Reveling in Speed and Technology – Tesla Test Drive Day at PADT

We have great customers.  The kind of cusomers that call up and ask “Hey, what do you think about having a Tesla test drive event for PADt employees”  Duh.  Yes.  Please provide contact information.

Then we thought this was an event better shared with other techno-speed-nerds. The Tempe Tesla show room people liked the idea so we put together an event for our ANSYS and Stratasys customers. (Just another reason to buy from us)

The basic idea was simple, stop on by the PADT parking lot in Tempe and drive a Tesla Model S or Model X, or both.  The Tesla people brought along their technical person and the test drive people were also very knowledgable about all the features in the three vehicles they let us drive. The course left the PADT parking lot, drove up to Elliot, then entred to 101, and then get off at Warner or Rey and head back, while the brave Tesla employee tried to keep cool. Especially when Oren was driving.

For many of us, this was the first time we had driven one.  Let me just say that the common factor across employees and cusotmers is that everyone had an ear-to-ear grin on their face when they got back from their test drive.  These cars are not just fast (large numbers of electrons pushed through big motors equals lots of torque right away) but they are brilliantly engineered. From the user interface, to the seats to, to the suspension. Everything is done right.  As a group of engineers that was almost as exciting as the raw power and impecable styling of the cars.

It was a true nerdfest.  We spent 10 minutes discussing regenerative breaking schemes and the idea of using regeneration all the time when you lift off the accerator instead of putting your foot on the break to slow down slightly.  This is the type of paradigm shift that disrupts around one hundred years of automotive legacy.  Why does the accelrator pedal have to be an accelerator pedal. Why can’t it be an input for acceleration and deceleration based on position?  We also spent even more time (I’m embarassed to say how long) talking about charging.  And then the topic turned to autonomous driving and the sensors used.  Good times.  Good times.

PADT’s relationships with Tesla actually goes way back. When they were first starting out and were just a handfull of engineers, we provided some ANSYS training and did a consulting job for them on thermal management for an early battery system.  So we proudly count them as a happy PADT customer.  And of course PADT worked on the large Blink chargers and has supported many companies that are suppliers to tesla.

Look for similar events in the future. No sales or seminars, just smart-people-fun type of events. 

 

Sometimes it is only about speed! Team building at the Kart track

SIMSAL-2016_06_14-Racing-3Every once in the while you need to get out of the office and run your co-workers off a track. For whatever reason, when members of our Sales and Support department put on some helmets and strapped themselves in to electric racing karts, they got very competitive.

The people who sell and support 3D Printers and Simulation software left their Stratasys and ANSYS brochures at home and headed to the Octane Raceway in Scottsdale, AZ for some fun and decompression. They have been working hard all year making customers happy, and they needed a way unwind.  So the drove in circles.

Fun was had by all. Only a few curse words were exchanged. Mario was asked to get a more subtle shirt.

The only disappointment is that the winner of the event was Oren Raz… most of us back at the office were pulling for Clinton Smith to take the trophy.

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Phoenix Business Journal: 5 reasons why nerds celebrate Pi Day

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Have you heard? It’s Pi Day! This post, “5 reasons why nerds celebrate Pi Day” shares the reasons why those of us in the know like Pi day so much.
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Kids, Pizza, Engineering – A Fantastic SciTech Festival Open House at PADT

ScitechFestivalLogoWe thought we would open PADT’s doors to families and maybe a few people would stop by. Over 250 people did just that.  What a great evening of smiling kids and adults enjoying the excitement of engineering.  Exciting engineering? Yes, we know enough to not talk about quality system protocols, matrix inversions, and non-linear turbulence model convergence. We stuck to 3D Printing, elephants on skateboards, and 3D scanners. And we fed everyone pizza.

FullSizeRenderIt was a great evening where everyone learned something.  The focus was on exposing what engineers do, what PADT does, to people who may not be technical. Mostly kids but we also saw it as a way for engineers to show their family members and friends what engineering is about.  The results far exceeded our expectation, mostly because of how great everyone who showed up was.

Some of the quotes from people who have emailed to thank us are:

“Thank you for opening up your office to me.  What a cool place!  Even though I have been familiar with and worked with 3D printing for 20+ years, it is always nice to see the new technology, products, and the output of the products. “

“… to see my son and all of the other kids so excited and amazed was truly awesome. Mason told me it was the best night of his life! And this morning his first words to me where thanking me for taking him to the event and when can we go back.”

“This is such a great opportunity for me to show my grandkids what I spent my life doing, and seeing them get so excited about it is wonderful”  

The best part of the event for most of us here at PADT were the fantastic questions.  As one of our engineers said “for 2 hours I was just lost in the joy of positive human interaction.”  We do love what we do here, but it was nice to share it with other people.

Below are some pictures from the evening.  Make sure you sign up for PADT’s email list to get invites to future events.

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We were pleased to be named a AZ SciTech Festival Signature Event

 

At several points in the evening, the line was headed out the door.
At several points in the evening, the line was headed out the door.

