Teaching the discovery process

The usual course instructor was unexpectedly out of town, and they thought I would be an ideal fit for their RF systems engineering lab course. I have a lifelong experience base in all aspects of RF systems design, so I thought I would turn this into a live learning opportunity for the students as well. I did precisely zero preparation for the course.

Upon arriving, I introduced myself as someone who had made a career in RF systems design before college. I said that I wanted to show them how I had to teach myself things as a formally educated engineering student, and we’d learn together the topic at hand. We used intelligently chosen web searches, some of which turned into dead ends. We looked at data sheets of commercial products to get a sense of what performance was reasonable for the RF subsystem we were designing. Then we set about to model the device, including S parameters and other KPI.

The point of this self-induced exercise was, we should not be intimidated by something we haven’t done before, or haven’t done recently. We shouldn’t be afraid to say I don’t know, in fact this is an asset of experience, to know the boundaries of one’s engineering competence. How I approach potential engineering contracts is that I say I will try to find someone with expertise in the needed area. Maybe it will be me, but if not I can help direct the prospective client to the needed expert.

That shows authentic confidence and competence in one’s practice area, and that one isn’t overreaching to get extra income that quarter.