Last week, we discussed a time when much engineering was done with slide rules. Very complicated heat-transfer and fluid-flow formulae were reduced to simpler models that could easily be handled with slide rule simplicity and accuracy. You can basically read only three significant figures on a slide rule.

If you can recall in the movie Apollo 13, when the engineers at the Johnson Space center had to make rapid calculation about the new trajectory and power use following the explosion aboard the spacecraft, they were using slide rules!

Today, of course, one has a pocket calculator that is more powerful than the computers available to the designers of the Apollo program. However, making simple calculations using just basic concepts can provide you with much insight as to whether that giant computer program or CFD picture makes any sense. As a manager, you need to know how to use them.

As a manager of technology, you must make sure that your staff stays current with the latest technology. Provide them with the latest tools such as CFD modeling. Make sure they read current literature and attend appropriate seminars in their fields.

When I was a graduate student several years out of school taking advanced thermodynamics and heat-transfer courses, I was also working a full-time job as a project engineer. To keep current in the technology, I read numerous papers in the field. What I discovered in reading these papers was that the authors started from a point where the concept they were exploring had already been mathematically developed and went on from there. When discussing this with my professor, I suggested that a real-world situation could be developed for the students (most of whom were just out of their bachelor programs) by having them select current papers and write an assignment summarizing the basic concepts that led up to the new details and present that to the class. He really liked the idea, but I was not thought of kindly by the rest of the class!

As a technology manager, how would your staff fare with this exercise?