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

It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for matters of space and space exploration … so even if we have all sorts of great news about modeling advancements in automotive, or electronics, it will never be as thrilling (yes this is the right word) as the things I encounter through my work at Maplesoft that deal with space. In countless blog posts, I’ve commented on aerospace engineering and space exploration, and once again this week, several events have confirmed that inside me, there is still this wide eyed boy staring into the night sky in amazement …

Last week I had the distinct pleasure of attending the retirement celebration for Dr. Keith Geddes, founder of Maplesoft and inventor of the Maple system. I’ve known Keith for over 20 years now and I consider him one of the few people I know well who has had, without exaggeration, a profound impact on the world.

Keith earned his chops as a numerical analyst in the 1970’s. Then as a young faculty member at the University of Waterloo, he developed an interest in symbolic computation. The lore has it that he had no intention of designing a complete new system but wanted to use the “grand-daddy” of symbolic systems MACSYMA from MIT. During those wild frontier days of computing, the only way to get access to such specialized systems was remote dialing to the MIT machine in the wee hours of the night (to reduce phone costs),  using  a 90 Baud modem … those were the days!

Yesterday was one of those remarkable days when everything seems just about right. The highlight was an email message I received from a Prof. Fang from Ryerson University notifying us that we had been both nominated and awarded the Omond Solandt Award by the Canadian Operational Research Society for ongoing and outstanding contribution to the field of Operations Research (OR). No, it’s not a Nobel Prize or an Oscar, but whenever a group of smart people publically recognize our work, the honor and pride are genuine.

I thought I’d exercise my left brain a little with this post and write on something a bit more technical. Actually, this was triggered by a chat I had over dinner last night with our 3D graphics development manager and a client. As you may have guessed math is intimately related to computer graphics of all sorts. My PhD thesis so many years ago was on the topic of creating funny surfaces that smoothly join two complex surfaces with a relatively small number of shape control parameters: such surfaces are called blend surfaces. This required the development of a bunch of algorithms that related either implicitly defined surfaces (i.e. f(x,y,z) = 0) or parametrically defined surfaces (i.e. each point is defined by the triplet (x(t), y(t), z(t)) ). That was twenty years ago and I always thought that any problem that I was wrestling with would have been resolved twice over by now. My ego was pleasantly surprised that indeed such problems are still the stuff of heated debates and vigorous research.

On a recent trip to McGill University in Montreal, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Paul Oh of Drexel University in Philadelphia and the Director of the US National Science Foundation’s (NSF) robotics programs. During a fascinating presentation on the US robotics research landscape, Dr. Oh made a few comments that really made me think … and reflect.

Robotics has always been a “sweet spot” for Maplesoft technology. Between the necessary complex...

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