I probably had a version of every common "build it" toy that there was and then some (remember "Mr. Machine?"). Legos are like programming in assembly language and Capsela is like Visual Basic. Either way, it takes some thought to create something unique.
Toothpicks: I had a 7th grade assignment to build a toothpick structure. The rules were very strict to prevent gluing together solid masses of toothpicks. It had to be 12" tall. They were to be tested with bricks. I confidently predicted that mine would hold five bricks. Did they ever laugh at me! Well, the big day came. There were only four bricks and it held them all - plus four volumes of the "World Book". My closest competitor collapsed on the second brick.
We moved that year. My best friend took it home and reported that his two year old cousin used it as a stool.
Did I become an engineer because of the toys? I don't think so. The interest was already there. The toys just made it fun.
I with you on the importance of a library card, bellhop. I still remember going to the town library at about 8 and getting my first library card. It was a whole new world opening. My first stop was the dinosaur books. I remember checking out every single one over a period of a few weeks. Then it was every book on volcanoes, then every book on tornados.
I generally prefer the freeform building tool toys, like the freeform Legos, and even Tinker Toys and toothpicks, because you get to exercise more of your creativity and ingenuity. I agree, Rob, that the packaged toys aren't nearly as much fun. I think the reason the building sets in this story are appealing is their beauty. I guess they remind me of a kind of hardware version of dollhouses, that whole fascination with miniatures, which I also liked.
Agreed! I got a library card when I moved to Tampa at age 6. I used to walk the half mile there and back to trade in my book for another. I hit the science books pretty hard, but I liked fiction too. The libray card actually pre-dated the Hydrodynamics set.
Amid this interesting discussion of construction today, one forgets the importance of books in whetting future professional interest. I remember getting out of the library at a very young age a basic guide to electricity. It was either a trade school or military manual, copiously illustrated. I spend weeks with those tomes.
You're right, Ann. Legos came much later. My experience with Legos came with my kids. I liked the freeform Legos. I wasn't as crazy about the packaged Lego toys where the box came with just the Legos you needed to make a specific robot or car. I changed my mind when I realized these packages had replaced my childhood model planes and boats. They are kind of like paint by the numbers -- not very creative, but good training in learning how to manipulate parts to achieve a whole.
Actually, I enjoyed the Tinker Toys and even the toothpick palaces. It was more of a challenge to figure out how to build things so they wouldn't fall down. What I really wanted was an Erector set, but in the 50s they were very pricey and not something parents usually gave to girls. Like Rob, I don't remember Legos. I think they came later.
The question of whether engineers could have foreseen the shortcut maintenance procedures that led to the crash of American Airlines Flight 191 in 1979 will probably linger for as long as there is an engineering profession.
More than 35 years later, the post-mortem on one of the country’s worst engineering disasters appears to be simple. A contractor asked for a change in an original design. The change was approved by engineers, later resulting in a mammoth structural collapse that killed 114 people and injured 216 more.
If you’re an embedded systems engineer whose analog capabilities are getting a little bit rusty, then you’ll want to take note of an upcoming Design News Continuing Education Center class, “Analog Design for the Digital World,” running Monday, Nov. 17 through Friday, Nov. 21.
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.