Do YOU have wild stories about CLUSTERf&@!s in engineering/manufacturing/physical product development?

(I bet you do if you’ve been in the game long enough.)

Would YOU want to anonymously (or not anonymously) share them for a collection while anonymizing/protecting company and product names?

If you bring the stories over on Odd Engineer, Spire Starter will publish them in a collection!

Current working title: “Engineering SNAFU, Volume 1: Stories of Noteworthy Atrocities at Factories Unveiled.” And for any entry that makes it into the book, we’ll happily send you a hard copy.

Remember, if you don’t need to personally remain anonymous because you have enough clients or past employers to obscure the identity of stakeholders in your story (or stories) this can be excellent marketing content!

How to Contribute:

   1. Go to

   2. Read and agree to the “Submission Terms and Agreement” on the page.

   3. Complete the form at the bottom of the page. The first lines for name and email address will be only used to communicate internally, not for publishing, and need to be real. The following lines for name and title, current company, marked “for publishing purposes” will be used for published content and can be “anonymous” if you wish. (We’ll double-check this with you before publishing.)

   4. Do it by the deadline of October 31, 2023.

Over the past year, several videos on TikTok went viral over how irritatingly bright headlamps in vehicles are becoming in the United States. One of those was from Spire Starter’s own TikTok account ( where Erin McDermott explained some of the many intricacies involved in solving this complex problem. Pointing a single finger, unfortunately, won’t fix headlamp glare.

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The public’s response? A lot of anger and frustration! Many US residents didn’t know how to influence the laws and regulations surrounding this issue and felt helpless. For some, the issue even keeps them off roadways at night, triggers migraines, or has caused them to lose control of their vehicles.

So, in response, in 2022, on Spire Starter’s freelance engineering community site,, a survey was posted where anyone residing in the US could express their headlamp grievances. The results were compiled and sent in an emailed letter to NHTSA, the federal administration that creates regulations around headlamp glare, on January 2, 2023 which follows here.

If you missed out on taking the survey and have comments you’d like to share with NHTSA, please add them below, and we will direct the agency to them!

Spire Starter’s project, the hardware engineering community, Odd Engineer is adding on a new forum! Engineers and those in search of freelance hardware engineers can now even more freely reach out for assistance from each other.

On the forum you’ll be able to:

It officially launches during the Meetup where we’ll go over all the features together online on December 15, 2022 at 10AM Pacific.

Come to the Online Meetup to Learn About the Forum!

Save your spot at this specific meetup event by registering here. The meetup group can be found at:

To build your profile and snoop around the forum before December 15th, use this invitation link to join!

JUST ANNOUNCED: Spire Starter is one of 13 new additions to companies that will now be allowed to bid on a multitude of upcoming contracts with NASA!

These tasks may be for prize competitions related to engineering or even small engineering contracts that individual freelance engineers or teams can complete. Maybe you!

For a deeper explanation see this video:

Spire Starter would advertise and facilitate/manage any of these smaller contracts that we might win, while the engineering or scientific work itself would be completed by other freelance pros. That $175 million limit would then cover all the many smaller contracts and would include payment to the tech pros.

So, if you’re interested in getting paid to use your engineer or scientist brain to help out NASA and get paid for it, and without having to be a full-time NASA employee, follow Spire Starter or Odd Engineer on LinkedIn, or join the mailing lists. We’ll publish news you may want to take action on as it happens!

On Episode 5 of the Odd Engineer Podcast, we sat down with Greg Fisher, founder of HardwareMassive and HardwareCon.

Greg has over 17 years of experience bouncing between China and other parts of the globe to facilitate hardware development. We discussed his journey from ice cream store entrepreneur to leader in the hardware startup economy. He also shared some #proTips on how to successfully take your big idea to a real, mass-produced product.

HardwareCon this year will be online – 100% virtual. That means you can attend, too, even if Silicon Valley was too far away in the past! It’s happening June 8th, 2021 from 10AM-6PM PDT.

BTW: If you’re looking to pick up a paid ticket version, be sure to use code ODDENG15 when you register for 15% off!

Let’s look at some of what you can experience this year!

Fan-tab-ulous Speakers

Greg Fisher will corner Oculus Rift founder, Jack McCauley for the keynote fireside chat.

Greg is stoked about this talk because, as he says, the wildly lucrative sale of Oculus Rift was a turning point for hardware startups everywhere. It was proof to investors that huge gains could be possible in this arena despite how hard hardware is. This talk is the keynote that comes with the free ticket.

Come see Chris Anderson, of 3D Robotics talk on the judiciously named, “WHAT THE %^*& HAPPENED TO THE MAKER MOVEMENT” panel.

Also taking the stage will be Dale Dougherty, the beloved MakerFaire founder who leads new initiatives at Make Community.

You can hear from Carl Bass, too, the guy who has a lot to do with CAD being a thing when it became a thing.

If you’re an AutoDesk/AutoCAD fan or if you’re a fan of not having to draw prints with a real pencil anymore, you can thank Bass in person after the talk in the Speaker Room session.
Yours truly, Erin McDermott, will be moderating “the Art of Prototyping” panel where I’ll grill Darragh Hudson, of KD Product DevelopmentRobert Brakeman of Amphibian Global and Elementary Robotics, and David Schroeder of RelianceCM.

(Oops, sorry you were left off the class photo, David!)

There’s a lot more to prototyping than using duct tape and chewing gum to prove a concept, and I intend to use the sage words from these gentlemen as a big, fat “I TOLD YOU SO”. Can’t wait.
Hudson also created this sweet, informative article on prototyping, if, for some silly reason, you miss our spectacular talk. (P.S. How dare you.)

