Friday, June 12, 2015

Explaining Complexity

These last few days I was in North Carolina at a show trying to explain a complex topic, a continuously variable transmission with a hydrostatic assist. In short, it allows the engine to stay at a constant speed for improved fuel efficiency and the transmission does all the work of controlling the speed. There is no changing gears, even though there is a hard mechanical link from engine to wheels. 

Bigger picture, explaining something complex, how does one do that? I enjoy teaching and using analogies when I can, yet even I struggle to fully explain something that took a decade of development by a team of engineers. I really don't have an answer. 

I did an okay job explaining the new transmission, but there were some confused or glazed expressions, so I know I could have done quite a bit better.  Good experience I suppose. Teaching my work to others certainly helps me understand it better because the students questions refine my own explanation. Even bad teaching on my part helps me learn, and that has value, at least to me. 

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