Author Archives: jeff

New Podcast with Chris Gammell

[Update: The podcast has a new home at The Engineering Commons!] Chris Gammell, co-host of The Amp Hour podcast, kindly allowed me to join him in creating a podcast dedicated to engineering’s more philosophical issues. You can listen to our first session below: [Update: You can download the mp3 file directly, if you prefer not […]

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Benefits of an abstract engineering education

My prior post was critical of the abstraction-based, mathematics-heavy, and computation-focused eduction served up to today’s engineering students. It has been my experience has been that the most successful engineers in industrial practice are very hands-on, with years of practical experience, and insights that have little to do with academic equations. That’s not to say […]

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Bait and switch in engineering education

It seems that many children have never considered the possibility of an engineering career. Well-meaning programs therefore attempt to nudge students toward engineering through exposure to engineering-like projects. These activities most often involve the manipulation of physical objects, such as constructing toothpick bridges, building LEGO models, preparing for an egg drop, or working with robots. […]

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Engineering spectrum differences

In my prior post, I proposed that each engineering position requires a different level of abstraction. To a research engineer, almost everything is model-based, while the production engineer may be primarily focused on issues that are object-based. Although freshman and sophomore engineering students receive guidance as to the sub-discipline they should enter (electrical, mechanical, chemical, […]

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Along the engineering spectrum

My prior series of posts (part 1, part 2, and part 3) proposed that a common characteristic of all engineering activity was the use of abstract models to search a solution space before implementing a new method, device, or system. Engineers fill the gap between science, which seeks to generate accurate models, and manufacturing, which […]

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What engineers have in common (part 3)

(Part 1 and part 2 of this series) In my most recent post, I proposed the following definition (which I’ve slightly revised): engineer: an individual who designs novel methods, devices, or systems that can be practically implemented to meet specified constraints, or analyzes existing methods, devices, or systems for their capacity to meet such constraints, […]

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What engineers have in common (part 2)

(Part 1 of this series can be found here) In my last post, I suggested the term physineer be used to describe engineers who deal with the physical realm. These are individuals employed in the traditional engineering fields, such as chemical, electrical, civil, and mechanical engineering. To see how the responsibilities of such engineers are […]

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What do engineers have in common?

While I see many articles concerning new initiatives in STEM education, relatively little is said about the types of duties that engineers perform in the workplace. Any design process has to begin with certain constraints on the finished product, and it seems to me that an informed choice of curriculum and educational methods should begin […]

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Refocusing Engineering Revision

When I started this blog two years ago, I was convinced there had to be a better way for students to learn engineering concepts. Having professors talk monotonously at an overhead screen while showing page after page of convoluted equations offers, at best, a modicum of useful insight into how one would go about solving […]

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Building Sandcastles

As a life-long Midwesterner, I haven’t spent a lot of time on the beach. However, I managed to build enough sandcastles during my youth to know that hours of effort can quickly disappear underneath the waves of a rising tide. No matter how beautiful the structure, how perfect its lines and curves, it stands no […]

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