HOME  |  NEWS  |  BLOGS  |  MESSAGES  |  FEATURES  |  VIDEOS  |  WEBINARS  |  INDUSTRIES  |  FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
  |  REGISTER  |  LOGIN  |  HELP
Blogs
Guest Blogs

Petroski on Engineering: Envelopes of Experience

NO RATINGS
Page 1 / 2 Next >
View Comments: Threaded|Newest First|Oldest First
Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Memoirs of a paperboy
Rob Spiegel   3/19/2012 11:45:27 AM
NO RATINGS
Nice article, Professor Petroski. I, too, was a paperboy. It was the early 1960s. I remember delivering the paper announcing Kennedy has been shot. I'd get to my pile of papers at about 4:30 a.m. and fold each one before filling my canvas sack. If you folded them tight enough, they stayed together when they landed on the front porches or sidewalks. I'll never forget the fold. It didn't work for the Sunday papers, though.

Jennifer Campbell
User Rank
Gold
Old School
Jennifer Campbell   3/19/2012 12:08:13 PM
NO RATINGS
Reading this article, I have a clear picture in my mind of what these envelopes must look like. It makes me long for the days when I would go to the store and buy a new box of pretty, crisp stationary. I'm sure "pen pals" still exist, but not by snail mail. "sigh."

Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Art and science
Charles Murray   3/19/2012 1:21:48 PM
NO RATINGS
Drafting talents like Chuck's are hard to come by today. When I started out as an engineer, the company I worked for had a very talented, non-degreed engineer/draftsman named Franz who drew beautiful oblique views of bridges of all types. The drawings were so good that I've kept some for more than 30 years. His work was actually inspiring because he took what was a science (to the rest of us, at least) and turned it into an art.  

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
User Rank
Blogger
Waxing sentimental
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   3/19/2012 5:30:15 PM
NO RATINGS

This waxing sentimental brings back so many memories – Architectural Rendering in High School; 3-point perspective drawing; My first job as a Detailer in a Tool&Die shop in 1978;  remembering to always slowly twist the pencil between your thumb & finger to avoid generating a flat (caused inconsistent line widths!) Descriptive Geometry & Spatial Relationships.  Each of these things was a specific blend of talents in Art & Technology.  Thanks for the memories; so much of this is a lost art that so few ever heard of, let alone could ever appreciate!

Tim
User Rank
Platinum
Drafting as an art
Tim   3/19/2012 7:50:05 PM
NO RATINGS
At present, I am not sure if board drafting is still being taught in schools which is actually kind of sad.  However, I have shown my kids the finer points of drafting.  I pulled an old drawing board from a dumpster of a closing company and set up my own drafting station in my work shop.  I do full engineering style drawings of any wood project that I work on.  I also do my best to introduce my kids to the 1/8" dashes seperated by 1/16" space to mark a hidden line.  They look at me like I am crazy, but I still enjoy it.

vimalkumarp
User Rank
Gold
Petroski on Engineering: Envelopes of Experience
vimalkumarp   3/19/2012 11:20:22 PM
NO RATINGS
Like everyone else, i have always admired Petroski for his design genius but his language skills in explaining the engineering thoughts are also commendable. As Wittgenstein said that the limits of one's language the limits of the world, it is important to have language skills to express and explain the engineering view. Every time i read Petroski i am motivated by his language skills. I know this comment may not be related to the topic , but still i felt like paying tributes to his writing skills.

MYRONB
User Rank
Gold
Re: Petroski on Engineering: Envelopes of Experience
MYRONB   3/20/2012 3:29:34 AM
NO RATINGS

In high school we had basic and advanced mechanical drawing, and even architectural drawing and rendering.  In those days, one worked very hard just to qualify to enter the Illinois Institute of Technology drafting competition.  To win any kind of an award would be an honor, indeed!

With the emphasis on using CAD to produce drawings, we are losing the hand-eye-brain interconnection; a way to get the "feel" of an object, and to have one's mind sense the object's shape, construction, and texture.  In the same way, learning cursive writing refined that very same hand-eye-brain interconnection, aiding not only clear writing, but clear thinking.

 I am not a Luddite who might say down with CAD, texting, or word processing.  I understand the utility of, and use these systems, but I do see this as a further erosion of the "humanness" of communication.

I believe that learning to sketch and to write clearly, prepares one's mind to understand the observer's world before trying to improve it.  I further believe that learning these skills should remain in the engineering curriculum.

