60 second interview: Tristan Jones, technical marketing team leader, National Instruments
Paul Fanning talks to Tristan Jones, technical marketing team leader, National Instruments
How did you first get into engineering?
I was always interested in Maths, Science, and Computing. But, there is definitely an aspect of being hands on with technology that I always found very engaging and exciting. I always found it fascinating to understand how things work and playing with technology. And that was cemented officially when I signed up to do my Master's degree in engineering at the University of Birmingham.
What are the most interesting projects and technologies you have worked on?
My role as an engineer at National Instruments has certainly exposed me to a lot of fantastic projects that engineers have been working on in the UK. The Racing Green Endurance project at Imperial College was based on the SR8 petrol powered Supercar. It was converted to an all electric vehicle and then drove the whole length of the Pan-American highway. They used some of our tools as part of that and we were involved in helping them with part of the project.
David Kennedy from the University of West Scotland, worked on creating some solar and wind-powered clinics for Malawi for the provision of medical supplies to refrigerate vaccines and inoculations. We helped him maximise the efficiency of the plant and ultimately re-design it so it could be manufactured using lower tech, local materials.
Are there any technologies you see as being revolutionary?
We are at a transition point when it comes to the way we access and consume information. We are now adopting different ways to interact with technology from the transition of the keyboard to more gesture based systems and touch screens. This will have an impact on engineers in the way that we consume information, expect to get information and also assess the tools we need to develop and design engineering applications.
Cloud based technology will lead us in to a petabyte age of data which will allow us to approach problems in a different way. Rather than modelling them, you would take huge amounts of data to simulate exact conditions. For example, a bridge might have a large number of sensors that could capture data over a large period of time and provide it to structural engineers who can then use that to significantly improve the way they simulate and model a structure's design in the future so it can be more resilient and structurally sound in deployment.
Also there is the concept of the 'Internet of Things'. For example connecting your fridge to your internet shopping, your oven and your heating system, so they are all automated and managed by a centralised computer system. The concept of having ubiquitous sensors in countless different locations which are accessible and published globally through the internet to cloud-based services opens up a whole different world of developing things.
What is the biggest issue facing your industry?
The biggest issues in scientific and engineering disciplines is more socially stated; excitement about engineering and the requirement for more ambassadors. The Bloodhound team, Sir Richard Noble and Andy Green, are passionate about this cause, to actually build excitement around engineering and what it is really about, and getting the schools involved and teaching people about engineering. Elevating the excitement around these topics is a big part of what we need to do in the UK to retain people and build the next generation of that talent. Those are the people that are going to be able to realise solutions to the big engineering challenges that we face, like how are we going to feed everyone and where is our energy going to come from; making fission a reality and solar power efficient.
What advice do you have for younger engineers?
The young engineer needs to be passionate about what they do. That enthusiasm will undoubtedly work wonders along the career path and open up opportunities, but will also help fulfil that gap that we have in the UK in terms of ensuring that engineering continues to grow.
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