Power electronics rise at DesignCon

-February 02, 2015

"I found a place where I feel like I belong, where I have something to share and also where I can continue to learn."-- Steve Sandler

After nearly a year of preparations, DesignCon 2015 is now behind us.  We’ll take a short breather before beginning the preparations for DesignCon 2016.  What’s so special about DesignCon, you might ask?  For many years I was an APEC (Applied Power Electronics Conference) guy.  APEC would seem to be the perfect home for a guy like me.  After all, I’m an engineer who has spent more than 37 years focused directly or indirectly with power electronics.  I’d like to share some of my personal DesignCon 2015 highlights while they are still fresh in my mind.

DesignCon 2015 began for me in April 2014, when I was honored with the invitation to join the technical planning committee (TPC).  The TPC, led by Janine Love, has the monumental task of defining the program tracks, soliciting papers and presentations, reviewing the papers and doing all that is necessary to assure the high standards DesignCon is known for.  These are hardworking, dedicated engineers who are all leaders in their fields and who want to share their knowledge and wisdom with the rest of the engineering community.  The camaraderie shared by the TPC members is uplifting and I felt like I finally had a place where I belong.  This community was my first highlight, though it occurred almost 9 months before the DesignCon doors opened.

The first day of DesignCon, I hit the ground running, presenting a 3-hr tutorial on impedance measurement and relating impedance to stability. Several instrument companies, including Keysight, Teledyne Lecroy, Rohde & Schwarz, OMICRON Lab, and Copper Mountain provided analyzers for the tutorial so that the attendees could spend some time up close and personal with some of the best available impedance measurements.  Engineers from around the world attended the tutorial.  One in particular, Cathy George, was very special.  Cathy is a young engineer from Singapore who is active on Linkedin and keenly aware of the value of a mentor.  I’ve shared many emails with her over the past months, and it was a thrill to meet her in person and to share some of my knowledge with her. 

The first day was also a great opportunity to see old friends and colleagues who we are too busy to see most of the year.  I was able to catch up with many of the editors I collaborate with, including Janine Love, Martin Rowe, and Steve Taranovich from UBM and Dave Morrison from How2Power.  I work with these folks all year long and this was a chance to sit down and have a face-to-face chat.  Tuesday night was the Keysight event at Levi’s stadium and this was a great opportunity to mingle and meet new people.  It was also the first time I had ever seen a mashed potato bar, and I have to say it was quite amazing!

I also had the privilege of meeting EMI guru, Dr. Ken Wyatt.  Having known of him, his lectures, books and webinars, it was nice to meet him in person.  He is warm, knowledgeable and down to earth.  I am really glad that I had the opportunity to not only meet him but also to participate on a discussion panel with him.

The next highlight for me was Wednesday morning, the second day of DesignCon.  I participated as a mentor in the speed-mentoring event.  It was early at 7am, but I was happy to participate and thrilled to see the enthusiasm of the mentees.  The mentors spend about 5 minutes answering questions from each mentee.  It was refreshing to see these young and bright up-and-coming engineers using this unique opportunity to gain some insight from us old-timers.  I have already connected with several of them on Linkedin and hope to vicariously follow their future successes.

On Wednesday, I attended several interesting papers before walking the exposition floor, where I met with many exhibitors.  I looked at some of the latest test instruments, software and products.  It is always interesting to see the latest innovations and to discuss the current and future needs of the industry.  I have recently had the opportunity to evaluate some of these instruments and I look forward to evaluating others in the future.

On Wednesday afternoon, I participated in Martin Rowe’s “SI and EMI are Related” panel, which was well received and as interesting for the panelists as it was for the attendees.  I gained some new insights from the industry leader panelists, Ken Wyatt, Steve Weir, Jun Fan and Bruce Archambeault and hopefully offered some insights into low frequency issues that cause high frequency problems.

Thursday was a “free day” where I attended several more papers and spent some more time with the exhibitors.  I had the opportunity to attend Alex Lidow’s Keynote speech on GaN.  Alex is a true visionary and he exudes both energy and confidence.  His predictions for the future of GaN are interesting and of course only time will tell how close his predictions are to the ultimate reality.  I had the honor and privilege of having lunch with Alex and Janine Love where we solved all of the problems of the universe ;-)

Friday was the last day of the conference and brought with it a certain sadness, as it would soon be time to say goodbye to my friends for another year.  I presented a paper on the rogue waves that included the Easter bunny and (ex) planet Pluto.  The paper showed the limitations of target impedance and just my luck: Larry Smith, the father of the target impedance concept, attended.  I have to say it was just a little bit intimidating to have him in the audience, but despite being an icon, he is as down to earth as anyone I have ever met.

I’m happy to be back at home with my wife and pets, but there is also a void left after an event like this.  I’ll take some time for my deep breath and will be very excited to start planning for DesignCon 2016 in April.  It will be a great chance to see some of my new friends and old ones and I’ll be very excited when DesignCon 2016 finally arrives next January.  I found a place where I feel like I belong, where I have something to share and also where I can continue to learn.  If you haven’t been to DesignCon you may not understand, in which case I encourage you to visit next year.  You might just find a new home.

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