@williamlweaver - I like it. I wonder about the affordability (at the middle - high school levels) and will definitely look into it further.
I think you help make my point - many of us enginneers got into the field not out of a love of math and science alone, but out of a love of the creative process supporting the scientific method (and being blessed with curious, mathy/sciency minds to get us through the classroom part of the educaiton.) Anything that can bring the practical, hands-on, creative processes closer to the classroom work merits consideration.
@OldRadioNut I know this feels like direct advertising, but since National Instruments a current advertiser of design news and a popular vendor in engineering, I figure its OK to point out that NI miniSystems to get applied systems into education are really very innovative. They recently produced a video showcasing the technology that allows engineering students to "use what they learn".
Really cool idea that takes advantage of existing technology.
I think that it depends upon the total enviornment. At the University of Michigan there is a very rich environment in virtually all the fields. Ann Arbor is about as good as it gets and in an educational sense, it's huge. Even so as a campus.
I went to GMI and Co-oped at GM Engieering Staff the year that the Tech Center opened.
It was an amazing program and carrying 24 Credit Hours a semester was an overbearing load. But I loved being in the Co-op program and extremely enjoyed rotating in every major department twice. It was awe inspiring. And I even wangled a spaghetti dinner at George Carramagna's house. If you have read Ralp Nader's book you know who George Is. The engineers laughed at him and made fun of him but to me he remains one great American because he had the courage to go up against some idiot corporate policies where no one engineer had the courage to stand up for what was right. The mechanic did.
And while leaving childhood behind I was super proud of my Fraternity and the guys there. But while I particularly enjoyed such courses as kinematics and descriptive geometry and Metal Shop, the school grew flat for me so I left. I had been tested and found in the 99 th percentile in the realm of 3D aesthetics, it did not appear to be affording a future that I would love. I wanted to be a car designer. That was not the appropriate school.
So with a brief stint at Detroit's Arts and Crafts, I transfered to Michigan where, sure enough as one advisor predicted, it was broad enough that I could find myself. Art Schools are fun.
First in Product design and then in Architecture I enjoyed it greatly except for one professor who was involved with IIT and Communism.
At Michigan I befriended 3 Engineers and it was natural. One was a Science Engineer who was a beautiful dresser with Harris tweeds, bass shoes, and GBD pipes. He was a classic and took courses in Shakespeare and Music History. Interestingly he father taught at GMI, the head of the Industrial Engineering Department. He went on to work for the idiot Dr. Wang and then ended up at Ford Huachuca working on the Stealth Fighter Program. He was brilliant and he was happy and I introduced him to his wife. After Desert Storm was over I commented that engineering was really getting good with the patriot missiles and he quickly commented that not one Scud was brought down by a Patriot, "They were not designed to do that". Perhaps that is why he got fried in the microwaves.
He also introduced me to his best friend who was a Naval Architect and he was a total ball of fun. I suspected from him that that program had lots of enjoyment associated with it. We used to go canoeing on Barton Pond and got drunk on more than one occasion but it was always fun and delightful if not hilarious. It was most enjoyable riding on the moving bridge at the tow tank. It was even fun meeting the head model maker, but I always loved competent mechanics. With the first beard on Campus at the time which I attribute to his love of sailing and woking on the lake freighers to pay his way, he had a maturity of perspecive and that included fun. He ended up owning a shipyard in Tacoma.
I lived one year with and Engineer who had a 3.8 average and he was out drinking and stealing every night it seemed. He'd always say that he did poorly after a big test but he ended up with the top grade. I suspected that deep down he was unhappy with life and I noticed that when he came to his final project he could not do it. It was a centrifuge for pilot training and I had do lay it out for him.
Engineering was a grind but so was architecture and the perspectives were quite different. Architects were clearly about building a beautiful future for people. Engineers seemed to be more interested in boosting their incomes and I have witnessed some corruption and carelessness and cavalier attitudes in both fields in my years. I do not like that at all.
I don't know if I could call myself a friend of Bob Lutz but I admire the hell out of him. He is the one leading us towards electrically powered vehicles. His Converj is simply stunning and the Volt is an exceedingly Fine Automobile. I don't believe that they know how to market it. And the evil republican attacks on it are totally unwarrented and rife with outright lies in keeping with Romney's hideous and profoundly ignorant perspective... Let Detroit Go Bankrupt. It's awfully like Dutch's comment overriding the Lauch Commnder who was against liftoff. The politician overruled the intelligent engineer who was not willing to say, "Mr. President, you are dead wrong and I'm going to stand under the rocked until it's ready because I am not interested in your fireworks display. I am about, rational thinking, proper engineering and saving lives".
