Tom 4

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17 years, 338 days

My title is Chief Evangelist for Maplesoft. I interpret that as “the guy who’s been around forever”. I started my professional Maplesoft career in 1989 as a contractor trying to earn money to feed my grad student habits, like eating and visiting my parents. Before that I was introduced to what was then referred to as the Maple programming language and to my surprise, Maple immediately helped me figure things out in my courses and more importantly it made me look smarter in front of potential grad supervisors. That’s how the love affair began.

Since then I’ve held various senior positions including Vice President of Marketing and Market Development. I’ve witnessed the transformation of this company from a start-up doing something strange called “computer algebra” to a well-recognized, leading solutions company with a growing and ever diversifying user community. I’m even more thrilled at the fact that so much of our new achievements are in the world of engineering modeling and simulation which was my specialization in University.

I did my degrees at the University of Waterloo. My Bachelor and Master’s degrees were in Systems Design Engineering and my PhD in Mechanical Engineering with a specialization in surface modeling for CAD systems. Along the way, I dabbled in control systems, physical systems modeling, and computer-assisted education. I still stay connected to the academic world through my position as Adjunct Professor in Systems Design Engineering, University of Waterloo, and as a member of the Board of Governors, Renison College affiliated with the University of Waterloo.

I was born in Seoul South Korea but raised in Toronto, Canada. I moved to Waterloo, Canada to attend university and never left. I tell the Maplesoft people that it’s because of the company but it’s because I met my wonderful wife Dr. Sharon here :-)

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These are Posts that have been published by Tom 4

I’ve written in the past of how the push for more efficient, “greener” designs are driving innovation in important industries like auto, aerospace, and power.  Over the past few years, we’ve met countless engineers around the world who are working hard to transform conventional designs to highly refined optimal designs in tune with modern realities, and some are, of course, throwing out old ideas all together and venturing into exotic power sources and radical platforms that used to be the stuff of science fiction. Last week I had one of the more interesting and enjoyable encounters with such a group of very talented green engineers.

I’ve always been a big fan of languages and even a bigger fan of those who readily master multiple languages with relative ease. My late brother was a linguist with a minimum of five or so distinct languages in his portfolio. Yes, there were many things that I thought I could do better, but that one gift of his was the thing that I would remember him by as time went on.  The other day, my son Eric asked me for advice on what courses to take in Grade 10. He essentially had three electives and, as with most public schools in our country, there were countless choices, all of which sounded tantalizingly interesting and enriching. In the end he came to the conclusion (OK, I drove him to the conclusion), that French, German, and Computer Science would be the right choices.

In his last blog post “Watching the Dawn”, Fred Kern comments on the life of an engineer before the realization that symbolic approaches to computing can get you better results faster. The analogy is, of course, prior to this revelation we were in some sense in the dark. I’d like to add my two cents worth as I was indeed one of those engineers lurking in the dark for many years.

Flash back about 20 or so years.  I was a poor graduate student and to feed myself, I began doing small jobs for this new company called Waterloo Maple Software (which eventually became Maplesoft).  Mostly, my work was to develop small applications or demonstrations with an engineering focus.  I remember with great fondness, the look of shock and awe that would come over my engineering colleagues’ faces when I showed them how I computed symbolic matrix products or performed a cumbersome simplification in seconds. For me, it was an obvious thing to do because I had access to the technology and I didn’t know any better. But for them, it seemed like pure voodoo. But in reality, the common themes that I somehow fumbled upon during these early presentations would later reappear in much richer, exciting forms as core themes in the eventual “symbolic sunrise” twenty years later.

Although the digital world has provided me with a wonderful career and countless enriching experiences, in my heart I will always have a special passion towards the analog world: vinyl LP’s, multiple print sets of the Encyclopædia Britannica, a manual wind watch, fountain pens, film cameras and a darkroom, and carbureted motorcycles all have privileged spots in my house. With digital equivalents being so much more accurate, faster, convenient, and cheaper, what could possibly be the appeal of these ancient artifacts?

There is something profoundly satisfying when something that goes “viral” on the Web has some connection to your life. This happened recently when I and my colleagues were pointed towards a video of some laboratory robots that somehow drew almost a million views on YouTube alone. For an engineer,...

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