Fred Vasenius's professional Page

What do I do for a living? I'm a mechanical engineer but that doesn't tell you much about what I do. This page is all about what I do and why I'm passionate about it. This page is currently under construction and more content is being created so please check back regularly.

I'm an engineer and I'm currently looking for work. Here is my Web Resume and PDF resume. pdf icon

I chose engineering because I like to solve problems and for me the mathematical and technical facets of it made it all that more interesting.

Engineering has allowed me to enjoy all kinds of behind the scenes looks at things many of us enjoy. I've designed televisions and learned about why shipping packaging is more interesting than it looks and even been able see my work in high end electronics stores. Here are a collection of stories that illustrate what I've done in past.

Tales of my life as an engineer

I love my job as an engineer. If I had it all to do over again, I would still be an engineer. Here are a few stories about the jobs I've had. I hope you'll enjoy my passion for my work.

The best summer job I ever had

Back in 1997, I worked for a company called Cadtrain. Their product was training software for the Pro/Engineer computer aided design(CAD) system. I helped develop some of their web browser based software and also some tutorials for one of their clients, NASA's Jet propulsion laboratory(JPL). It was great to develop my written communication skills. The highlight of the summer was actually going to JPL. That place is amazing! It's like Disneyland for engineers. The best part of the job was all the learning that I did. I had learned about Pro/Engineer solid modeling CAD software in college. I even helped teach the lab session for that class, but at Cadtrain I learned all kinds of things that weren't covered in these courses. Summer came to an end and I needed to get back to Walla Walla College (now Walla Walla University) to finish my degree. While I would like to think that I made a valuable contribution to at Cadtrain, I believe that what I got out of it was much more valuable than what I was able to give. I improved CAD skills that to this day are serving me well and my experience in the training industry helped prepare me for later work teaching at California State University at Fullerton.

A machining and manufacturing adventure

In 1998 I started my first job out of college was working a company called West Coast Performance Products. They were an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of machined parts. Their clients included the automotive industry, the public transportation industry, and the personal watercraft industry. I had machined things before but when you're making thousands of parts, things are different. Many automotive parts are made of cast metal this allows intricate shapes to be made in one process. Casting has a drawback, often the accuracy isn't tight enough for places where parts need to fit together tightly. This requires a machining process to cut the parts to the required specifications such as making certain surfaces flat enough or locating holes with the required precision and accuracy. My job was to develop fixtures to efficiently fasten down cast aluminum parts so they could be machined. I learned a lot but unfortunately one of their major clients cut back their order quite significantly and that required cutback that included my position. It was however, a great learning experience.

A Lesson in Thermoforming

Have you ever given much thought to how the disposable dinner plates that you use at fast food restaurants are made? Have you ever given any thought to the thermoforming process that makes them? I hadn't until I worked for C and M Finepacking. Thermo forming, also known as pressure forming is a process where a sheet of material, in this case a plastic laminate is heated up caused to conform to a mold by a vacuum and air pressure. It's like forming a pie crust onto a pie pan. My job was to assist in in the modification of the mold machinery using Cadkey CAD software. It was great to learn about a manufacturing process that up until that point I new next to nothing about. More importantly, I learned how wonderful it can be to take a closer look at things I had previously taken for granted.

An Adventure in Home Entertainment

Hight definition digital televisions are a huge step up from analog TV's. I gained an appreciation for them when I started doing mechanical design for Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America Corp. There I worked on shipping packaging where my coworkers and I had make sure that the televisions would arrive at their destinations without damage. We actually had to drop test the televisions. It was sure fun to be able to say that I got paid to break televisions. Designing shipping packaging also gave me the opportunity to use the parametric capabilities of Pro/Engineer CAD software. Since the size and shape of the televisions were similar I was able to program the CAD software change the packaging design to a variety of different configurations by clicking on and changing dimensions on a drawing. I was quite pleased with how this sped up the design process. I also did what is know in the industry as electronic packaging. This is not to be confused with shipping packaging. All electronics take up space, give off heat and are subjected to mechanical stresses. It is the job of the electronic packaging engineer to place or assist in the the placement of components, route the necessary cabling, make sure things don't get to hot, and work with the shipping packaging engineers to avoid or remedy weak areas in the structure. The product also must be feasible to manufacture. All the variables that have to be taken into account keep engineering fun and interesting.

Training Consultant

I enjoy helping other engineers and so it was great fun to help Triple A Containers develop an efficient packaging design system using Pro/Engineer (Wildfire version) CADD software. Not only did I get to help with some of the basics but I also helped the engineering staff learn best practices. Pro/Engineer allows you to develop a solid 3D geometry in the computer that can be quickly modified to by change one or more parameters. This is typically called parametric solid modeling. This functionality can be tricky to implement since it is possible to specify geometry that the software can't create eg: moving the location a hole completely off the part. Triple A Containers was developing packaging for televisions of varying sizes. Being able to develop new packaging from existing designs with simple modifications allowed the firm to save many labor hours and provide better service.