 

The Demo room was full of 3D Printers and the kids loved handling the parts.
The Demo room was full of 3D Printers and the kids loved handling the parts.
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Our office robot was a huge hit.
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The seminar room was turned into a hands-on lab for everyone to touch and feel the engineering tools we use.
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Some of the youngest attendees were able to give ANSYS AIM a literal spin and model the effect of a kid, a dad, and an elephant standing on a skateboard.
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Some people just took to a given tool, even advanced simulation.
Students with exposure to engineering were able to ask our experts in-depth questions about technologies.
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The haptic device was a huge hit. It give real feedback as you edit and probe an object on the computer. Needless to say, kids adapted to it far faster than the adults.
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Engineering students were able to dive deep into the mechanics behind 3D Printing as well as its real world applications in industry.
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This is Ovid. He is PADT’s new mascot. We hope to use him more in the future to help explain what we do here.
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This station shows how 3D Printing works, by stacking layers of material. Ovid doesn’t look as good in low resolution.
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Scanning was a great way for everyone to see how we inspect and reverse engineer objects.

Star Wars – The Force Awakens with PADT

padt-star-wars-vii-5For an engineer, there are certain TV and Movie experiences that border on the religious – Star Wars is of course one of those.  That is why PADT’s main office in Tempe closed down today to head down the freeway to the Chandler to see Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens.

Around 370 employees, family members, friends, vendors, former employees, and customers showed up for the 10:00 am showing.  We were confident that JJ Abrams would do a great job, because he did so well with an even more important franchise to PADT, Star Trek.  We were not disappointed.  There were cheers, there was laughter, and several of us confessed in the lobby afterwards that we teared up a bit.  A true treat.

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We had a 410 seat theater and about 350 RSVP’s . So we got a bit nervous as the seats filled up. We did get more unexpected people then we cancellations, but we had plenty of room and the more the merrier. Bottom line, the first two rows were empty. So prefect.

I want to thank Josh Heaps here for putting it all together and for dealing with our constantly asking him about when and where it was and how many seats the theater had.

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My friend Ryan, one of AZ’s biggest Star War fans, and our fantastic V.P from Chase, Camille, were great sports who dressed up and posed for pictures. Not only does Camille constantly help make our banking a great experience, she jumps right in with our engineering fun.

This is also a great venue to thank our customers and vendors for coming and for bringing your families.  We don’t get to see many of you often enough, and rarely outside of a meeting or a phone call.  Seeing the smiles on everyone’s face after the movie was, as they say, worth the price of admission.

May the Force Be With You

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That Opening Logo that We have All Been Waiting a Long Time to See.

2015 PADT Pumpkin Fest and Launch

padt-pumpkin-lunch-1Every year around the end of October PADT has our holiday season kick-off event, our Pumpkin Fest and Launch.  This year we also added in a company meeting, killing three birds with one pumpkin.

The weather was fantastic, and we all enjoyed sitting outside in the sun under a clear blue sky.  Our pumpkin catapult, recently improved, was then rolled out for some pumpkin chunkin’ fun.

Thanks to the folks at Tech Shop Chandler we had a redesigned basket for the pumpkins to go in. Their industrial sewing machine was a perfect tool to make something strong enough.  Her are some picture below that I took with my phone, we will add video next week.

Manoj M won on distance, and Jeff McK took the prize for accuracy.

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The PADT Pumpkin cataPult ready to go.
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Ted shows good form while striving for accuracy
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The only change to this years design was a better basket made with industrial fabric on an industrial sewing machine from Tech Shop

Turkey, Team Building, and Spaghetti Towers: PADT’s Turkey Bowl 2014

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[EDITOR’S NOTE:  This was written some time ago and was set to automatically go out. But I just found it stuck in the “pending” folder.  So late, but here it is]  

It has been a great 20th anniversary year for PADT.  And we decided to close it out with some fun.  Now, if you know engineers, getting them to take part in any team building event is tough. And many of our employees came to PADT to get away from such things. The phrase "team building" causes a Pavlovian eye roll.  As we discussed options for November, we looked at a lot of activities. When we settled on doing an event that not only involved teams, but also color coded shirts, puzzles, and (gasp) a lean towards being healthier I said "we should try it, but it probably won't work" and hoped to be proven wrong. Even with the help of the great folks at Physix, I didn't have high hopes. But you don't know until you try.

I was proven wrong. 

Kickoff: Halloween and Pumpkin Launching

We started with a kickoff event on Halloween, which was nice enough to be on a Friday this year. In the past we have carved pumpkins and built a dry-ice pumpkin mortar.  This year we fed everyone to get them in a good mood and then put them in teams.  After some trivia contests we moved over the the first event – a pumpkin slingshot.

We finished up the kickoff event with rules and a list of ways to get points:  go to lunch with team mates, go for a hike, attend a class at Physix, get a fitness assessment, lose weight, answer the weekly quiz, and walk.  The easiest way to get points was to keep track of your step count.  

