You don’t have to be an engineer to have an opinion about engineering. Husbands, wives, friends, and neighbors of engineers all form their own ideas about the profession, and about the people who do it on a daily basis.
We've gathered a few famous thoughts on the subject, as well as a few that are lesser known. Some are insightful, some poetic, some flat-out funny. Many are drawn from uncharacteristically introspective engineers; more come from outside the profession. From physicists and engineers to movie stars and authors, we offer a view of engineering, from inside and out. Click on Albert Einstein's photo to start the slideshow.
“Scientists investigate that which already is. Engineers create that which has never been.”
Before desktop computers, we worked with paper drawings. One day while looking at a crane design, my mentor said "Turn the drawing upside down. Now, what do you see?" Many times, leaps (sometimes small) in engineering are created because somebody forgot to tell them "It can't be done!"
I have a bruise on my chest from where my jaw hit it when I read your lawyer anecdote. I shouldn't, but I do.
On a related note, I was in the hardware store a couple weeks ago chatting with an employee at the bolt boxes. He related his recent experience about a young man who came in looking for a replacement bolt. The HW guy asked him what size he needed. The customer said, "They come in different sizes?!"
Having more technology in life does not lead to more people having more technological aptitude or awareness of technology -- in fact at this point in the various industrial/technical revolutions, I think technology actually masks itself, making people less aware of the nature of their tools. This is why I shudder at the arguments that computers in classrooms inherently add value -- especially in association with MSTE education.
As it turns out, the main reason that computers at value in classrooms nowadays is because they provide the only medium ("multimedia") that so many modern American children are used to interfacing.
There's a lot of ignorance surrounding the engineering profession, bobjengr. When I was working as an engineer, a lawyer once asked me, "So what do you do, fix refrigerators?" That in itself wasn't so bad, but when I explained to him that someone has to design products like cars and airplanes, he really seemed baffled. He had never thought about the need to design a product. He told me he had always thought that design was something that was confined to architecture.
@warren: I agree with those. I also would have included, "Where were you when the paper was blank?"
@Charles: I am sure you could have used Scott Adams for at least 25 quotes. He is one of the few people in the world of business who can give voice to the frustration of being lead dog of anything and find yourself surrounded by second guessers and incompotent people who can only react to the effort while not contributing one original thought.
Nancy--I agree completely. Armstrong's quote is definitely my favorite. I suppose he nailed it. Some years ago I was talking with a neighbor up the street, an accountant by profession. This 'ol boy was a graduate accounting major. During our conversation, he asked my profession. Engineer I replied. His comment--' I always did lover trains'. At first, I really thought he was joking—really. After I indicated I was a mechanical engineer, we went into a lengthy discussion as to the various engineering disciplines available to entering university students. He actually was somewhat blown away with the options available. I could not believe his ignorance relative to our profession. (Oh by the way--he does not do my books!!!!!!!! )
Five years ago, optical heart rate tracking seemed like an obvious successor to the popular chest straps used by many fitness buffs, but the technology has faced myriad engineering challenges on its way to market acceptance.
Design engineers need to prepare for a future in which their electronic products will use not just one or two, but possibly many user interfaces that involve touch, vision, gestures, and even eye movements.
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