Regards, Myron Boyajian

Alexander Wolfe
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Petroski on Engineering: Envelopes of Experience
Alexander Wolfe   3/20/2012 9:20:53 AM
NO RATINGS
I was never very good at drafting. I remember taking a class in high school and I always smudged my drawings. I actually don't remember if we had a mechanical drawing class in college. Don't think so since I was a EE major. On my first job, we had a whole area of about 20 draftsman. Like one of the commenters said below, these were all non-degreed guys who probably migrated to the field after WWII or Korea via trade schools. I admire the skill and I enjoyed Henry's column. I usually lament the passing of older technologies -- I'm still a big vacuum tube fan -- but in the case of drawing I don't see that much has been lost by the shift from pencil to CAD.

GlennA
User Rank
Gold
Re: Petroski on Engineering: Envelopes of Experience
GlennA   3/20/2012 1:37:43 PM
NO RATINGS
CAD is a tool for a draughtsman.  If you don't know how to properly use CAD, the result is garbage, not a drawing.  One basic that is not understood is that a CAD drawing is drawn full size, but is scaled to fit the paper it will be printed on.  The first job that I had using AutoCAD Release 9 (I learned on Release 10), had drawings done by a hacker - every mistake that we had been taught to not do, was in that drawing.  I learned manual drafting, so I appreciate the accuracy and features of CAD.  One of the finer points of manual drafting was knowing how to do a true size projection.

Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Petroski on Engineering: Envelopes of Experience
Charles Murray   3/20/2012 8:14:06 PM
NO RATINGS
Excellent point, vimulkumarp, and I'm glad somebody said it. I've read "To Engineer Is Human" twice and have quoted it on this website more than once. Professor Petroski has a rare quality among university professors these days -- he's a master of communication who can speak equally well to experts and to the man on the street.  

sullivbt
User Rank
Iron
Why not...
sullivbt   3/20/2012 10:10:31 AM
NO RATINGS
get his permission to reprint some of these drawings? I, for one, would be very interested in seeing them.

BillFZ1
User Rank
Gold
Lost arts
BillFZ1   3/20/2012 12:08:24 PM
NO RATINGS
I started as a designer and then an engineer on the drafting board. I wasn't a good draftsman, so I embraced CAD with a passion. Even with a template I could rarely letter well. For me the thing I miss is the art, and it truly is an art, of a sophistacated cutaway drawing. Road & Track magazine had at least two illustrators of superb skill. I loved the details. I have always been a 3D guy, thinking and visuallizing my projects well. However I was always jealous of the skill of being able to draw those cutaways! Our CAD machines and programs will produce a perfect sectional drawing but it is not the same. The summit of the old school cutaways I have seen is the cutaway of the Rolls Royce Crecy piston engine. I don't believe the draftsman even signed it, but he should have it was a thing of beauty. It is appropriate that it was the best cutaway I know of as the Crecy was pretty much the pinnacle of piston engine design circa 1945. The jet engines replace those big aircraft piston engines, but are not as technically interesting, to me at least. The CAD era produces more technically correct drawings, but they will never be as interesting as the hand inked cutaways. Bill J

npitech
User Rank
Iron
Old school
npitech   3/20/2012 12:43:21 PM
NO RATINGS
Techniques and methods come and go but nothing replaces a friend who shares their time & talent with you.

ChasChas
User Rank
Platinum
saved by the computer
ChasChas   3/20/2012 5:29:02 PM
NO RATINGS
Unlike Chuck Siple, I cannot draw.

My mind makes great designs and pictures, but I cannot draw them - without a computer.

I was a hands on designer only - when the computer came out, I went back to school and got my mechanical engineering degree.

What a blessing the computer is for me!

Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Re: saved by the computer
Charles Murray   3/20/2012 8:17:59 PM
I'm the same, ChasChas. I could draw a plan view or elevation reasonably well, but was incapable of doing an oblique view of even the simplest objects. After awhile, my employers understood this and tended to put me in front of a computer, where I could do less damage.

ervin0072002
User Rank
Gold
I tried and i could not
ervin0072002   3/22/2012 9:00:32 AM
NO RATINGS

Both my parents are Electro mechanical tech's with Vocational high school degrees. Both of them are capable of drawing better than the paid drafters in our company. They tried and tried to teach me how to draw. It never clicked. I can draw stick people, my circles look like ellipses, and lets just say that I prefer hyperbolic geometry since I cannot draw straight lines. I am grateful that drafting is not required any more. That would have been a road block for me. I enjoy looking at the work but it's a dying art. Soon enough the only place to hold any hand drafted plans will be museums.

3drob
User Rank
Platinum
Re: I tried and i could not
3drob   3/22/2012 9:22:16 AM
NO RATINGS
I took drafting in college.  I was never very good, but there are skills there that are necessary to have in your career, and I see it as a critical step to communicating.  I'm an EE, but I've often been responsible for the "whole box".  Being able to draw (even incompetently) allows you to better "see" things yourself, and communicate them across job boundaries.

Just as children must learn math BEFORE they start using calculators, Engineers should learn to draw and communicate effectively.  After all, Engineering is both creation and communication;  what's that if not ART?

