Category Archives: technical communication

Engineering Presentations download available through IEEE-USA

A while back, I was honored to do a webinar for IEEE USA about how to make engineering presentations better.  If you are interested in accessing that free information, use this link.  You will need to use a WebEx player to see it, but the site provides that for you as a link/download.


A nice way to be recognized

These past few months, Wiley Publishing has been promoting a “Women in Engineering” site that highlights how women are contributing to the many facets of engineering work. When I was first approached, I wasn’t sure if I was a good fit, as I’m not an engineer, per se. Rather, I support the communication work that engineers do.  But the sponsors of the project would not be deterred, and they wanted me on their list.

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So, I’m very happy to share that wonderful effort here.  The specific piece with my story can be downloaded from that page or here. nathans-kelly_wiley-WiEpage 2


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Professional Engineering Communication series by Wiley-IEEE Press is growing again!

I happy to announce the SEVENTH book in the Professional Engineering Communication series is now available. As the editor of this series, I’m proud to work with these professionals to bring their vision to fruition.

9781118230138_cover.indd Information Overload: A Challenge to Professional Engineers and Technical Communicators. (eds: Strother, Ulijn, Fazal).
1118832523 A Scientific Approach to Writing for Scientists and Engineers. (Berger).
9781118061619_cover.indd Negotiating Cultural Encounters: Case Studies in Intercultural Engineering and Technical Communication. (eds. Yu and Savage).
9781118002964.pdf Slide Rules: Design, Build, and Archive Presentations in Engineering and Technical Fields.  (Nathans-Kelly, Nicometo). See an excerpted principle from Slides Rules on this page on slide titles
9781118659649.pdf Engineer Your Own Success: 7 Key Elements to Creating an Extraordinary Engineering Career. (Fasano).
1118339002 International Virtual Teams: Engineering Global Success. (Pam Estes Brewer).
111827427X Communication Practices in Engineering, Manufacturing, and Research for Food and Water Safety . (Ed. David Wright).

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Upside down ethics: Messing with data visualization

A few months ago, an engineering student pointed this graphic out to me. It reveals numbers associated with Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Now, politics aside (but I think this law is a cesspool of privilege shining through), the graphic is what is of interest for this post. Figure 1 shows how it appeared originally:

Figure 1. This original data configuration is wrong on form and mistaken in intent.

By reversing the usual y-axis with a start at 0 (bottom left), this graph has the bottom left as the counted starting point, with 0 at the top of the y-axis, which is completely against all graph-making convention. Over the years, I have seen quite a few crazy graphs, but this one takes the cake. It is an intentional reversal of information, made to lead readers to believe that the “Stand Your Ground” law contributed to a decrease in gun deaths in Florida. The intent of this visual foolery is clear and makes data political by its very reversal of familiar form/visualization.

A reader of Business Insider, P.A. Fedewa, was kind enough to revise this graph, using all of the same numbers, with the y-axis starting at the normalized bottom left, 0 (seee Figure 2). This format, widely used and universally taught, creates a graph that is familiar in form. Figure 2--This visual format adheres to traditional visual formats, allowing it to be more clear quickly.

Now, of course, one could argue that this format is equally political…and so it may be. However, the deceit in its visual execution isn’t intention. If there is deceit, it has not been housed in the form of the visualization itself. The numbers are still the numbers. The data still holds true, and the data is provided by familiar visualization that doesn’t take any amount of studying to unpack. By any and all codes of ethics, the original graph fails.


Slide Rules: Design, Build, and Archive Presentations in the Engineering and Technical Fields–AVAILABLE!

bookSRIn early March 2014, the paperback version of our book Slide Rules: Design, Build, and Archive Presentations in the Engineering and Technical Fields will be available for purchase.  At the moment, the e-book is available for download.

Slide Rules is meant for engineers, technical specialists, and scientists–whether they are working for businesses, universities, research units, military sectors, or other areas. Professionals and students alike will benefit from this book because it provides specific avenues for improving and honing presentations in these specialized areas. Presentations in the technical fields are creatures of a different kinds, and the targeted needs for that work are duly addressed.

More info here:

ISBN: 978-1-118-79612-2
240 pages
February 2014, Wiley-IEEE Press

New year, new opportunities in Engineering Communication

As January 2014 closes out, I find myself with many new exciting opportunities on my plate.  I began working with Cornell’s GameDesign Initiative this week, working with undergrads as they conceptualize, build, test, and deploy original games. I’ll be with the first class in the offerings:

I’ve also committed to working with Cornell’s ASCE teams, specifically with the Mead writing competition and with Concrete Canoe (CC).  It’s nice to get back to CC, after leaving the teams at U of Wisconsin-Madison. There’s a strong CC tradition at Madison and I have missed being a small part of that. So, go Cornell!


SEFI…Belgium, Denmark, and the Professor Hotel

Last month, I had the great pleasure of doing a big work travel/trip. It began with me taking some time to talk to Dr. Annette Markham at Aaruhus University in Denmark.  Exploring the connections between internet theory, identity, and engineering communication, I was also able to think about ways that topics that I am interested in teaching could find a home in the euro way of providing information to students.

After that, it was on to Leuven, Belgium, where I attended the SEFI conference (the European Society for Engineering Education) with my colleague Christine Nicometo. We presented a talk called “Stop Slipping and Sliding: Methods to Reclaim Expert Engineering Space by Using Slides to Best Advantage” that was well received.

Another bonus was meeting up the the always-everywhere- Cheryl Ball.  The four of us (Markham, Ball, Nicometo, and Nathans-Kelly) had two intense days of talk about everything from the silos of information exchange in academics to the politics of MLA to identity within and without institutions…to the various qualities of chocolate. Along the way, we spied the “Professor Hotel” in Leuven, which I hope to post up in a photo soon.