Category Archives: Engineering Roles

Why is engineering so hard to explain?

As a young engineer, I had no doubt in my mind that engineers designed things, and fixed things, and analyzed things. I never thought for a moment about the difference between engineering and science… or the difference between engineering and anything else for that matter. Yet as I set about explaining the engineering profession to […]

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Mulling over potential book chapters

All right, so if I’m to author a book about engineering careers (intended for high-schoolers and their non-engineer parents), I need some sort of rough outline to serve as a starting point. To that end I’m mulling over some potential chapters topics (all of which currently come to me in question form…): What is engineering? […]

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A Quote from Freeman Dyson

Somewhere along the way, during the past six months or so, I saw a quote about engineers attributed to a 1979 book written by Freeman Dyson, titled Disturbing the Universe. As I am too frequently apt to do, I found a used copy listed on Amazon and had it shipped my direction. This particular book […]

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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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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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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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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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The Marshmallow Challenge

Ever hear of the “Marshmallow Challenge?” Small teams of individuals are given the following assignment: use twenty sticks of uncooked spaghetti, one yard of masking tape, and one yard of string to construct the tallest possible free-standing structure that supports the weight of a marshmallow. Most people assume that since a marshmallow doesn’t weigh much, […]

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