Poco-Intro: Alex Forman

As one of the newest additions to the team, I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce myself. This being a blog, it may devolve into a game of “Things I Think are Cool” but rarely is there a better way to get a quick handle on someone’s passions and the way they think.

I come from a slightly different background from the other members of our group. I’ve spent my time with the oscilloscope and soldering iron, but my real expertise lies in the physical prototyping process. I work best with my hands on the mill (or wrench, or torch, or mouse…), helping flesh out early concepts and build up a functioning system.

I grew up in Colorado, and like most of my generation got my design start early on through Legos. My spaceships and castles were never complete, though, without a mechanism of some form. A secret door operated by lever halfway across the building, or an escape vehicle that disengaged at a moments notice. I wasn’t really aware of engineering, or how this might relate to what I had been building, until I started to prep for college. A career path where I could continue to design real-life versions of models? Perfect.

The story gets a little murkier here. Too much spent with theory and modeling led to grad school and a lifetime spent in front of a computer, running MATLAB code. A career as an academic researcher was derailed by a chance encounter with the machine shop. There, I rediscovered both my love of building, and teaching. The desire to get my hands dirty, and make something that works in the world, had been what brought me to engineering in the first place. And it only took me ten years to figure it out.

Mechatronics and smart product design offers a greatly expanded toolkit to the engineer. The increasing number of ways interact digitally with the world opens new avenues for problem solving, without the space or energy requirements of older systems. Sometimes, this can be merely a way to spice up a faltering design. But when applied in creative ways, the fix can have astonishing results.

So, where does this leave me as a designer? I like items that are functional, often in unexpected ways. Modularity, although there’s a point where open-ended solutions becomes its own problem. Clever, simple DIY creations. And two wheeled vehicles of all forms, although I’ll always prefer a heavy duty all-mountain bike over a hand-brazed heirloom. I’m looking forward to sharing examples of all of these, and all the projects the new year will bring!

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