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The great Chinese philosopher Laozi (aka Lao-tzu) once remarked that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. With my recent business trip to China, I feel that I have a blog posting of a thousand miles ready to burst onto my keyboard but for everyone’s sanity, I’ve chosen to deconstruct my experience and pick a few highlights that I’ll share over a couple of postings. This first one is on the people I’ve met.

The Great Shrinker...

May 14 2009 fkern 26
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A Boston-area comedian by the name of Steven Wright used to say, “It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to have to paint it.”  Well, that tells you more about my sense of humor than about geography, but it’s true – it is a small world.  And it’s getting smaller and smaller.

What one usually means by “small” in this context is that it’s easier to get around.  Not just because travel is faster in the days of jet planes than it was in the days of caravans, but it’s because foreign places aren’t as, well, foreign as they used to be.
Just 30-ish years ago (ish is too many) I had to bring enough cash with me wherever I went to cover the needs of my trip because ATMs didn’t exist.  I couldn’t (well, wouldn’t) call home because it was horribly expensive.  That is if I could figure out how to use the phone.  I didn’t stay in touch with home at all because there was no email, no IM and no internet for Facebook or Twitter or anything else.

A few mornings ago, I drove to the office, bleary-eyed and still waiting for my first liter of coffee to kick in.  I parked, exited my car, and started walking to the entrance.  Someone a few meters ahead of me held the door open, but let go while I was still about a meter away.  Judging the closing speed of the door, I thought I had enough time to sneak in.  However, during the latter stages of its closing sweep, it suddenly sped up, and slammed shut. Not yet being suitably caffeinated, I uttered a small curse, damning the door and all its close mechanical relatives, and reached for my key fob.

Modelica is an open language for (lumped parameter) modeling and simulation and is generating a growing following, especially in Europe. Modelica is also at the heart of simulation tools like MapleSim. We are generally not making a big deal of that fact and as a result we have a regular stream of actual and potential customers asking us why we are not more vocal about our use of Modelica. Do we not believe in open...

It was twenty years ago in May that I started with Maplesoft (known then as Waterloo Maple Software) in a tiny office at 608 Weber Street North in Waterloo, Ontario. After having done my graduate work under Maple co-founder Gaston Gonnet, I was invited to join the fledgling company as Technical Manager and the first full-time employee.

The SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) World Congress is an annual event in April that draws automotive engineers from around the world to Detroit to learn about and share thoughts on new techniques and technologies. Once again this year, Maplesoft was an active participant. This was a milestone event for us as it was the first SAE Congress where we could show off and fully demonstrate the potential of the MapleSim/Maple solution. Even in these trying times in the auto industry, our corner remains vibrant and very optimistic about the future.  In no particular order, here are some highlights.

I don’t think anyone would argue that the last few years have been pretty eventful. Modern industry is facing critical challenges, as design tasks become increasingly complex. Fortunately, we are seeing the development of new technologies that are allowing us to rise to the challenge. Techniques like rapid plant modeling for control applications, robust formulation techniques for automatic model generation, and the application of symbolic computation technology are accelerating the modeling process while ensuring correctness and sound scientific principles. The world of engineering is changing, and I’ve been fortunate to watch some of these developments first-hand.

It’s a Numbers Game...

April 08 2009 Samir Khan 519
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When I was a toddler and learning about the concept of numbers, I used to play a simple game with my parents.  They’d think of a number, and I’d try to guess it.  They would shout “hotter!” if I were getting closer to the number and “colder!” if I was getting further away.  I’m still fascinated by number games, but now it’s Sudoku, the Countdown numbers game… or balancing my bank account at the end of the month.

Over the past few months, a team of dedicated staff has been working hard on a project that has recently come to fruition: I’d like to introduce you to Maplesoft’s new and improved Application Center. The Application Center provides one central place where you can find “thousands of free applications from the Maplesoft community”, such as Maple documents, graphics, animations, and packages; and MapleSim models, components, and templates.

While visiting a cathedral in Germany, Bob Schipke, a retired Harvard mathematician was astounded to find a glyph in a 13th century manuscript that looked remarkably like the Mandelbrot set.  This led to a remarkable voyage of discovery that was publicised in a

Spring is in the Air...

March 30 2009 Tom 4 724
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A prolonged winter is one of the challenges of living where I do. But each year, we also get the pleasure of experiencing the very first spring day and that’s a special feeling that I would not trade for all the tropical weather in the world. For me, spring in my town is not defined by the temperature or amount of sunshine. It’s defined, oddly enough, by robots … the third week in March is typically the week of the FIRST Robotics Waterloo Regional Tournament. FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Reward of Science and Technology”. It is an international team sport where high-schools from around the world compete in complex robotic games with full sized remote controlled and autonomous robots on the playing field about the size of half a basketball court.

As I was preparing for an upcoming presentation, I stumbled on a graphic that I always thought was one of the best ones in my endless collection of Powerpoint slides. This particular graphic portrays the evolution of engineering modeling software and I always thought it was an incredibly impactful and clear view on a very complex topic. Unfortunately, I really can’t take any credit for it. The basic concept was created by Mr. Alex Ohata of Toyota. I remember the first time I saw it at a conference.  It really was one of those light-bulb moments where the Universe unfolded as it should … and now I pay due homage to this work of scientific art.

In the media today, there continues to be much discussion about how students in North America are moving away from the math, science, and engineering disciplines. It is an established fact that countries such as China, South Korea, and Taiwan graduate a much higher number of engineering students than those in North America. This is a cause for great concern in today’s highly complex world, and schools are attempting to solve the problem with math in a variety of ways, with varying success rates.

Happy Pi Day!...

March 13 2009 Stephanie Rozek 110
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I suspect many of our readers are already on to this, but for the few uninformed among us, tomorrow is the 21st annual Pi Day. On March 14, this “holiday” is celebrated by those of us geeky enough to realize that this date, 3/14, is also the common approximation of the number π. The first Pi Day celebration was held in 1988 at the San Francisco Exploratorium, led by its creator, Larry Shaw. Those attending this year’s festivities have a chance to work on pi puzzles, sing pi songs, and of course, eat lots of tasty pie. Their Pi Day website includes lots of fun information and activities you can even do at home. If you’re not in the area, be sure to check out their webcast, or join the revels on Second Life at the ‘Splo, the online version of the Exploratorium.

Hi. I am the Marketing Communications Manager at Maplesoft. This is the first piece of writing where you get to know who I am, but many of you have probably already read a lot of what I’ve written. I am responsible for the promotion of Maplesoft products. It’s my job to take what the really smart Maplesoft employees create and turn it into something engaging (and typically say all I need to say in 3 paragraphs or less, or in the case of subject lines, 49 characters or less). Within every piece of highly technical math-filled piece of writing is a gem of a story waiting to be brought out. I try (sometimes successfully, I hope) to bring out these stories. Every time you’ve read our newsletter “The Maple Reporter,” an email, or a letter from Maplesoft, you’ve read my work. My goal is for people to read what I write and say “I want that!” or “how do I do that?”

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