Self-driving cars and real life tricorders: What will your legacy be?

No matter where you end up, as an engineer you’re going to be working on projects. Unlike a lot of workers who do the same task day after day, you’ll be doing a dynamic, problem-solving job. Which is much cooler.

But the point is that you’ll be able to look back on some of the biggest projects you’d worked on. Your legacy: the things that you put your all into and you feel made the biggest impact. That could be any number of things. A building you helped design, a breakthrough in medical engineering research, a new app or even operating system you worked on, an innovative spacecraft, or even something simpler like a convenient solution to a common problem.

A sketch-up of the original, Star Trek tricorder design. Very functional, but it definitely looks like it was designed almost 50 years ago.

Here are two very recent developments which we think look like they may wind up being the legacy (or at least a legacy) of those who worked on it. And to boot, they’re pretty cool projects.

The first is a real-life tricorder. We’ve blogged about the X-prize contest to make a medical tricorder in the past (and we have a link to the official page at the end of this post).

A Canadian cognitive science researcher named Peter Jansen made a near-fully-functional standard tricorder, which has a vast sensor board to detect atmospheric pressure, the electromagnetic spectrum, temperature, location, and many other things. The only things it can’t scan, that a Star Trek tricorder can, are biological materials (used in the TV show to scan alien life forms).

Dr. Peter Jansen's tricorder mk2 design

Jansen designed and built the thing himself, and it runs a Linux-based operating system, with a custom display. Which shows the usability of Linux, for sure. In fact, we highly recommend anyone who wants to get into computer science learn about Linux, and consider installing it on their PC. Perhaps you could get to designing your own tricorder operating system.

We think Jansen’s work in cognitive research will be his real legacy, but he’ll definitely also be remembered for this awesome little invention, which he made just for fun.

The other thing we want to show you is more of your typical ‘legacy’ project: Google’s self-driving car project, which is making great progress. The team has already safely driven 200,000 miles autonomously, and is starting to test on the road, for real. Check out this video.


While there are still a lot of hoops to jump through–DOT safety regulations
and the like–we think this project will be great for helping disabled people like
Steve remain independent.

We’ve also featured driverless cars in previous posts, because we think this is going to be a big thing. And it’s a slowly-budding market, too, perhaps because there are a lot of problems to solve. You could very well enter the working world right when they’re starting to get big, meaning you could have a big impact on the industry, and help people like Steve out.

Steve Mahan, blind, drives a car. Screenshot from the above video.

These two projects are very different, but they also have some things in common. Both are worked on by engineers, people who solve problems and work on big projects like these. And both require creative use of computer science and programming to solve, because CS is the future of engineering. Your future can hold really interesting projects like these if you start learning computer science now and work hard to be a great engineer.

Read on:

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One thought on “Self-driving cars and real life tricorders: What will your legacy be?

  1. Pingback: Engineering the “dis” out of “disability.” | GetReal

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