Innovating With Radar

I am a person who always wants to know how things work.  I can not simply use some fancy feature on my device.  I must figure out how the feature works, and test it to see if I can figure out if the engineer was thorough in the design of the feature.  This trait in […]

I am a person who always wants to know how things work.  I can not simply use some fancy feature on my device.  I must figure out how the feature works, and test it to see if I can figure out if the engineer was thorough in the design of the feature.  This trait in me comes from many years of being the engineer designing the feature, and sometimes overlooking things that the end-user eventually points out to me. 

I recently found myself experimenting with the Cruise Control System on my new car.  I have had cars with Cruise Control before, but this car’s Cruise Control was far more complex than anything I had seen in my old car, and I had to know how it worked. 

The cruise control in my old car allowed me to set the desired speed of the car; that was all it did.  If I set the cruise the control for 60 mph, and steered into a brick wall, I would impact the wall at 60 mph, and die.  The new car contained something which it called “Adaptive Cruise Control”, and it was there to protect idiots who might find themselves steering toward a brick wall at 60 mph.

With Adaptive Cruise Control, there is a radar mounted inside the grill on the front of the car, and there is a Cruise Control Computer which takes inputs from many sources, primarily the radar, and sends commands to your accelerator actuator.  This radar points a beam ahead of the car.  The radar senses what is ahead of the car, and the speed of what is ahead of the car, and adjusts your vehicles speed as required to prevent you from hitting whatever is in front of you.  If necessary, as in the case of the brick wall, it will even stop you prior to impact, theoretically. 

Wow, I thought.  I need to test this.  I need to figure out what the engineer forgot to consider.  No, for those who may be thinking this, I did not try driving into a brick wall.

Amazingly, my Adaptive Cruise Control worked flawlessly, even though I sometimes could not figure how it knew what it knew.  For example, if there is a cement barrier following a curve in the road, how does it keep the radar pointed at the car I am following, and not the barrier which is directly in front of me in the curve?  Obviously, Cruise Control Computer must be getting inputs from my steering wheel, so it knows I am in a curve, and it steers the beam in the direction of the curve.  Brilliant.

The use of increasingly sophisticated Radar technology in our cars today is pushing the limits of what used to be unimaginable.  And, increasingly sophisticated Radars can be used in almost anything, not just cars, so the opportunity for innovation in Radar is limitless.

If you would like to learn more about radar so you can innovate new uses for radar, consider taking the upcoming ATI course Radar – Basic Principles.  This course is intended for scientists, engineers, and technical managers who require an introduction to the basic principles and techniques used in modern radar systems.  This is a new 3-day ATI course which replaces previous ATI Courses Radar 101 and Radar 201, which are no longer being offered.  You can learn more about Radar – Basic Principles, and register for it here.

And, as always, you can learn about the full set of courses offered by ATI at www.aticourses.com

This Sounds So Cool ( See what I did there? )

There are so many applications of Acoustics in every day life.  In fact, scientists are coming up with new applications every day.  Many people think of the most popular applications of Acoustics like Ranging and Imaging.  If you think the only applications of Acoustics are Sonar and Ultra Sound Imaging, you would be so wrong. […]

There are so many applications of Acoustics in every day life.  In fact, scientists are coming up with new applications every day.  Many people think of the most popular applications of Acoustics like Ranging and Imaging.  If you think the only applications of Acoustics are Sonar and Ultra Sound Imaging, you would be so wrong.

For example, China has discovered that they can use Acoustics to help them deal with the effects of Global Warming.  In order to increase their water supply during drought periods, China has discovered that by aiming low frequency sound waves at clouds, they can stimulate that cloud into dropping rainfall when it otherwise would not have done so.

As another example, China has also discovered a more efficient way to limit the number of plastic fibers that get come out of washing machines and get released into the drain.  This was required because conventional filters on washing machines do not catch the tiny fibers that can be so destructive to the marine ecosystem.  By using Acoustic filters that produce a type of forcefield in the water, all the fibers can be collected.

Going forward, finding new and important applications for Acoustics is ripe for technical innovation.

