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!!!!!!!! )
What should be the perception of a product’s real-world performance with regard to the published spec sheet? While it is easy to assume that the product will operate according to spec, what variables should be considered, and is that a designer obligation or a customer responsibility? Or both?
Biomimicry has already found its way into the development of robots and new materials, with researchers studying animals and nature to come up with new innovations. Now thanks to researchers in Boston, biomimicry could even inform the future of electrical networks for next-generation displays.
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