How Engineers Are Adapting to Working From Home?

Article By : Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio

We, the engineers, are all working from home today. In many ways, the stay-at-home order is bringing dramatic changes in how we work.

We, the engineers, are all working from home today. In many ways, the stay-at-home order is bringing dramatic changes in how we work.

Our organizations have had to take steps to digitally transform work environments and network processes so that we can remotely do our engineering tasks.

But engineers also had to reinvent the way we work. We strive to create the best possible conditions at home, so that we can relax and focus on our tasks in a serene environment. Some of us were better prepared than others for this big change.

After we posted our initial story entitled “Engineers in the Covid-19 Era”, we asked our readers to help us with a show-and-tell featuring engineers’ desks in the pandemic era. We asked them to illustrate where and how they work, to show us the tools and objects that populate their desks, and to share their tips on working from home.

Your photos and your stories

Jim Ford, Fullerton, California, sent us two pictures of his working desk at home. He said, “one is my desk at home with my work laptop computer on the left and my home laptop computer on the right, connected to a KVM switch. That’s where I do my day job work. The other photo is my home lab bench in my garage. DC to 18 GHz, in some cases to 26.5 GHz. Now, since I work for Raytheon, a defense contractor, I can’t very well bring my work home with me, but I am hoping to use this setup for contract work in the future.”

Jim Ford’s works station

Jim Ford’s home lab

Michael Kentley’s work station

Michael Kentley has been a solo ASIC/FPGA/board/firmware guy for over 20 years. He said, “I am rarely in the same place at the same time as my clients, so Coronavirus makes a just noticeable difference for me. I am currently doing verification work on a medical SoC, plus I have three different hardware projects on my desk — for me, my startup, and a client, and I have two patent applications open in Word.

The key thing for me to keep me going is remote access to the whole ball of wax from TeamViewer or vnc. I have accessed the lab setup from hundreds of miles away using Teamviewer and Samsung DeX on my Galaxy S10 (and from various laptops). I try to move around with my timbuk2 bag as light as possible, and that means not dragging a bunch of hardware around. “

Julie Porter’s work station

Julie Porter has been a regular writer for EE Times website and speaker at ESC. She said, “I mostly work on pipe organ relays. The current goal is to mount the ratsnest of wires connecting the STM32F4 boards to be networked together as for favorite tool. I am quite fond of the inspection microscope in the canter back. I used work on clocks and watches, so the benches in the back are watchmaking benches.”

In the second picture, most of the books on the top shelf date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Including the works of James Ferguson F.R.S and Charles Dickens (Little Dorrit, 1855), which contains the only contemporary drawings of Babbage’s Difference engine and factory — showing that messy workshops have not changed much in the last 165 years.

Danilo PAU’s work station

Danilo PAU from ST Microelectronics develops tools and AI applications for the company’s microcontrollers and sensors from a research and development perspective. He said, “In the picture on the right screen you can see the X-CUBE-AI tool that converts pre-trained neural networks into C code that is efficiently executed on the various boards that integrate microcontrollers like STM32 and Chorus SPC5 that I brought home to continue the work.”

Mike Doherty’s work station

Mike Doherty is developing miniature high voltage bias supplies for photodetectors. He said, “I’m proud that I can work from home, out on the high plains of Northern Colorado, and look outside to check on my cows, pigs, and goats, or stare at the snow-capped Rocky Mtns.

Jonathan Broyles’s work station

Jonathan Broyles, Image And Sound Forensics, sent us this lovely picture for Voice Identification. His company is specialized in Recorded Evidence Analysis and Enhancement Services of Video, Audio, Sound, Film, Photographic, Surveillance and Time Lapse Recordings.

Richard Gabric’s work station

Richard Gabric from New Zealand has set this office space up a few months ago. He said, “No tidy up here; what you see is what you get. New Zealand has been in lockdown for over two weeks now, and things seem well in control. I do small scale projects only now, one, for example, can be seen here.