Teaching at California State University at Fullerton

Some people enjoy teaching and I got the chance to learn why. I taught solid modeling using Pro/Engineer CADD software at California State University at Fullerton. It was an exciting opportunity and challenge to develop presentations. I enjoyed preparing step by step HTML based tutorials to supplement the text book. Since had used Pro/Engineer for years in industry it was truly rewarding to help other industry professionals become competent with it. Here is a link to my student reviews. It is important to note that to prepare myself for this job, I joined a Toastmasters International club. My Toastmasters International club is part of a nonprofit educational organization that operates clubs worldwide for the purpose of helping members improve their communication, public speaking and leadership skills. I am still a member and continue to attend meetings to further improve my communication skills. Here is a link to the main Toastmaster International site.

Working on Thermal Blankets at Boeing Satellite Systems

We hear about space craft and see pictures and news stories about them but when I got a chance to work at Boeing Satellite Systems I actually got to see real satellites in the course of my job. I was working for the blanket design group. The vacuum of space subjects satellites to intense heating from the sun without shielding from the atmosphere or the Van Allen belts and frigid cooling due from the blackness of space. As a result, thermal blankets made of various materials like mylar with vacuum deposited aluminum, and Kapton to name only a couple. These blankets help keep the spacecraft from getting too hot or too cold. My job involved developing installation models and drawings and designing training mock-ups which proved to be quite a complex challenge. It was extremely fascinating to learn about the electrical connections necessary for the blankets as well as the interconnection between blankets from radio frequency seems connections such as hook and pile (just like velcro but not the velcro brand) attachments.

Mechanical Design for Panasonic Avionics

Many of us have have watched a movie while flying on an airplane but what happens behind the scenes? I got to find out and work on the avionics that make this happen. I designed vibration testing fixtures, electronic packaging for airborne electronics used in commercial aviation performed vibration testing. In engineering we try to solve problems while keeping things simple. One of the problems I had was and old video signal amplifier was overheating. One proposed solution was to install a fan, this kept it cool but possible failure of the fan raised reliability issues. I found a way to eliminate the need for the fan by using heat sinks to conduct heat away from the electronics and into the outer case. I was pleased when this unit passed heat and vibration testing. In addition to solving thermal issues I also modeled ARINC electrical cable connectors on cable assemblies and Line Replaceable Units (LRUs).

Designing Medical Devices at Edwards Life Sciences

I had never worked on medical devices before and so I was in for an exciting new adventure when I started working for Edwards Life Sciences. I was working on needle less blood sampling equipment. Let me explain. I you already have a line into a blood vessel from something such as an intravenous drip or an intra arterial blood pressure monitoring line you can avoid sticking another needle into a patient if you can tap into the existing line. Competition between manufacturers is stiff so designers are always working to improve the equipment. I worked on designing valve interfaces to make the equipment easier for nurses and doctors to use.

Designing Small Hand Held Antennas at Laird Technologies

Cell phones and various radio frequency (RF) devices for are all over the place but what goes into the physical engineering of these devices? I got to find out first hand from the (RF) lab to designing small antennas made of sheet metal to ones that go on like a sticker. It's always fun to get the technical story behind everyday technology. After working on phones and a hand held scanner and transceiver, I don't look at cell phones quite the same way.

Designing Surgical Tools at Stryker Instruments

I have great respect for surgeons and when I worked on designing surgical instruments my respect for surgeons, specifically brain surgeons increased dramatically. My job was to develop a disposable bipolar electro surgery instrument. Electro surgery instruments use electricity instead of a blade to cut, similar to the way one might use an electric arc welder to cut metal, except surgeons use these instruments to cut soft tissue. These tools would be used to resect (that's surgical jargon for removing)tumors and in this case the active and return (medical jargon for grounding) electrodes both needed to be on the tip of the instrument rather than having the return electrode on another part of the patient such as a thigh. This was because it was intended that this instrument be used in brain surgery and the bi-polar tip allowed the surgeon to avoid running electricity through brain tissue that isn't being cut. This instrument a disposable instrument so I needed to make sure that it was easy to manufacture. This instrument resembled a screwdriver in that it consisted of a handle with a shaft protruding from it. The handle consisted two halves with an electrical plug on the end opposite the shaft. As I was designing it and making sure that it would be compatible with the various manufacturing processes such plastic injection molding and ultra sonic welding, I realized that both halves of the handle could be the exact same part. This would mean one less part to build tooling for and a simpler assembly process. These and many other challenges an adventures made this one of my favorite contracts.

Continuing Education

I enjoy learning and furthermore, time spent putting off learning is time you don't get back. In 2013, I completed one of my long term goals. I completed a masters degree in aerospace engineering at California State University Long Beach. I've also taken a few classes at UC Irvine. Here are some of the classes I've taken to expand my mind and further develop professionally.

Engineering Analysis I

This course gave a good review of linear algebra and vector space as well as the eigen value problem as it relates to system stability but so far the most useful thing I learned about was curve fitting. I've typeset some of my notes and put them in PDF form so in the hopes that someone will find them useful. Here is a link to more information on this.

Turbulent Free Shear Flows

This course taught at UCI covered turbulence, specifically the kind you would have coming out of a jet or rocket. The course description is as follows. More information is available here.