Life Long Learning for Keeping Engineers at the Fore

From “Two Score and More: A Lifetime of Learning for Keeping Engineers at the Fore”

I suggest the Lifelong Learning Imperative truly is a grand challenge.

Here’s why: The scope is not only ambitious, it is bold. It encompasses engineers at all ages; it embraces engineering at all stages.

It’s also a good time to consider the difference between “being an engineer” and “becoming an engineer” – and the ways that lifelong learning can make a difference in the lives of individual engineers, in the innovative and competitive capacity of our economy, and in the vibrancy of the profession of engineering.


My journey began when I heard a podcast on how Science is drowning in data on Real Science and how Scientists are turning to Cloud Computing to solve some of the problems. This took me to the research funded by NSF (about 5 million dollars to 14 Universities) on a wide variety of problems from Data Analytics to Visualization.

If you want to take a little peek into the future and some of the problems concerning nations, it is good to track organizations like NSF. What do they fund? Why do they fund it? What were the results? What happened to the technology built, lessons learned? Is there an opportunity to use these as a base for a business? Or simply as research data?

Twitter Streamgraph for Silverlight

One of the cool things about being on Twitter is the rapid rate at which you discover new resources on the web. Just a few minutes ago, I saw  “6 Unique Twitter Visualizations” from @RSS_Buzztracker. The first thing you do, of course, is to make it a favorite and retweet it so that your friends can enjoy it too.

The next thing is to go and investigate. Two of them just blew me away. I managed to grab and reproduce one of them here. It is called Twitter StreamGraph. You simply type the word or phrase and it provides a nice visualization. Since I was watching MIX09 videos yesterday (from Chennai, India) and knew that there is a lot of buzz going on around Silverlight 3.0, I decided to try it out. Here is what I got. It may be different when you try it:


The next one, called Twitter Thoughts is a fabulous motion chart. I have been fascinated by the power of motion charts ever since I saw one in a TED Talk a couple of years ago. Here is how it works:

TwitterThoughts creates charts based on Twitter tweets in combination with lots of APIs: From a sample of 600 tweets/minute served by the Twitter Api that we send to Yahoo Pipes where it extracts all phrases from the tweet text and the latitude/longitude with use of Yahoo YQL. This Yahoo Pipe outputs serialized PHP back to our local update script that grabs every tweet and phrase and puts it in our MySql database. Daily overviews for fast rendering of the chart data are generated with a daily CRON update. Finally Google Visualization API generates an interactive flash chart based on our JSON data feed.

I think as we get more useful data, especially trending data, we will start finding more innovative visualizations.