Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Engineering Conferences

I attended my very first engineering conference last week. Though I went to two years of grad school and numerous reviews and workshops, I had never had the chance to go to an honest for goodness engineering conference.

This past week I attended the Small Satellite Conference in Logan, Utah.

And it was awesome.

Imagine 500 engineers, ages high school to 90 years old, all in one place. All talking about something their incredibly passionate about.

Essentially, imagine DragonCon, but instead of people going all fangirl over Brandon Sanderson, they're going fangirl over James Wertz, the editor of Satellite Mission Analysis and Design. Seriously, I haven't seen that much excitement over the new release of a book since Harry Potter Seven. And this book weighs four pounds. Literally, everyone I knew at the conference bought one.

Personally, I went from booth to booth, trying to find vendors of reaction wheels. And when I came across the reaction wheels for CubeSats my mind was blown. CubeSats are satellites that are 10 cm by 10 cm by 10 cm. So basically their reaction wheels are the size of quarters.

Mind blowing.

It's amazing how technology adapts and changes. How people can find solutions for the impossible. And that's the great thing about conferences. You get to discover what everyone else in your field is doing: the work that has been actually accomplished and the work that is cutting edge theory. I sat through four days of lectures and I only fell asleep in a handful of them.

And the falling asleep is inevitable, because engineers love to party.

Granted its not always what you imagine a party to be, since a lot of engineers tend to be socially awkward, but its our version of partying. I saw three movies (Cowboys and Aliens, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Captain America). I went bowling four times (won two of those games). And went to two "socials" (officially approved events by the conference). But the "real" party-ers spent all their time at "The White Owl", Logan's only bar. (It's not exactly a big city). I don't drink and think movies and bowling are MUCH more fun, but apparently its like the whole conference shows up there every night.

So that's what engineering conferences are like. Anyone else out there every been to an engineering conference? Any great stories? I have plans to go to several more this year (now that I'm a real person and all), so I imagine I'll have many great stories.

Especially since I don't plan on getting sick for multiple days the next time. (Yeah, it wasn't pretty. I hate being sick on travel.)

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