Rado Šušteršič’s Work station

Rado Šušteršič, senior product manager – product center cellular at u-blox told us his story. “I’m proud of my work environment because I was able to re-create a u-blox corner at my home so that I still feel part of the great u-blox family. In this way, when I close the door of my u-blox corner, it’s like being at my desk in the company, so I’m still in contact with R&D, and I can still support Sales and even customers as if I were sitting in the office. We are distant, but united!”

Martin Gustafsson’s work station

Martin Gustafsson is working as a field applications Engineer for ON Semiconductor in Stockholm, Sweden. He said, “My job as a Field Applications Engineer usually involves a significant amount of travel to customers, and to internal meetings, around the world. With the New Corona Virus, and international travel Bans, I sit here, at home, in my bedroom at a small desk. The customer interaction has moved over from meetings, and chats in company Lobby/Conference rooms to be text messages, phone calls, and Webex meetings”.

Peter Traneus Anderson’s work station

Peter Traneus Anderson is doing hobby work. His major text instruments are 1960’s Tektronix oscilloscopes with my own additional circuitry for digital capture through a USB port, plus a homemade audio-frequency digital oscilloscope.

He said “I’ve attached a photo of the circuit-testing part of my at-home workspace. My workbench and soldering station are in another room. The photo is the same photo that was cropped and reduced for my expert’s page on eeweb. I retired ten years ago, so now I am doing hobby work. I am very old-fashioned, so I do most of my circuit analysis by hand, or by writing programs in C. Occasionally I use spice. For PCB development, I use the gEDA toolset: gschem for schematics, pcb for layout, gerbv for viewing Gerber files. I also use the old 1995 MS-DOS version of GCPREVUE (running in Dosbox) for viewing Gerber files.”

Erik Reed’s work station

Erik Reed is a technical fellow and VP of Electrical Characterization at KEMET. His official duties at KEMET include performing electrical measurements, computer modeling, and environmental testing of KEMET capacitors. The objective is to predict how the capacitors will perform in a wide range of customer applications and predict how reliable the capacitors will be in these applications. The results of these tests can then feed into the design process to improve the performance and reliability of our capacitors.

He said: “ What I’m most proud of in my home work environment is that I have almost immediate access (often at arm’s reach) to a wide range of electrical test/measurement tools. I use these tools to perform experiments of personal interest, and to build circuits and systems that support my hobbies. An important hobby is amateur radio, where I’ve personally designed and built much of the equipment I use.”

Charles J. Hafner’s work station

Charles J. Hafner is a development engineer at KEMET. He said, “ my goal is to characterize and evaluate Tantalum metal powders and valve metal parts from raw materials to finished components. Moreover, I contribute to the development and implementation of manufacturing technologies in powdered metal sintering.”

Scott Flower’s work station

Scott Flower, concept development manager at Harwin, is usually involved in the new product development as well as examining the company’s tech ready levels and the contact technology that we may want to implement over the next 3-5 years. He said: “I have a personal interest in 3D printing though and, because of the Coronavirus outbreak, I have put the 3D printer beside my home office computer to good use. My partner works for Gosport District Nursing Team in Portsmouth, UK and looks after elderly patients in their own homes. She is at risk from contracting COVID-19 during her day-to-day work and I wanted to protect her and her patients. I’d seen some of the NHS protective wear she had been provided which didn’t fully cover her face nor did it seem robust enough to me.”

He added, “I had read a few articles by people printing masks themselves and the idea of doing that was also brought to my attention by a friend. The masks she proposed would have taken an hour and a half to print though, so I simplified the design and stripped it back to a band with four pegs to clip onto a plastic sheet. By reducing the band thickness to a third of the proposed thickness, it worked well and took less time to print. The visor is a clear acetate – the sort used for overhead projector sheets – and I buy these through the post office online shop. A mask takes 35 mins to print and I make around 16 a day. We also have three other 3D printers onsite at Harwin which I’ve now put to good use for this purpose!”

Thank you all for your participation. Seeing working spots full of electronics is wonderful! Which one do you like the most?

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