I don't believe that the word Weltanschaung is used in too many engineering courses but that is somewhat key to happyness in life... it's actually about People and their happiness.
Charles, this heavy demand can often continue after graduation: larger salary yet much longer work hours, enticing technologies yet exhaustive road travel, tangible project successes yet no path to upper management (CxO are usually from Sales staff). And let's not overlook those companies/industries where the management makes all these heavy demands of their engineering staff but never invests in them... maybe threatening to offshore such functions to India or China. While sometimes there is no way around the hard spots and you simply have to put your nose to the grindstone, both students and employees in engineering will find that sometimes the good of the vocation is badly undermined by those entities whom control our daily functions.
I think that all serious engineering students intuitively understand that their chosen course of study represents a trade-off of happiness, near-term vs. long-term. I can't remember too many 'happy' times in my Purdue EE journey, except the simple gratification of receiving good marks. The rest of my memories are filled with 'unhappy' times spent in libraries, study rooms, lecture halls, labs and evening/weekend cash labor jobs.
Choosing a needed, practical and useful profession and the sacrifices that went along with learning the discipline have all paid off rather quickly for me; full employment, competitive employment options, global demand and the ability to add value to society.
Underwater basket-weavers, by contrast, are quite happy to be in school (brats escaping from parents rule??) but too many end up camped out on their parents couch or working at the local burger joint. Further evidence that nothing worthwile in life is free.
"The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you're willing to pay the price." Vince Lombardi
I have a slightly different take on this. The four-year undergrad grind for an engineering degree is hard! Mentally, Physically, and Socially. You definitely have to chose your priority.
What made me unhappiest about the undergrad exerience was that I never really got to apply what I was learning until the summer or winter breaks, and by then I was too tired, hungry, and starved for human interaction. Always, it was race through the chapters and problem sets and regurgitate it on an exam a few weeks later. If you struggled with something, there was no time to catch up.
I did fine - I had a rich experience as a kid, building things and taking them apart... turning all the resistor bands brown, making parts squirt smoke... a foundation too many of my peers lacked. My youthful experience provided me the gifts of intuition and insight that helped immeasurably when I slammed head-first into the theory and math. This is why I know STEM activities are important to future engineers and scientists.
I don't have any answers - I think undergrads need time to tinker and explore (use!) the tools they're developing. But there is no time for this in the four year program, and seemingly little time in our kids lives for the kind of "tech play" I enjoyed in my youth. I had the most fun in grad school, where alongside a solid grad course load, I was designing, building, testing, and fielding sensors - to me, this felt like what an education should be.
Lou, I went to IIT and so did my father. I was also the one that started the LinkedIn discussion. What came out of the LinkedIn discussion were two people that didn't like IIT and a whole lot of people, including myself, that started in the workplace much more prepared than any of their peers from just about any major. We do have one of the toughest curriculums in the country and the immediate location is not Malibu. And yet most people were able to find a good time in the few hours they had left from studying. We also made our way into downtown Chicago often. Here's a story that says a lot. When I was there in the 80's one of the students was carjacked. The thief had a gun and drove him into an alley a few miles from campus. When the thief ordered the kid out of the car he asked the robber if he could have his books as this was finals week. The robber pointed the gun at him and said, "what do you think this is?" but gave him the books anyway. I will leave this discussion at that. On a positive note that LinkedIn discussion opened the way for me to get more involved with IIT's Alumni Association and we are doing some good things!
I went to IIT and we've got to be close to having at least 50% engineering students. Last year when we made the list, however, we found Princeton Review had not used current surveys to rank us. I'm going to have to look that up again. However, we were just ranked as the 24th most rigorous curriculum in the U.S.
The Princeton crowd wouldn't know a tech school if it bit them in the butt. I'm an EE from U of Michigan which is a university, thanks, with a fine College of Engineering. We nerds partied as much as the lazy dopers in the next-door Liberal Arts college, and nobody fretted about "happiness" or sniveled "it's haaaard". Either you're fine with being a grind, or you downshift into Advanced Basket Weaving. "We got jobs!" was the motto of the class of '80.
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