I started work at Boeing in January 1984. This developed into a love-hate relationship with my employer that went through a couple of break-ups. The last time mutual, albeit very resentful and bitter on my part. Looking back on it, I think it would be reasonable to describe it as an emotionally abusive relationship for me. The corporate climate was deadening to my soul. I am much better off not working in that environment even if I am financially worse off as a result.
Back in January of 1984, I was first hired as an engineer in Boeing’s Quality Assurance R & D department, I was 24, 6 months after graduation with a B.S. in mathematics from Wichita State University. I knew nothing of manufacturing or quality control thereof. Over the next fifteen years, I spent a total of thirteen of them toiling away in the bowels of Boeing, trying to improve their processes. I had very little success. It was a demoralizing experience that took a toll on my psyche.
Nowadays I am chief statistician at the National Center for Advanced Materials Processing. NCAMP as we fondly refer to it. I compute engineering design values for newly developed composite materials and run the statistics to determine if a new user of a material is able to reproduce the material properties sufficiently well.
Generic basis values are my idea for computing engineering design values that can be expected to work for 95% of CPM’s. I think it’s a great idea! But there’s a problem. And explaining why there’s a problem turns out to be a problem for me. As soon as the problem was explained to me, I understood why it existed and what needed to change. I spend several years studying the mathematics and eventually did my Ph.D. dissertation on the mathematics of a completely different approach.
But explaining why the current system isn’t suitable and our current methods produce inadequate basis values for composite materials isn’t easy for me. My understanding of both the problem and solution are a non-verbal intuition based on my years of experience with Boeing. While I have worked out the mathematics of my vision, I am, as yet, unable to coherently explain it to others in words and pictures.
But I keep trying. I think it’s a great innovation over the current approach, but if I can’t explain it to anyone else, it’ll never be used. More than anything, I would really like to see my ideas become the foundation of a new system of determining values that aerospace designers can rely on for decades to come. It could made a significant difference in bringing down the cost of development of new materials.