Archives for category: Retrospective

LSUindustrypanelI’ve been invited to represent Dell and speak at LSU’s upcoming HPC Industry Panel.  It’s exciting to go back to my alma mater!  Students from across LSU’s summer research programs will be in attendance.

It’s just too bad this didn’t happen a month later so I could catch an LSU football game in Death Valley!  At least I will get a chance to see SuperMike-II which I had a considerable role in designing.

UPDATE:  LSU published a nice recap of the session.  Below are a few of my quotes:

“I decided to co-op in college, and it was the best decision I ever made,” said Blake Gonzales, high performance computing scientist at Dell Inc. “What you can actually do will make the world of difference, not your GPA or where you went to school,” he added.

“I had a low GPA at one point as an undergraduate student, but received 13 job offers. So if you don’t have a job yet, walk out of this room after our meeting and find one!” he said.

“Learning is very important for me, too, and while designing supercomputers at Dell, I spend a lot of time reading and writing papers,” said Gonzales.

“Teach them how to work in groups more effectively,” Gonzales suggested. “The hardest part is not the actual assignment, but dealing with people. And that’s what real life is all about.”

When talking about job opportunities at Dell, Gonzales pointed out that there are many open positions in the area of high performance computing (HPC).  “HPC is infiltrating every part of society, every manufacturing process, every biological process, and it is becoming a very exciting field to work in,” he said.

Gonzales mentioned a project recently implemented by Dell that involved the top cancer that strikes children. After the little patients are diagnosed, it takes several weeks to start treatment, because doctors first must complete DNA sequencing that requires a lot of computation. Dell’s specialists in HPC were able to cut down the time from several weeks to four hours. This can literally save lives, as children will be getting their treatment sooner now.


You gotta love the amazing things SpaceX is doing with their Grasshopper VTVL (Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing) vehicle!

Grasshopper is a 10-story Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle designed to test the technologies needed to return a rocket back to Earth intact. While most rockets are designed to burn up on atmosphere reentry, SpaceX rockets are being designed not only to withstand reentry, but also to return to the launch pad for a vertical landing. The Grasshopper VTVL vehicle represents a critical step towards this goal.

On June 14th, they flew the Grasshopper higher than the Manhattan Chrysler building.  SpaceRef

Previous Grasshopper tests relied on the other rocket sensors but for this test, an additional, higher accuracy sensor was in the control loop. In other words, SpaceX was directly controlling the vehicle based on new sensor readings, adding a new level of accuracy in sensing the distance between Grasshopper and the ground, enabling a more precise landing.

SRB Floating

Back in the Shuttle days, and possibly in future NASA programs, we of course let the Solid Rocket Boosters fall back to earth and splash in the ocean.  They would then be towed back to land and completely refurbished.  This sure is a whole new twist to the “reusable” rocket paradigm.

As I watch this clip, I can’t help but get chills as I remember the Space Shuttle Program.  I see my co-workers, my dreams, the landscape, and even some of my work.  During the last couple of years, during the winding down of the program, I’ve paid a lot of attention and have had lots to say but I’ve been mostly quiet.

I spent my childhood dreaming of space in the 80s, and I worked for Morton-Thiokol (which became ATK) starting in late 90s.  Being part of the Space Shuttle workforce was more than just a job, it was a bit of a dream come true.  Now that Orbiters are getting shuffled around to museums in various cities, I’m excited for the next phase of America’s space program; but, I will never forget the privilege it was to work for the Space Shuttle Program.

I was also able to see Space Shuttle Discovery fly from a perch at the Vehicle Assembly Building on STS-102. The day before, Columbia had just arrived in the VAB after a ride back from an overhaul in Palmdale, and I got to walk right up to her – just like I did with Enterprise at the World’s Fair in 1984 – but this was much more intimate.  She looked like a true workhorse.  What an experience!

A couple of years ago, the renowned PBS series Nova presented an episode entitled Astrospies.  In the 1960s, the US and Russia were in a race to get spies into space, while disguising their super-secret activities:

These men, 17 in all, were set to make history in space as the first military astronauts, performing covert reconnaissance from orbit. Yet while NASA’s astronauts were gracing magazine covers and signing autographs, the MOL teams were sworn to secrecy; most of the program’s details remain classified even today.

The public knew almost nothing about these programs, and the details have only come to light within recent years.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to watch this episode, it is definitely worth your time!

Read the rest of this entry »

There was an excellent article in the May issue of Wired that really hit home for me, The Lost Tribes of RadioShack: Tinkerers Search for New Spiritual Home.  It’s about the re-branding of Radio Shack from a “temple of transistors, parts, and cables”, to a purveyor of all things digital and disposable.  Radio Shack has had to make some changes to stay profitable in today’s market.

Here are some of the quotes in the article that brought back some vivid memories of the frequent trips I made to RadioShack as a tinkering youth:

Some people say RadioShack is just a store  … But to me it was an idea — a learning and resource center that really shaped people’s lives. Read the rest of this entry »

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