2 core cable
  • Electrical Tape
  • Cable ties
  • Socket Wrench
  • Wire stripper
  • DC Voltage Circuit Tester
  • Digital Multimeter
  • GSM SIM Card

 

Step 1: Buy a SIM card

sim-cards-banner-image.png

Buying a SIM card (uncut) for this device is the first step because after the device is installed in the car, it’s not so easily accessible. Also, if using Digicel its important to set up the SIM with the MyDigicel App; and if using Flow install the My Flow Self Care App. This is to enable you to monitor the SIM balance as well as top up when necessary.

 

Step 2: Choose a hidden location for the device

Location is everything. If a criminal can find your tracker in your car easily and remove it, all the features of this device will all be for naught. Most automotive electronics are installed within the dashboard area of the vehicle. However criminals also know this because it is common practice and will be the first place they will look. Ideally you want to find a place that is hard to access, unconventional, and is near a 12V supply you can tap off and ground (metal chassis).

Cars typically have two 12v supplies:

  1. Permanently ON
  2. Accessory only (ACC) – ON with Ignition switch

If you want your device powered when the vehicle is off you can tap from a permanent 12V supply (recommended).

However if you are concerned about the current draw on the car’s battery (especially if the car is inactive for long periods), you could either install a switch in series or connect power to ACC 12V (Turns off when ignition key out).

The current draw is relatively low, from my measurements, the current draw is roughly 60mA. If you use your car everyday this shouldn’t be a big concern since the alternator will recharge the car battery.

You could also run a circuit from the car’s fuse box, but the last thing you want is to have a long wire between your device and car’s fuse box revealing the tracker’s location.

 

Step 3: Installation and Setup

TK103 wiring diagram
Car GPS Tracker – TK103 wiring diagram

 

The above shows the wiring diagram for the device. For simplicity I will only be using the device for tracking and remote engine shutoff (immobilizer). So the only cables I’m interested in are the red (12V), black (ground), and yellow (to relay). This post will focus primarily on set up of the location monitoring. The other features I will not use because I don’t need them and it will force me to install at the dashboard.

For first time setup, insert the SIM card, using something fine to insert into the SIM card popup switch.

tk103 front 1

 

Connect the positive (red) and negative (black) to your vehicle’s 12v and ground respectively and wait 1 minute before turning on the backup battery switch.

tk103 front 2

Note the indicator light colours

GSM/GPS LED Indicator

  • Red LED indicator ON: No GSM network signals.
  • Red LED indicator flashes fast (one time each second): GSM Network
    signal is normally, and tracker works under GSM mode.
  • Red LED indicator flashes slowly (one time each three second): Tracker
    works under GPRS mode.
  • Green LED indicator on: GPS signal is normal.
  • Green LED indicator off: No GPS signals.

Note that if the GPS and GSM antennas ideally require line-of-sight with the sky to operate. It can still function concealed beneath thin materials (metal or plastic).

If your device is stuck on red after several minutes it may mean that the antennas are not getting a clear signal and may have to be relocated.

 

Step 4: Configuring device settings

To utilize the features of the tracker, commands are sent to it via SMS. The manual lists all the available commands but I’ll highlight some important ones.

Initialize:

Using your main cellphone, send SMS “begin+password” to the unit, it will reply “begin ok” and initialize all the settings to default factory settings.(default password: 123456)
For example: send SMS “begin123456”, it will reply “begin ok”. (No
quotation marks“” when sending all the SMS)

 

To Change Password:

Send SMS “ password+old password+space+new password” to the unit to change the password.
For example: send SMS “password123456 888888” to the unit. If succesful, “password ok” will reply to your cell phone from the device tracker.
Authorization:
Send SMS “admin+password+space+cell phone number”
to set up an authorized number, the other authorized numbers should be set
by the first authorized number, if the number is successfully authorized, the
unit will reply“ admin OK” by SMS.

 

To get location:

Dial the tracker device from the authorized number, it will hang up
your calling and respond to a real-time latitude and longitude information
as following:

Screenshot_20180222-215544

Now you can rest easy knowing you have a means to monitor the whereabouts of your vehicle anywhere.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series where we install the immobilizer system and make it wireless.

