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2016

Ben Heck ShowThe way we consume media has changed dramatically over the past decade, with social media and content sharing platforms allowing users to get closer to new ideas and technologies without relying on traditional textbooks and lectures.

 

YouTube has provided a particularly rich platform for aspiring engineers and tech enthusiasts, with numerous professional and amateur makers sharing their skills for a global online audience. From building projects to discussing the latest industry trends, these broadcasters can be a powerful educational tool for engineering students at every level, particularly when it comes to engaging a younger generation much more likely to have a YouTube channel than a library card.

 

Here are some of the most popular:

 

The Ben Heck Show

With over 500,000 subscribers and 37 million views, element14’s very own Ben Heck is one of the leading lights in online tech broadcasting. The premise of the show involves Ben taking on a wide variety of creative challenges involving electronics, from building new devices from scratch to hacking existing products in new and inventive ways. With a strong focus on interactivity, Ben’s videos offer an excellent learning resource for students and hobbyists who want to try out new projects alongside him.

 

Explaining Computers with Christopher Barnatt

Author, academic and futurist Christopher Barnatt began making YouTube videos as an experiment to promote his websites. 11 million YouTube views later, it’s become a key part of his life and personal brand. Explaining Computers features informative weekly video blogs about a wide range of computing-related topics, while sister channel Explaining The Future takes a broader look at how new technology is shaping the world around us. With over 100,000 subscribers, many of his most popular videos have materialized out of interactions with viewers.

 

Lon Seidman Reviews

Tech enthusiast Lon Siedman ascribes the success of his YouTube channel to a quality of “amateur authenticity”, which allows viewers to relate to him more easily. Billed as “Honest, concise gadget reviews”, his videos have been viewed more than 29 million times. Many manufacturers send him product hoping to benefit from his extensive following, but he’s clear that a free product is never a guarantee of a positive review.

 

EEVblog with David L. Jones

Australian design engineer David L. Jones shares over twenty years of experience in a witty, accessible format that he describes as “an off the cuff video blog for electronics engineers, hobbyists, hackers and makers. The show is unscripted and relies heavily on Jones’ natural charisma, combined with brutally honest product reviews and problem solving.

 

ElectroBOOM with Mehdi Sadaghdar

Canadian Mehdi Sadaghdar combines key engineering principles with a dose of insanity with his high-concept, frequently dangerous electronics experiments. From jump-starting a car using AA batteries to exploring the awesome properties of graphite, Sadaghdar’s experiments definitely shouldn’t be tried out by amateurs, but they do showcase a more exciting side to engineering.

 

These are just a handful of the thousands of vloggers currently sharing their passion for engineering and electronics with millions of dedicated viewers online. It’s a community that’s only going to continue growing, hopefully inspiring more people to broaden their knowledge of engineering for years to come.

 

Which engineering Vloggers do you follow? Did we miss one of your favourites? Let us know in the comments section below…

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I recently put together three easy to build  projects - that are awesome - with younger builders in mind. We are talking breadboards, glue, hand-files, heatshrink tubing kind of easy. These projects seem complex, but they are surprisingly simple. You could probably build one of these in an afternoon with the help of your favorite kids.

 

Let's go up the coolness scale:

 

First off is my Shake Activated Water Bottle Night Light. What's running this is two 555 timer ICs on some breadboards. Can't get easier than this. See the whole project build here: Shake Activated Water Bottle Night Light

 

Next up is somewhat a cosplay item... I built a "Electro-Flare" from the 1993/94 PC game called X-COM: UFO Defense. This is essentially a few dozen high power LEDs connected to a battery. The coolest part about this project is it's wirelessly activated with a magnet. It's a reed switch, for those wondering. See the whole project build here: Electro-Flare ...from X-COM: UFO Defense

 

Finally, my favorite... LED Floodlight truck risers for skateboards. Skating at night means one thing... you will hit a rock you can't see. These floodlights will solve that problem for you. I used a wireless relay to turn them on and off. And yes... that is me skating! See the whole project build here: DIY wireless floodlights for a lit skateboard

 

Like these projects? Send me some ideas... geared towards kids, and I will make it happen!

 

Message me at:

http://twitter.com/Cabe_Atwell

Mentors

 

As he was finding his footing in both America and his career, William “Bill” Knudsen, a young Danish-born immigrant in New York, took a low-paying job at a Buffalo bicycle manufacturer to learn more about the manufacturing process. The plant superintendent, William H. Smith, noticed Knudsen’s industriousness and took it upon himself to oversee the young man’s development as a manufacturing engineer.

 

At age 29, Knudsen himself was general superintendent, and he and Smith were making steel axle housings for a new startup called Ford Motor Company. Ford soon bought them out, and Knudsen and Smith found themselves optimizing the Ford Model T assembly line. Knudsen would eventually leave both Ford and Smith to work for auto rival General Motors, which would soon surpass Ford in sales under his leadership.

 

Knudsen’s next career move was in service of the country that he now called home. When it was clear that the conflict in Europe would require American intervention and an unprecedented supply of war materiel, President Franklin Roosevelt tapped Knudsen to lead the American wartime production effort during World War II. Knudsen and other men of industry worked day and night to defeat the German war machine, contributing directly to the Allied victory in WWII. As Knudsen later said, "We won because we smothered the enemy in an avalanche of production, the like of which he had never seen, nor dreamed possible."

 

Another notable figure from engineering history, Igor Sikorsky, found his way into aviation engineering through the mentorship of Michael Vladimirovich Shidlowsky, a former Russian naval officer and businessman who invested in Sikorsky’s ambitions to keep building bigger and better aircraft. Sikorsky went on to design the world's first production helicopter. Sikorsky helicopters have since flown every U.S. President since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

 

Your own career may or may not play such a pivotal role in the human history, but practically every major innovator or creative can look back and pinpoint a figure who offered them vital support and mentorship in their early years, just like William H. Smith did for Knudsen and Shidlowsky did for Sikorsky. Neither of these men were operating out of pure philanthropy. Like many mentors, they made an investment in their mentees that ultimately paid off.

 

We don't always choose our mentors, but one of the most important factors in developing a mentor-mentee relationship is an alignment of goals. You may work for different companies, or even in different time zones, but if you're both working towards a similar goal, your relationship is likely to be more productive and easier to maintain.

 

A great mentor-mentee relationship isn't likely to form overnight. Knudsen and Shidlowsky had to earn the respect of their respective mentors by demonstrating their strong work ethic, ambition and creative vision. If you can demonstrate the same, your mentor won't feel like they're doing you any favours. Mentorship is a two-way street; when the mentor and mentee are both putting in the work, everybody wins. If your goals are truly aligned your relationship may even evolve into a business partnership. But whether your relationship with your mentor remains informal or takes an official capacity, it's worth treasuring - it could set you on an engineering career track that will challenge, surprise and fulfill you for a lifetime.

 

Do you have an engineering mentor? Have you acted as a mentor for somebody else? Share your stories in the comments section below...