A SMALL, BUT TRANSFROMATIONAL EVENT


I was about nineteen and just beginning to learn my trade. The tool makers in the shop where I worked as a helper had noticed my eagerness to learn a trade and decided to put me to work. In effect, they were going teach me the trade of machinist. I responded well enough that I was given small jobs such as making simple wire bending dies. When making wire bending dies, one must allow for “spring back” after the bending operation is completed. The allowance was matter of guesswork based on experience for the particular die being developed. When the die was ready to try, the die was taken to the press room and given a first trial. A sample of the wire bent by the new die was laid on the drawing that specified the desired shape and a comparison made. Rarely was the shape correct on the first try. So, a second guess was made and the die modified. One would be correct if one suspected this could go on for a while. I had made several dies using this sometimes frustrating method and, as I started another bending die, I was primed to look for a way to improve on the “guess ” method. I had tried the new die and was making the comparison to the drawing when it occurred to me to measure the first trial “spring back” and try to compute, or predict, the necessary adjustment to the die. It further occurred to me that I should try simple linear proportion as the basis for the calculation. (At nineteen, before I started college, I would have used different words.) Well, I followed my instinct and it worked perfectly.I had experienced the first of the many “aha” moments in my life. Upon reflection, for me “aha” moments are addictive; the strong wish I have for more such moments is in control of my life- almost. However, this small event opened my eyes to the power of knowledge and it started me on the path which led to a science degree and a career in advanced Aerospace Engineering.

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