​For Vendors – the Seller Matchmaking Ticket

Vendors who have products or services for hardware startups or other product development teams should look into this ticket option. I’ll be using this matchmaking feature for Odd Engineer/Spire Starter LLC to talk directly with teams at the conference needing niche hardware engineering guidance from one of our many nerds. This part of the conference uses a brand new software service called Pairakeet.
It works by automatically matching your company with those who need you and alerting prospective clients. They can then choose to book a 10-minute virtual meeting with you during the conference.
So, it’s a lot like a real booth but without the foot blisters and exhausting, drunken teardowns after the show. 

​For Hardware Startups – Hardware Blvd Ticket

Here’s what this ticket gets you during the conference:

​Click here
 to book these tickets with the 15% discount promo code applied (ODDENG15).

Schmoozing + BYOBoozing Networking Hour

At the end of the show, there will be an hour of virtual networking. Make sure to take advantage of this session!

​Want to Learn More?

See more details about the schedule and panels here at

​Hope to See You There!

COVID restrictions mucked up the works for all sorts of businesses — and especially those of us who provide engineering services related to real, physical widgets.

In an experiment to connect hardware engineers personally with more clients, we created Odd Engineer.

There, you can find a variety of hard-to-find physical product development pros. And access to them has never been simpler.

How To  Do the Thing

Look in the Odd Engineer directory for a discipline you’re looking for or search by keyword. Then, click on an individual engineer’s profile to learn more about specific technologies and industries they have experience in. currently gives you access to electronics, optics, IoT, thermal modeling, CAD and industrial design pros.

Once you find the specific nerd you want feedback from, immediately book and pay for your appointment. When you click “Book Appointment” you’ll be taken to a calendar of available slots you can choose from.

NDA’s are optional, and if you have one, you can upload your signed copy at the time you book, too. Your engineer will email you if there are any questions on it.

All appointments go for up to 1 hour, but it’s up to you to bring all your questions, data, CAD, spec sheets, etc. to fill up that time. To get the most out of your appointment, we advise you write out all the questions you want to ask and have data ready to show off and explain.

​Remember, no matter what engineering guidance you’re asking for, it’s always best to provide a real life example of “what is good” and “what is bad”. You’ll get much more helpful feedback with images and samples demonstrating the specific issues you’re asking about.

Not Ready for a Full-Length Optical Engineering Contract with Spire Starter?

Erin McDermott is one of the engineers available on Odd Engineer. So, if you need optical engineering guidance but aren’t at a stage where you can invest in a full optical engineering project, you can still get advice by the hour from Erin. You can check out her profile here.

Are  You a Freelance Engineer?

If you’re interested in this marketplace platform from the other side – as an engineer who offers services, we have stuff there for you, too!
Check out the Resources for Engineers page.
There, you’ll find:

Help Odd Engineer Survive Past the Pilot!

This experimental pilot program is slated to only last for 4 months – ending May 26, 2021. There are also a limited number of spots for engineers in this short run because we’re building each profile out manually.

After that, if we prove that we can successfully connect more paying clients with engineers, we’ll build a V2! It will be more automated, with fuller functionality and able to showcase way more engineers.

But for the pilot to be a success, lots of engineering teams – large and small – need to hear about this thing. So please spread the word! Let those engineers trying to do something outside their discipline know there are niche engineering pros that can make their lives a lot easier. And access to these nerds is as easy as can be!

Erin McDermott’s talk at this year’s Synopsys LightTools User Group meeting is hidden in the customer portal.

​So, when we got a request from non-Synopsys customers to see it, we created a new video!


Director of Engineering, Erin M. McDermott, will be presenting at the Synopsys LightTools User Group Meeting on September 17th, 2020.​

​Erin’s talk will cover some of the neat features available in LightTools which have been proven to BLOW HARDWARE STARTUP MINDS at Spire Starter.

Providing optical engineering as a consultant to startups and larger manufacturers is a different ballgame compared to working in-house!

​For one thing, coming in with just weeks to find a rushed, emergency solution changes what is possible. When optical engineering exists in-house, or when outside consultants are involved in the development process earlier onthere’s enough time to validate and measure materials, surface finishes, and sources, if needed. Still, with LightTools’ powerful simulation capabilities, some hacks can be made here which still provide meaningful predictions that the other hardware engineers didn’t know were possible.

For 2: a lot of companies that never interfaced with optical engineering before are surprised by things we optical engineers consider basic! One of those is stray light analysis. Imagine if you were a hardware engineer with a prototype emitting stray light, and you had no optical simulation software, and you were expected to find and eliminate the source. Seems next to impossible. But with optical simulations, finding sources of stray light appears to be MAGIC in comparison. And in LightTools, stray light analysis is a super-simplified process compared to doing this work in other software.

If you’re a LightTools user, you can enroll in the webinar HERE.

Did you see the article on SolidSmack in which Spire Starter client, Core, was featured? Check it out if you’re interested in learning the fascinating lessons they garnered the hard way. They built a hand-held device — with some lovely lit elements — which trains people to meditate more effectively and regularly.

Engineering dry electrodes, the surprising difficulties of working with real wood in mass production and millimeter-level ergonomics design were all discussed.

You can read the full article on SolidSmack here:

Or watch the video interviews here:

Spire Starter’s Director of Optical Engineering, Erin McDermott, will be attending CES 2020 to cover tech news for Have optics-related tech to show off at the show? Please get in touch! She’ll be especially interested to check out your development.

Have a great show, everyone, and happy new year!