Reminds me of a good Engineering book:  A Canticle for Leibowitz

ervin0072002
User Rank
Gold
Re: I tried and i could not
ervin0072002   3/23/2012 8:22:21 AM
NO RATINGS

3drob all I have to say to that comment is:

 

Spice Software,

 

Cad Software,

 

Microsoft Office,

 

is all an engineer needs. Drawing and drafting in college is generally last grasp to resist change from older engineers that feel cheated that they had to go through the pains of learning how to draw and the younger generation does not. Same thing happened with calculators and now and it's happening again with the internet.

 

GlennA
User Rank
Gold
Re: I tried and i could not
GlennA   3/23/2012 3:53:55 PM
NO RATINGS
I guess you are also glad you never had to learn how to use a slide rule - that was my first 'calculator', and the batteries never died at a critical time.  The operator had to know where to put the decimal point.  And the first electronic calculators (red LED's) were 'slide-rule calculators', before the time of digital calculators.

CAD helps a draughtsman draw better.  But if you don't know how to draw by hand, you can't draw in CAD.  I had CAD-CAM operators complain that they couldn't create a certain profile in CAD.  But they also couldn't explain what they were trying to do.  After sketching from their description, usually by the 3rd revision I had deciphered what they wanted to do.  Then I could explain the steps to re-create the profile in CAD.

But then I also feel sorry for the cashiers that have to rely on the cash register  to calculate change.  If they punch in too quickly and it says $0.18 change, they have no idea that the 7 cents I am offering is to make up to a quarter (25 cents).  (I expect you just use your debit card.)

The most important tool for any Engineer, is a brain that works.  That is what actually makes your tools, whichever are your favorites, useful.

ervin0072002
User Rank
Gold
Re: I tried and i could not
ervin0072002   3/25/2012 9:09:21 AM
NO RATINGS
Hello GlennA, Angry much? Fyi i know how to use a slide ruler, i am a collector of slide rulers too. I also know how to add even though i use a debit card. I have a degree in math as well. Also because i have a degree in math and my extensive knowledge in analysis and geometry i have a perfect understanding of 3D. I am also working on a masters in computer science. Now stop being cranky because the world can survive without your skills. And a friendly advice. When you get that hot shot young boss (you will at some point in your career) dont talk to him with this attitude.

GlennA
User Rank
Gold
Re: I tried and i could not
GlennA   3/26/2012 8:48:40 AM
NO RATINGS
ervin0072002:  You seem very defensive.

Yes, I have had several hotshot young bosses - what upsets them most is when I show them up.  It is okay to disagree with your boss, UNLESS it turns out your boss is wrong, and you are right.  I have fixed machines that engineers and technicians with several years more education, several years more experience, and several years more seniority couldn't fix.  But now I am being immodest.

Sure, the world could survive without my skills.  Are you suggesting that the world could not survive without you ?  One day, many years from now, you will look back on this and wonder why it seemed so important at the time.

I have found that getting angry and tense doesn't help, so now I just try to find the humor in watching young hotshots flail and founder.  And if they do eventually ask for my help, I do try to help them.

Partner Zone
More Blogs from Guest Blogs
It seems that gears have been around forever -- what could be new?
The use of ZNE technology buildings not only reduces cost and creates renewable energy, but it can give a boost to the economy. The implementation and execution will require a workforce, which means the result can be increased employment.
The use of CFD is more profound in automobile design because of the diverse physics involved. It can be used to optimize components for downsizing and reducing the environmental footprint while maintaining or improving operational efficiency.
A Detroit automaker was struggling with a semi-manual, labor-intensive parts receiving process. Workers had enter parts into a spreadsheet manually at a stationary workstation. This stopped the receiving process dead in its tracks. A better system was needed.
Pressure sensors can be used in a wide range of applications. It’s imperative that they’re suited for use in hazardous situations and are fully compliant with one of several protection standards.
Design News Webinar Series
7/17/2014 11:00 a.m. California / 2:00 p.m. New York
6/25/2014 11:00 a.m. California / 2:00 p.m. New York
5/13/2014 10:00 a.m. California / 1:00 p.m. New York / 6:00 p.m. London
7/23/2014 11:00 a.m. California / 2:00 p.m. New York
Quick Poll
The Continuing Education Center offers engineers an entirely new way to get the education they need to formulate next-generation solutions.
Jul 21 - 25, Design Products With Bluetooth Low Energy
SEMESTERS: 1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6


Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.
Next Class: August 12 - 14
Sponsored by igus
Learn More   |   Login   |   Archived Classes
Twitter Feed
Design News Twitter Feed
Like Us on Facebook

Sponsored Content

Technology Marketplace

Copyright © 2014 UBM Canon, A UBM company, All rights reserved. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service