Three Weeks of Getting Points

The next three weeks were fun. Different teams approached things differently. Some opted to lunch together, often.

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Others did a fitness assessment or attended a class.  One team even tried to take a hike… on Photoshop:

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Funny how their picture on Camelback Mountain looks a lot like their lunch picture…  

After a bit of a kerfuffle on Body Mass Index results from the fitness assessment, we held a brown bag seminar by the lake.  The reason why Physix is a great match for PADT is that their approach to health is science and fact based.  No chakra alignment here.  So Shannon came armed with statistics, studies, and fancy measuring devices with dials on them that we could write down numbers from.

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There was also a weight loss competition.  Points for every pound lost. There are and will not be pictures from that portion of the event. But we can share that some people dropped a few pounds over the three week period, and some more than a few.  

Turkey and Contests 

At the end of the three weeks we gathered together again to take part in our annual Thanksgiving Feast, and compete to win some additional points for our teams.

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We started with a plank contest. Expecting 5 or so people to participate, maybe one from each team. Everyone gave it a shot:

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Most people lasted a minute, then they started to drop.  

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A ton of people lasted to 2 minutes, then 3, then 4.  6 people were holding at 4:30.

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Purple had a strong showing, Renee lasting past 5 minutes.  Clinton held strong for purple.  Don, and Demola held on for Orange and Black.

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In the end, Demola won a ton of points for his team, lasting past 6 minutes.  

Next we tried a relay event that involved passing a ball over our heads and taking a step, then running to the back, then passing… what was that again. It took us a while to figure it out.  In hindsight, we should have created a process diagram before the event.  

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But Green and Black figured it out and charged to the finish line… not even stopping when one competitor stumbled.  No one left behind, as long as they have the right shirt color.

Inside, we had a timed puzzle building event. It got kind of nasty when the teams realized that each team had two pieces from another puzzle. People get aggressive when points are on the line.  There may have been some hiding, there may have been some prying of fingers open.

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The last event was to build a tower out of spaghetti, string, tape, and a marshmallow. Whoever got their marshmallow the highest got the points.  Four of the teams built tripods and went for height.

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Two teams figured out that spaghetti bends and breaks.  Blue felt that building a box was better. I guess that is thinking outside the box?

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But the winner was a combination of tripod and "stoutness."  Green figured it out:

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There was a dessert contest as well. I grudgingly mention it because my dessert didn't make it into the finals… but I'm not bitter, not at all.

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After that we all went back to work while the PADT HR and Physix teams summed up all the points and figured out who won.  

Green, thanks to their tower, squeaked into third place:

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Some were happier than others about the competition.

Second place was won by the superior team, and we would have won if my dessert had been in the finals:

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And the winners were the Black Team.  

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You have to admit, they do look pretty confident.

What we Learned 

Overall, the three weeks were a nice distraction from a very busy period.  Some people that would not have normally spent time together, did. Some people learned a bit about fitness or nutrition that they didn't know before. A lot of people walked a lot more.  

We also learned a couple of lessons:

  1. You can have a positive and constructive team building event at a company that is kind of wired to go against such corporate group-think activities.

  2. Not everyone wants to participate. That's OK and it is no reason why those that do can't have fun.  And you can find small ways for people to take part.

  3. Some people are REALLY competitive. 

  4. The average core strength at PADT is stronger than we thought.

  5. The breath mints we got to combat coffee breath are 50 calories, and the average person has to walk around 500 steps to burn them off. 

  6. If you don't take these things too seriously, they can be fun and a nice break.

  7. PADT's employees are clever. They tried to get points for waking up in the morning and mouse clicks.  You have seen the Photoshop picture. They also wanted to pass off the PADT Medical skeleton as Don Pegg after his diet.  It didn't work.

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For those of you who are thinking of doing a similar event at your company, some key words of advice:

  1. Bring in someone to help that is a good fit for your culture. Don't try and fit a standard or large company approach to a small or medium company.  Find someone that gets you and maybe pushes your organization a bit further than you would push it on your own.

  2. Keep it short, keep it simple.

  3. Don't let the negative people drag it down. You will have some people that this is not a good fit for. If you try and please them, they will still be unhappy and it will lesson the event for others.  Just accept that not everyone will be on-board and move on.

  4. Place your tongue firmly in your cheek.  If you take these things too seriously, they will fail.  Make some fun of yourselves and the activity, it takes that edge off.

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If you do it right, you might even get engineers to touch each other.  

PADT Celebrates with Private Star Trek Showing

Uhuru-PADTCustomers, friends, and families joined PADT’s employees for a private screening of “Star Trek: Into Darkness” last Friday afternoon. We had such a great turnout that the only seats open were in the front row.

Watching a movie like this with a group of technical people is a lot more fun than a general crowd.  Many of us are long time fans so we truly enjoyed sharing some of the inside jokes and tie-ins to Star Trek: TOS as well as the older movies.

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We want to thank everyone who was able to make it and we are already looking at upcoming films to find the right one to do this again with.  And yes, we will get a bigger theater next time.