Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tony Stark, Engineer Extraordinaire ...

For many years, I recall watching movies and seeing how things didn't meet reality. There are a few things that bug me about movies, especially when computers are involved. For instance, the incessant "beep" noises computers make when the monitor is updating. Also, that computers seem to have a screen draw rate that of a typewriter. I know, leave your brain at the door, but its hard sometimes. Movies like Hackers drive me up a wall and try as I might to erase it from my memory, it appears that its still there. ... oh, I'll get back to the point.

I watched Iron Man this weekend, and it had its fair share of these annoyances, but the thing that surprised me the most is that it really stuck to some simple engineering principles to help create the story line.

I won't give away the plot or ending, but I'll elude to some of the details of him and his suit. He ends up building his suit, needless to say because they show part of the fabrication process in all the trailers. During that time he employs engineering principles quite well, started with a design phase, followed by a fabrication phase (but he built the first one by hand, after a few iterations, he automated the fabrication process). After that, he went into a recorded/session captured test cycle with a digital camera. During his flight tests, he records the session and debriefs after the session is complete. The whole test cycle was exploratory in nature, the only way to try it is by doing... in his words "you sometimes have to run before you can walk"

After he create the initial prototypes, he automated the fabrication processes after he put the suit through the paces. Five hours to build a new suit, so he can always have the latest build, usually with improvements after the test

Remind you of anything? Good lesson learned about engineering and how often we can easily take our processes and forget the basics. Great job by the movie makers too on keeping this philosophy alive and keeping true to the basics. Made it seem realistic by employing realistic techniques.