In our fourth installment of the “How To…” series, we’ve tapped Edison Nation member Brian McLoughlin to share his knowledge of electrical engineering.
Let’s start off simply… what is electrical engineering?
Well, according to my graduate class synopsis, electrical engineering is defined as follows:
An electrical engineer is someone who designs and develops new electrical equipment, solves problems and tests equipment.
What that definition doesn’t point out is that it’s also based on a lot of math and science. So I think it’s a pretty well-rounded career that leaves a graduate well-suited for many different jobs.
Its after graduation when you start working in the field that you can really scope your passion and focus on one or two different directions. For me, I choose the micro electronic development sector. After graduation in 2001, the world of embedded systems was just starting to gain traction. Fast forward a few years with IoT, Pi and iOS in all parts of our lives… it’s literally re-learning the field all over again.
How did you get started in this field?
I started with an internship and I LOVED every moment of it. IDen was just taking over the GSM cell market and no one had minimized so many benefits into double-sided PCBs before. Every day was new a challenge.
Unfortunately, it’s very hard to stand out in that part of the corporate world, so after five years I left and decided to work with small companies to develop their own priority control systems. I really got deep into the automation market in 2007-2011 as we shifted from analogue to digital everything.
Since then I’ve committed to learning a new skill set every few years.
As an inventor yourself, do you find that taking a concept to a proof-of-concept stage and going beyond just explaining a concept impacts commercialization? How?
Oh, most definitely.
In fact, everything on paper can look so amazing and then when you are actually putting together the pieces you laugh at how naive you were in your concept. If I had a dollar for every proof of concept revision I’ve done I’d be retired.
To point at a most recent example. For the Dulcop Search I designed a pretty cool product. When putting it together it was evident no factory dealing with mass production could make such an item. It had way too much going on and way too many moving parts. Sure it looks as good as the Star Trek Enterprise, but it just didn’t make sense.
So with the help of feedback from the EN team and intermediate reach outs (Scott is great at following up when I totally forgot when I last emailed him – haha) I revised, rebuilt, revised and rebuilt. I got the concept to a place I thought was unique and could be mass-produced.
I track my hours – I had spent just over 500 working hours on that Dulcop design and build because it had to make sense.
So, always ask yourself why and how can something be made effectively in volume every time you start your design work. It will save a lot of time in revisions.
Have you ever worked in helping other inventors with their projects?
Yes, that’s basically all I do now.
I have inventors referred to myself and my wife from partner companies and we do the heavy work. This way, when we re-show our partner we won’t be wasting their time.
I can tell you a lot of inventors are so in love with their design it’ s almost frightening to tell them when something just won’t work. Yet, to not say anything would be more of an injustice to all parties.
Always tell your HONEST opinion. That’s the true sign of respect for an inventor.
What tools would an inventor starting out need to start dabbling with electrical circuitry?
Wow, so this is a really broad category.
I see that same spark in my oldest son so I have bought him Little Bits. I’ve also bought him click and push circuit builders and now I’m trying to show him how to use Arduino with some of the GUI programming tools. I think any young kid who shows interest should be encouraged to visit a few maker spaces or after-school STEM courses.
So, really all the tools you need are a computer, soldering iron, engineering tool kit and imagination.
What is your most memorable project and why?
The Dulcop search!! Haha! Well, that’s not entirely true but working with bubbles for three months was a lot of fun.
I’m actually in a start-up project right now that is the pinnacle of my ambition. This has been the most challenging project to date but I’m loving the ride thus far. Working with some really talented programmers and SDK embedding has opened my eyes to yet another direction in my field.
Any other details you’d like to share beyond the questions above?
Yes, some of the smartest people I have come across do not necessarily have a degree. In fact, some of the most incompetent people I have come across have a few degrees. What really drives our industry is imagination. In fact I would put it in this order:
Never take advice from quitters.
Accept negative feedback because people always find something wrong when they are empowered to pass judgment.
The best investment is always in yourself.
We’d like to sincerely thank Brian for taking the time to share his experiences and hope this post enlightened, educated and inspired you!
You never know, maybe one of these searches will spark your next big idea!