Eric Anderson, Project Engineer
You were a TA in graduate school. What was the experience of teaching classes like, and what lessons have you carried into your career?
A class about PLCs (programmable logic controller) was my favorite as an undergrad so I really enjoyed the opportunity to teach it. I realized students became frustrated with the standard course structure of trying to program structureless ladder logic without any assistance. Rather than repel them from programming, I modified that first exercise to demonstrate the structureless approach and immediately show them a systematic technique that would make programming a PLC much easier and instill in them an interest in automation. I have carried the structured PLC techniques that I gained as both a student and a teacher into projects at DMC.
Describe some of the most interesting projects you have worked on at DMC.
I have always been fascinated with translating graphical diagrams into working code so any opportunity I have to work on such a project is always fun. One example was upgrading from a network of electrical relays to a PLC for a grinding wheel tester that ensured the grinding wheels wouldn't fly apart at high speeds. Another example was indexing conveyer spindles through a coating spray cycle. In both cases, a state function chart was constructed and then translated into ladder logic using the structured techniques learned in school.
One application I have been working on since I started at DMC is DriveWorksEZ, which programs AC inverter drives using graphical function blocks. These function block diagrams are compiled into something the drive can understand and operate. I enjoy any opportunity I have to fix, upgrade, or enhance DriveWorksEZ because I have been working with it for nearly three years and after a certain point you become emotionally attached to the projects you develop.
What do you like to do outside of engineering?
Aside from spending time with my family, two of my hobbies are collecting comic books (DC only) and riding roller coasters.
Any plans to engineer a roller coaster someday?
Actually roller coasters are what sparked my interest in engineering. As a teenager, I worked at Six Flags Great America and started sweeping streets and cleaning restrooms in order to become an operator on the American Eagle, my favorite roller coaster (go red side!). The more I rode and operated that coaster, the more I loved it. I started college looking into roller coaster design and realized I was more interested in the control and automation engineering aspects of these rides.
Batman is your favorite superhero; what would your engineering superhero name and power be?
Captain Anderson, and my power would be to write and debug code with my mind.
What do you like best about working at DMC?
I love being surrounded by so many smart people who truly care about what they are doing. Using best practices, object oriented design, and correctly architecting software are essential to everyone here. From the time I first crossed paths with DMC to the present, the people are what distinguishes it.
What are some key lessons you have taken from your career thus far?
The vital importance of communication is something I've learned and am continually developing. It's critical to keep your colleagues and clients updated on developments large and small, good and bad, throughout the span of a project.
You went to school in Madison; how does Chicago compare and do you have a favorite destination?
One of my favorite places to visit in Chicago is the Museum of Science and Industry, specifically their model train exhibit. Wisconsin is a very well-run state and Madison is a beautiful place to live; however, Chicago is where things are happening!