Build the Tools First

4 Feb

My adviser once told me a story he said he usually shares with undergraduate Japanese students. 🙂

Once there were two villages separated by a very high and steep mountain. Every year, a lot of people die while crossing the mountain. A monk thought of a brilliant solution to the problem – dig a tunnel through the mountain! So he and some villagers started to dig through the mountain. After 20 years, they have successfully finished digging a hole. After then, people were able to safely cross to the other village and their travel time have significantly reduced.

After sharing this story, my sensei would then ask the students what a good engineer would have done to solve the same problem.

What do you think?

He said, a good engineer would have designed and built a tool during the first 10 years. Then, he would have used the tool to dig a tunnel through the mountain within the next ten 10 years. It would have taken him the same number of years to solve the problem but he would have had two things at the end – the tunnel and the tool. 🙂


A short background story to the story: my sensei shared this story with me during the early stages of my research. I had to calibrate 4 parameters in one of the models I have used for my research. Being a newbie in modelling and programming, I manually calibrated the model. Hehe! Okay, it was not the smartest thing to do. I have done more than a hundred iterations until I’m finally convinced that I’ve had the “optimized” parameter set. It wasn’t so bad… Hehe! I got 90% NSE at calibration point and about 65%-86% at 8 out of 9 validation points. Not bad at all! However, since I still don’t have a tool for automatic calibration, I would have to redo everything again when the inputs have significantly changed. That’s learning the lesson the hard way for me. Tsk!

So for engineering students out there, you know what to do. 🙂 Invest on building your tools! Don’t think it will be a waste of time in the end. 😉

On the side note: Happy 28th month-sary to me and Japan! Yay! Now back to building tools and reviewing for an exam!


2 Responses to “Build the Tools First”

  1. Claire February 4, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    Wow, nice analogy. >_< Nakakatuwa naman sensei niyo maam (pati mga posts ninyo)! 🙂

    I remember Tantan and Romeo spending a lot of time to create this bot which automated our model-building for a research project. Super napabilis ang trabaho namin (and kahit ipabago nang ipabago yung input, okay lang haha). 🙂

    • firipinnocherry February 7, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

      Hi Claire! Hehe! Idol ko na nga ang sensei ko. Hahaha! I’m so lucky to be under his tutelage. Ang patient pa!

      Anyway… Di ko pa rin nagawa yang automatic calibration na yan. Hahahaha! Kasi to be able to do it, I need to write a program that changes the parameters within the model (easy), then runs the model (easy), then extracts the output values (discharge) in 3 time scales (manageable), then evaluates the accuracy of the output values as compared with the observed (hmmm… a bit difficult), then searches for the next value of the parameter to test. Hehe! Basta! Okay, I’m making excuses.:p One day I’ll do it na rin, I guess.In Python or Fortran. Haha!

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