-Dave 2018

 

 

Continue reading “How to install a GSM/GPS Tracking Module for your car yourself”

Protecting Your Devices with UPS Power

Prelude

Imagine finally paying your light bill on-time after years of paying late fees and then BOOM lightning flash and mash-up your smart TV and Desktop PC. Or, you finally made some progress in that assignment you’ve been postponing until last-minute and then BOOM the power gone. An unlucky scenario for sure especially since the power company isn’t gonna reimburse your precious electronics.

crying its not fair

But fear not! This could have been avoided with a UPS battery backup. For the less informed, UPS stands for uninterruptible power supply. As the name suggests it acts as a power source when power is gone and typically lasts for a few minutes before dying. One might wonder what the difference between a UPS and a standby generator is since they both supply backup power when there is power loss. In fact, the generator typically lasts for much longer, and is cheaper per Kilowatt! The key difference lies in the load it is powering. While it’s no major problem when simple linear loads lose power, eg. lights, speakers, heaters, and motors to name a few; many electronic devices are more sensitive to the power feeding them, and often times require a shutdown process to protect the information from corruption. As such, an active power back up solution is required so there is no noticeable switchover time when there is a power failure.

The UPS operates by taking AC utility power, conditioning it, and switching over to battery backup when there is a loss of the source power. Like most things, there are many different types and size of power supplies, but the taxonomy of UPS systems can be broken down as:

  • Standby
  • Line interactive
  • Online/ Double Conversion

There are other classifications, but these represent the majority of UPS system topologies. Just think of the classifications as a ranking of their quality and cost, with the Standby variant being the cheapest and Online being for the most mission-critical applications. The most basic UPS (standby UPS) allows utility power to pass through to the connected loads and switches over to battery inverted power when there is power loss. The line interactive UPS is similar to the standby with the difference being that the incoming power is ‘conditioned’ before being supplied to the connected loads. Conditioning power refers to the process of filtering and smoothing an electric signal to bring the signal close as possible to an ideal form. The Online/ Double Conversion variant operates by transforming incoming AC power to DC, and then back to AC to power connected loads. This design makes it so that there is zero switch-over time during a loss of source power since power is constantly being generated from the batteries, while the source power constantly charges back the batteries. The UPS has 3 key components that accomplish this; the batteries (DC power), Rectifier (converts AC to DC power), and the Inverter (converts DC to AC power). For most home appliances, the standby and line interactive variants are more than good enough, while most businesses with server room equipment would use the online variant.

Project

Now that we got the intro and theory out-of-the-way let’s work on a project. The objective is to supply UPS power to a TV, 2 desktops, monitor, speakers, camera system and wireless router, all located in 3 different rooms.

Disclaimer: This project will involve working with mains electrical power and as such safety precaution should be made to follow all relevant electrical standards. Only a certified electrician should perform electrical installations within your home.

Tools Used

Tools needed for this project are from the How to cable your home or office for power, audio, or video post. Other tools include :

The first step in doing this project is evaluating the total power of all the connected loads. This is done by finding each equipment’s power rating or current draw. Note that Electrical Power =  Voltage used x Current consumed. Most times these are shown on a label on the device. If that’s not accessible you could also get an estimate from this List of the Power Consumption of Typical Household Appliances. For a more accurate estimate you could measure the current draw from the particular device with a clamp meter then multiply by the utility voltage (typically 110-120Vac).

For the scientists and engineers reading, yes there are two types of AC power with units of W(Watts) and VA (Volt Amps) which represents the real power consumed and apparent power. However for the scope of this project we will assume they are equal for ease of calculation. The mathematics will be discussed in a separate post.

Appliance Max Power(W)
Desktop Computer 500
All-in-one PC 60
Monitor 150
CRT Colour TV 150
Camera System 48
Speakers 48
Total  956

As we can see the maximum theoretical power usage is about 956W but in actuality only a fraction of this will ever be used at any one time. This fraction will vary but a reasonable estimate would be about 60% of the total load = 573.6W. The Tripp Lite 1500VA 900W UPS  was chosen for this project as it can supply my power needs with room for future growth.

The next step is choosing where you will lay the UPS and where to route the electrical cables. The post on How to professionally cable your home or office for power, audio, or video goes in further depth on how to run cabling in your home. The size electrical cable you choose depends on how much current is being transferred, the voltage, and the distance. Since I’m running power to two 15Amp power strips I need a minimum 1.5mm2 cable (cross-section) or 16AWG. See SAE & Metric Wire Size vs. Amps. This simply tells you your minimum size cable you can use safely; larger sizes are of course acceptable.

Material List

  • 5 lengths 16x16mm PVC Trunking
  • 70 ft 3-core flexible 2.5mm2 cable
  • 3 x PVC handy box
  • 2 x NEMA 5-15 (US) receptacle
  • 6 bonding nipples
  • Electrical tape
  • 5 x Wire Nuts
  • 3/4″ concrete/drywall nails

Results:

For ideas on any other future projects you’d like to see me cover please comment below.

References:

Technical Comparison of On-line vs. Line-interactive UPS designs

Different Types of UPS Systems

Calculating Total Power Requirements for Data Centers

List of the Power Consumption of Typical Household Appliances

SAE & Metric Wire Size vs. Amps

Continue reading “Protecting Your Devices with UPS Power”