February 22-28, 2015 is the 64th annual National Engineers’ Week — as established by the National Society of Professional Engineers. The week varies a bit from year to year, so as to always include the February 22nd birthday of George Washington, our first president — and one of our first engineers. While many of the stories taught to school children about this founding father are fiction, his enduring interest in engineering was not.
I have blogged before about my efforts to bring engineering into my children’s classrooms and I encourage those of you who can to continue this program. A recent conversation with a lifelong friend about the school system revives my worry that children are not being properly informed about what a career in engineering requires. Far too many boys are being pushed into engineering just because they are “good” at math and science. Sadly, the same pressure is not applied to girls with equal test scores.
Being an engineer requires more than just math and science skills. We have computers today that handle lots of the drudgery formerly involved in number crunching and equation balancing. What a good engineer needs is an insatiable interest in how things work and a desire to make them work better. He or she can’t be above getting their hands dirty.
It isn’t a job, it’s a passion. Over the years I have come to realize that I don’t want to be on a project with people who aren’t passionate about getting the best possible results. What makes engineering so great is that there is more than one right answer to most of the “problems.” Sure the math has to work out, but you get to decide how many cylinders that motor needs, how many teeth should be on that pinion, or what bearings to use. Designing a machine is a many-layered puzzle with lots of factors to consider. You can spend an entire career in one sector of the field and still learn something new each day.
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