Employee Spotlight: Eric West

Employee Spotlight: Eric West

Eric West, Systems Engineer

What do you like best about working at DMC?

I like a lot of things. I enjoy working with a group of people who have a good sense of humor and fun in addition to being great at their work. I can count on them to support me in all of the interesting and challenging projects we encounter.  Everyone is expected to provide high quality work and the environment is always positive.

Do you have any engineering hobbies?

I’m fairly into robotics. In college, I participated in building two different robots for the Northwestern Robotics Design Competition and my team won in my senior year. Our winning robot played a unique game involving colored balls against other robots in an arena. The robot had to search for the balls, determine the color, and throw the balls at an opponent to secure negative points. It was a fun five month process with individually challenging aspects of an interesting game.

What do you like to do for fun?

I’ve been playing trombone since seventh grade. I started with the clarinet before that and even considered majoring in music in college. I like the trombone because it’s versatile and has a unique jazz slide sound that you don’t hear in other instruments. Trombone has a powerful role whether in orchestra or big band jazz.

I had some interesting hobbies as a kid. I was a yo-yo champ in middle school, taking third in the Midwest Regional Contest. I was also in a yo-yo club and we would perform in parades in Minneapolis. I always had a yo-yo in my pocket and would practice while waiting in line or for the bus. My first major purchase was a $45 Viper yo-yo. I don’t practice these days but I can still do some tricks, my favorite being the “boomerang.”

The same friend of mine who got me into yo-yoing also sparked an interest in unicycling as a kid. I used to ride his before getting my own unicycle for my birthday, and then we became the coolest kids on the block. Getting on the unicycle is the hardest part, but I was never stable enough to yo-yo and unicycle at the same time.

Will we be hearing from the DMC band soon?

The DMC band has five members right now and we are looking for a trumpeter to round out our instrumentation. Right now we are playing a lot of Dixieland and New Orleans style brass band music. You can expect to hear us play at some DMC events this summer!

Where are your favorite spots in Chicago?

My favorite restaurant right now is the Gaslight in Lincoln Park because they have really good food and deals. The Green Mill is my go-to for all jazz needs. The Museum of Science & Industry has always been a favorite, and I especially enjoy their coal mining simulation. I also just visited the Chicago History Museum. They have an exhibit on the history of Lincoln Park, which is where I live now, and it was interesting to learn about what has gone on in my neighborhood.

What was it like to engineer in Central America?

I participated in an Engineering abroad trip to Nicaragua to build and install a wind turbine in a rural community with no grid access. Although we tried to plan with CAD drawings and bills of materials, when we got there we had to scrap all of that and just work with whatever was available. We arrived to find the turbine blades already carved from wood and giant pipes to use as poles. We had two days in the city to weld and assemble and then we set out to each site. Unfortunately, one of the turbines collapsed but another had been erected by the time I left. From an engineering perspective it was interesting because instead of examining tolerances we were just seeing what we could weld together from what we had.

What has been your favorite project at DMC?

I worked on a vision system to inspect Braille pharmaceutical packages. It was a unique challenge due to the high-speed image acquisition and processing.  The system has to be simple and require minimal user input, so we implemented a complex “teach” algorithm to automatically learn the characteristics and text of each product it inspects. It’s been interesting to learn about and as a result I can read Braille packages by sight but only from the back side, reading backwards.


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