Practical Prototyping. Part 1: Pen & Paper
In my last article, The Value of Getting Your Hands Dirty, I talked about the importance of working with your hands. I sincerely believe that it is vital for engineers to compliment their technical tranining with practical experience. There is no replacement for the insight gained from knowing something first hand and observing it with your own senses. This applies far beyond engineering. Professionals in all careers should know the ins and outs of the true substance of their work.
Writing is creative, in and out of itself.
A reaction to: “On Writing for the Public”
Most of us are trained extensively in our crafts, whether it be art, business, engineering, literature or matchstick making. This is a result of either an arduous curriculum in college or a long stint of working in a certain profession, doing something over and over until it becomes second nature to us. Very soon, one becomes so proficient that decisions are made and opinions are formed in a split second with a high degree of confidence and authority. This is also true with day-to-day activities and most importantly in my opinion, with values and morals. This is where writing takes on a different role.
On Writing for the Public
I’m not an engineer. I’m not a businesswoman. In fact, I am an anthropologist and a writer—things that seem far off from the purview of this blog, but my goal is to share another perspective, one that draws attention to issues as seen from the outside.
Make your own Mentors in Life
I feel like one of the biggest things that differentiated me from my college classmates was that I had a mentor for almost every class. There was always an upperclassman who had taken the class before and I always asked them for advice before I signed up. I treated these friends/acquaintances like my mentors.
The Hunt for Funding
Money: the ubiquitous problem (and solution) that haunts entrepreneurs and their start-ups every day. And while there are plenty of sources – grants, angel investors, loans, personal funds – the reality is that in today’s climate, in order to push past the bottleneck, the majority of start-ups need venture capital funding.
College Tip #2: Don’t get a Minor, Discover your Passion
4 years ago, I had a question: “What minor should i choose”
My major was in Materials Science and Engineering but, since I had a lot of AP credit from highschool, I felt like I needed to get a minor. I just had to find the right one to choose. I looked into Architecture, Business, General Engineering, and Industrial Engineering.
How to Change the World
Having always grown up in a small town and dreamed of a future beyond the cornfields, I came to college eager to make big things happen, but relatively unprepared for what that would entail. The adventure I have been on for the past three years has taken me from building a nonprofit organization and pitching to wealthy donors in Chicago, to fitting prosthetic arms to amputees in Guatemala and the United States. Along the path to empowering amputees in developing nations, I have learned the critical importance of three steps in the process of changing the world: creating a vision for change, building a team around that shared vision, and leading others in taking risks. Let’s discuss….
The Value of trying New Things
If you have ever observed a baby growing up, you would have seen that every few minutes it tries something new. The same toy is used differently each time. It also uses its speech differently and tries making different sounds. This continuous experimentation leads to the development of essential skills. Sounds that it likes, it chooses to repeat, others are never heard again. Of course, as we grow older and more boring, we learn the proper use of the toys and the sounds that we are capable of making and all this experimentation seems to stop. We get into a comfort zone where everything is familiar, tried and tested and the risk of failing is limited.
Envision your future
Where do you see yourself 5/10/20/30 years from now? What are your goals and what do you think you will gain from this position?
Everyone who has ever prepared for any kind of interview would have come across these two questions. Most people have beautifully constructed stock answers for them and will be able to eloquently recite them to a prospective employer or research advisor in their sleep.
Why you should create a Non-profit Startup and work for FREE straight out of College
Why would anyone want to work for free? A lot of people (young and old) work for free for a startup company with the hopes that there will potentially be huge financial returns on their time investment when the company succeeds. Who has done this before? The typical examples: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, etc.
But why would anyone want to work for free for a non-profit startup? First of all non-profits don’t “succeed” in the same way a for profit company does. However, even if the non-profit does succeed, it is illegal to personally take financial advantage of that success through higher salaries, or bonuses, or anything like that.
The Value of Getting Your Hands Dirty
When I was a kid, I was never afraid of working with my hands. If I wanted to make something, I jumped right in. I would try to build everything from an elevator to a tree house, to a surround sound system made from an old stereo. Often my dreams were bigger than my abilities, but I learned along the way. It was this learning by failure that I helped me gain so much from looking back.
How to give an awesome PowerPoint Presentation
There are four main components I see to giving an awesome powerpoint presentation. But what do I mean by awesome? I mean the kind of presentation where you not only convey your points and keep people interested but, the kinds of presentations where people go out of their way to compliment you afterwards.
Not every presentation you make in life has to be awesome but, if you are trying to do a really good job on a presentation, I encourage you to consider the following items:
- 01 ) Know your audience
- 02 ) Tell a story
- 03 ) Format
- 04 ) Practice
01) Know your audience. With this one, I can only give you a few things to consider. You have to judge things based on your circumstances. You have to try and put yourself in your audience’s shoes and gauge what they are expecting. What previous knowledge does your audience have on the topic? What are they looking for in your presentation? How large is the audience? How long are they willing to listen to you before letting themselves get distracted?
02) Tell a story. Stories are engaging, emotional, convincing, and memorable. If you are giving the final presentation of a 4 month project, it won’t be very convincing if you spend all of your time talking about the final design or conclusions. You have to spend some time telling your audience about the process you went through to reach your conclusions. You have to tell people a story of what you did so that they can start thinking in the way you want them to think. A good story will not only make your audience excited to hear the final result, it will also help them envision the result before you even reach the final conclusion.
03) Format. Face it, the whole point of having a powerpoint is to make pretty visual aids for your audience. You should never treat your powerpoints slides as note cards. This is the worst thing you can possibly do in a presentation. If you have a few hundred words on each slide, it means you don’t know your topic and you haven’t prepared to give a presentation on it. You simply wrote up a bunch of notes and threw them into a powerpoint. If you want to make an awesome presentation, you have to first distinguish between your notes and your slides. Then you can actually start formatting your visual aids (powerpoint) and make them useful for your audience.
A few pointers on making pretty powerpoint slides: Simple is better. Use simple graphics and layouts. Use large fonts. Try to keep your font size over 30. Again, most important of all, keep your text and bullets very short. Your slides should not be the same as your notes!
04) Practice. This is what often makes or breaks an awesome presentation. I feel that people really underestimate how much practice is necessary to give a good presentation. How many times you actually need to practice is something you have to answer on your own. However, for a short 5 or 10 min pitch, I can easily see my self practicing 10-15 times. The first few times are just to work out kinks in the overall flow of the presentation. After that, the next few attempts are typically used get an idea for how long the presentation takes and to figure out where you need to cut out some unnecessary fat, or, where you need to spend some time to add juicy detail. By this point, the slides should be (nearly) in their final draft. Now its time to run through the presentation a few more times to make sure you are comfortable with all of your slides and have committed all of your notes to memory.
For an especially important presentation, I think it is also a good idea to do at least 1 more practice run the day of the presentation just to keep things fresh.
So, these are just the basics. Hopefully, you already do all of the things listed above and this has just been a friendly reminder.