There are a lot of different fields within mechanical engineering, but the one that I’m most interested in is engineering design. This last spring term, a professor at BYU sponsored a research project looking at historical trends in engineering design publications. I applied and was selected to be on the team of three.
Basically, we gathered and analyzed data from the Library of Congress and identified some major trends in engineering design publications. We created a video (below) to show our findings. The video’s not the best quality, but I only had a week to do all the filming (with an inexpensive camcorder and no external microphone… Sorry!), get the photos, put in all the effects with the graphs, and do all the editing. But I still think it turned out pretty well:
The Library of Congress provides an API to facilitate search queries of its database. This API (implemented through a number of different REST webservices) allows a user to perform a search query and retrieve the query results. I wrote a script to consume these webservices and obtain the information we desired. I even used some multi-threaded programming in the script. It would monitor its own progress, and as appropriate, spawn new threads to asynchronously process multiple search queries at the same time. AWhen the work-load became too much for the network and/or computer to handle, threads were killed off as the results were processed. Since the data was all stored in a central location, multiple instances of the script could be run simultaneously, if desired, even on different computers. Even still, it took a few days to get all the data we needed.
In all, we obtained over 150,000 books published on the topic of engineering design, but only about 100,000 of them had a known publication date and a publication language. I built a quick data viewer that uses Google’s Charts API to quickly show the results, accessible at http://loc.travisvanderson.com.
It was a really fun project to work on, and I really learned a lot!