More than a decade ago I started a blog titled ZopeNewbies, utilizing (then hard-to-come-by) web space kindly donated by blogging pioneer Dave Winer. It was my intention at the time to assist those interested in the Zope web framework as I investigated the software myself. Although I wrote a few well-received tutorials along the way, I quickly discovered that the hours spent summarizing Zope news devoured any and all time I had available for learning the software. And after almost two years of blogging, I decided the two to three hours I was spending on the ZopeNewbies site each morning could be put to better use. So I placed the site in the capable hands of Luke Tymowski, and moved on to other things. Since then I’ve had a great appreciation for bloggers who can generate insightful material on a regular basis — but I’ve had no desire to return to blogging myself. Until now.
Although I don’t consider myself a hardcore geek, I do love technology. I am fascinated by how things work, and I enjoy thinking about how devices and processes might better function. To that end, I’ve gone just about as far as I can go in trying to train myself to be an effective engineer. At the age of (almost) fifty, I am finishing up a mechanical engineering doctorate at Purdue University. A licensed professional engineer since 1986, I’ve worked for small machine shops, medium-sized companies, and large mega-corporations. And for the past fifteen years I’ve run my own consulting business. Throughout my career, I’ve been surprised by the apparent disconnect between what is taught in engineering classes, and what passes for engineering in industry. While I’ve seen encouraging steps taken to close that gap, I don’t believe that change is coming fast enough. So this blog is going to talk about how the responsibilities, skills, and training of engineers will necessarily change as we plunge deeper into the twenty-first century.
As I hope to point out in future posts, the role of engineers must evolve as technology marches forward at an ever increasing rate. It is unlikely that a larger percentage of the population will ever want to study engineering, but modern technology is rapidly allowing more and more people to leverage the power of applied science. As both society and the infrastructure upon which it relies become more complex, engineers must transform from isolated problem-solvers to socially adept guides who can direct the technical endeavors of others. While still in my twenties, I spent a couple of years teaching engineering technology classes; I know that it can be challenging to motivate students to absorb difficult mathematical concepts. Trying to interest them in the psychology of group dynamics may be near impossible. But the need for a new style of engineer has never been greater, and the tools available for revolutionizing engineering instruction have never been more readily available.
So welcome to Engineering Revision. If you have an opinion on this topic, please feel free to leave a comment.