7-29-2010: New (uprighted) video loaded on "Nitty Gritty" :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

SciMath Career #2: Electrical Designer

Mike Meiring is a very important person here on the JR! He designs, maintains and operates the instruments we use to measure temperature and other parameters in the holes we drill into the ocean crust. Without Mike, we wouldn't know half of what we know about what lies beneath the ocean. And without math and science, Mike wouldn't be able to design and invent the tools we need to do our science. Boy, are we glad Mike knows his stuff!

Mike works with scientists everyday who need tools to measure certain parameters in order to do their science. In order to communicate with the scientists, he need to understand the science that needs to be done. He needs to know the terminology, the physics and the geology in order to invent and make tools that will do the job. Without Mike's knowledge of science, he would not be able to sail on this vessel, to be involved in drilling operations or work with electricity at all!

Math is also essential to Mike's job. He needs to know how to use formulas and how to calculate electricity, temperature, length and radiowaves. He has to understand the numbers he puts into the formulas and be able to work with units. Or else, he could miscalculate how much wire he needs or how big his circuit board needs to be. When dealing with electricity, that could be disastrous!

On this cruise, we need to know how heat moves through the rock and sediment under the ocean and how hot the drill gets when we plow our way through it all. For this, Mike designed and built a thermometer (called a thermistor; you can see it below) that goes just above the drill bit. Temperature is very important to our work because we don't want to burn up any instruments and we don't want to put experiments in the wrong places. We have no need to worry with Mike around though. He's an expert at speaking our science lingo and using his math to design our thermistors. Thanks Mike for knowing your science and math!


  1. Amanda,
    Thank you for posting this! We enjoy reading about the different jobs on board the JR.
    R wants to ask Mike about his invention: How did he build the thermistor (prototype)and how does it get electricity to work?
    We hope to have more questions for you soon, but that is all for now.
    Have a great day!

  2. R also wants to know if Mike can teach him how to make a prototype/model of an invention. What steps does he go through?

  3. Answers from Mike:

    First thing you should know is that a thermistor measures resistance (or how fast or slow electricity moves through a circuit) which tells you the change in temperature.

    To build a thermistor, Mike starts with the specifications needed for the job. For instance, he needs to know the temperature range that the thermistor needs to measure, the pressure that it needs to withstand, the accuracy needed for the measurements, and the resolution (how many measurements per second or per meter depth). He determines what components he will need (capacitors, resistors, etc) then he makes a schematic (also called a blueprint or simply, a drawing) of it then builds a prototype. To build a simple thermistor yourself visit this site:

    After Mike tests his prototype, he sends a drawing for the PC board which will hold the thermistor to a manufacturer. The manufacturer makes the PC board and attaches all the components needed and sends it back to Mike virtually ready to use!

    Mike says that if you know how electricity works and you know what each of the components do then you can put together a combination of components to do the job you want to do. Kinda like playing with different shapes of Legos that all do different things. If you understand what each of the Legos do then the sky is the limit! You can make anything you want to make! :)