To learn more about applications of Acoustics, consider taking the upcoming ATI course  Acoustic Fundamentals, Measurements, and Applications.

This four-day course is intended for engineers and other technical personnel and managers who have a work-related need to understand basic acoustics concepts and how to measure and analyze sound. This is an introductory course and participants need not have any prior knowledge of sound or vibration. Each topic is illustrated by relevant applications, in-class demonstrations, and worked-out numerical examples. The instructor for this course reaches out to all registered students prior to the class to learn about their interests so he can tailor the course to meet their needs.  The upcoming offering of this course is Guaranteed-To-Run.

You can learn more about this course, and register to attend at

Acoustics Fundamentals, Measurements, and Applications – ATI Courses

And, as always, you can learn about the full set of courses offered by ATI at www.aticourses.com

Eric Clapton, Tom Logsdon, & the Kitchen Stove: A Tiny Tale of Creativity & Innovation

Last week when a customer had questions I talked with Tom Logsdon about the 6 methods of training used in his Creativity & Innovation course. The six methods are spelled out in his book Six Simple Creative Solutions that Shook the World. Tom is a mathematician and rocket scientist by training (and he teaches courses […]
Last week when a customer had questions I talked with Tom Logsdon about the 6 methods of training used in his Creativity & Innovation course. The six methods are spelled out in his book Six Simple Creative Solutions that Shook the World. Tom is a mathematician and rocket scientist by training (and he teaches courses on GPS and Orbital & Launch Mechanics in his spare time) who teaches creativity paired with discipline. Yesterday, my husband called to alert me to a minor crisis at home. Our 2 year old gas stove, both burners and oven, had ceased to heat. It was fine at breakfast and not at lunch. Although fueled by gas it has electric igniters. During the phone call we took a scientific approach. Six Simple Creative Solutions that Shook the World #1: Break your problem apart & put it back together: we concluded that since the burners could be started with a lighter that the problem was not in the gas feed. Additionally, the digital clock didn’t work. Everything pointed to something electric. However, the circuit breaker was fine. Later, when I came home we pulled the stove out and 6SCStStW #2: Take a fresh look at the interfaces. The electric connection appeared secure on both ends and it didn’t work with an alternate outlet. By this time -in a too-crowded kitchen with a malfunctioning appliance- the (wall) clock was ticking, no food was being prepared and my husband and mother were chomping at the bit. I reached for the iPod, plugged it in to the speaker and turned on some vintage Eric Clapton Unplugged….and nothing…..happened. Zero sound. Then the Eureka moment occurred! Or 6SCStStW #6. Happy Serendipity. Believe me, I needed those mellow acoustic notes. That is when I realized that the outlet circuit had tripped. I hit the reset button and Voila! Eric Clapton strummed the guitar and Chuck Leavell dazzled on the piano. Electricity was restored to the stove and dinner was prepared and served. Thank you Tom Logsdon & Eric Clapton! Note: Tom Logsdon’s Creativity & Innovation course is available for training at your facility.

NASA Is Looking For New Ideas For Space Travel!

Got an idea? Here is your chance to present it as well as win a competition. What are some of the ideas on the table? Here are just a few. a laser that could beam power and communications over the vast distances of space a sail that could shield a craft from space debris and […]
A NASA artist's rendering of a solar sail in space. The technology could have many uses in future exploration, the space agency says.
Got an idea? Here is your chance to present it as well as win a competition. What are some of the ideas on the table? Here are just a few.
  • a laser that could beam power and communications over the vast distances of space
  • a sail that could shield a craft from space debris and safely land it from orbit
  • a small atomic clock that can keep time long enough and accurately enough for the challenges of deep-space navigation
This is all very exciting except for one thing.  All this ideas are being gathered in order to assist NASA’s new heavy-lift rocket that is supposed to be launched in 2017.   There is a lot of debate on whether or not the proposed launch will ever happen.  There is also concern that the huge budget of the project will pull the funds away from new and emerging technologies.
Sign Up For ATI Courses eNewsletter