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What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/19/2016 5:04 PM

As some of us know, graduates from a college often come out not knowing what they were in college to learn. They enter into employment and spend years doing non-engineering work. I have seen and I'm sure others have also seen situations where a "technician" could come up with a design or solution to a problem without the assistance of an engineer. In some situations, an engineer would be assigned to find a solution only to have the technician already has the problem solved. Not only that, when the numbers were crunched, the engineer's solution would agree completely with that of the tech, despite the lack of "engineering knowledge" by the tech. So now I'm wondering, after 50+ years in the shipbuilding field, what are the colleges teaching and what is expected from a graduate these days?

Going back to the start of the industrial revolution, any person involved in an engineering career, had to know so much more and serve an apprenticeship to earn the title of engineer. Just look at some of the technical textbooks (Audel or ICS for example) of the day and know how much you had to know. Back then, an engineer earned the title. That doesn't seem to be the case today. An engineer who designed locomotives also knew how to actually build one. In other words, it was a hands on learning experience.

When I went to school over 60 years ago, I had to study subjects that are no longer taught. My curriculum in mechanical engineering included, drafting, pattern making, foundry, material testing, machining along with physics, electrical, math and a few other "liberal arts" courses. That bag of courses prepared me well for anything technology could toss at me. It served me well and allowed me to keep abreast of new technologies, (example: I learned Autocad© at 70). When I read some of the questions asked by "wanabe" engineers, I can only conclude that they are not learning much to prepare them for a responsible job.

Today at 82, I still retain most of what I was taught. I still design using Autocad© and operate machine tools, building large scale locomotives in my home shop. I know there is still a large pool of well educated people in this country, but more and more of them appear to come from other countries. Young Americans don't appear to want to go into engineering professions much, opting for professions that generate more money, like banking, stocks, politics; in other words, they don't want to get their hands dirty.

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#1

Re: What should we expect from an engineer?

08/19/2016 5:44 PM

When I came out of high school I went to a technical college and got a degree in Industrial Maintenance which was for the most par the modern day Jack of all traded type technical education. It served me well but it also came with the apparent title of being 'Over Qualified ' for many jobs I applied for.

After about 10 years of working remedial positions but often time being the guy who worked with any contracted engineers the places I worked for got (I was the only one who could understand what they were saying and then translate it to basic terms that our management would ultimately ignore) I figured I would go back to college a second time for a Electrical Engineering degree.

With that I spent 3.5 years of my life and several tens of thousands of dollars to learn, well, not much related to Electrical Engineering (Or any engineering for that matter) I can tell you that.

What I got was,

Three art classes,

Three English classes,

two history classes,

four of the most idiotic irrelevant math classes I have ever experienced,

Canoeing,

Downhill skiing,

One Public speaking class,

Three actually rather fun Geology classes I burned up my elective choices on,

Two very lame physics classes,

Two okay chemistry classes,

Two very irrelevant computers labs,

One basics Autocad class that was pretty good,

And several other lecture and whatnot classes that also had near nothing to do with any form of engineering.

As for classes that were relevant to actual electrical engineering, Well I got a heart to heart talk from my advisor about how when the company who hires me will train me in that stuff because the college system is more concerned about how to finance their sports programs than it is about how to turn students into actual functional engineers so they tend to just leave all that 'techincal mumbo jumbo class work' out being professors who can teach that stuff cost a good deal of money.

That's what was behind a EE degree in the early 2000's and from what I have heard and seen things have not really improved much and if anything they have probably gone downhill even further.

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#3
In reply to #1

Re: What should we expect from an engineer?

08/19/2016 7:52 PM

...and a partridge in a pear tree!

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: What should we expect from an engineer?

08/19/2016 10:14 PM

Hardly. I'm a generic white guy. I don't qualify for that.

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#2

Re: What should we expect from an engineer?

08/19/2016 6:48 PM

An engineer comes out of college with a load of theory (if he or she worked hard) and usually little or no practical knowledge. Many times the new engineer, because of lack of experience, is given tasks that are not technically challenging. The "interesting" assignments will go to the experienced engineers.

If the new engineer does not strive to prove himself (or herself) in handling technical assignments, he or she may be permanently shunted into non technical positions.

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#5

Re: What should we expect from an engineer?

08/20/2016 12:09 AM

Ask this guy, Substation Design

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#6

Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/20/2016 2:06 PM

Young Americans don't appear to want to go anywhere these days.

Chances are good that your doctor is from India, Pakistan or even Russia where they still value hard work and a good basic education.

I'd bet there's not a T square and drafting board within 100 miles of where you are today.

It's whip it out on 3-D CAD, run the materials and views a few times and print it out on your 3-D printer.

But hey, they're building jet engine parts that way today (and airplane bodies) out of PLASTIC and planes aren't falling out of the sky, so................................

Our world is a thing of the past, and so are we.

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#7

Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/20/2016 11:34 PM

When I was 16 I swapped a v-8 into my mothers 51 Ford 6 cylinder. I knew then that Engineering was my interest. I went to an Engineering Program at the USMMA at Kings Point. First year we had an average of 24 credits per quarter which included Machine Shop, (4 hours per week) for 2 credits, Steam Lab (4 hpw) for 2 credits and that included having to stick you hand into a running 2 stage steam recip and feeling the crank web to see if the bearing was too hot. Then there was knot tying which was a 4 hour lab for 1 measly credit, drafting another 4 hours for 2 credits. Steam Turbines got us a trip to DeLaval down in Trenton, NJ where we got to see their construction as well as seeing a Bull gear being cut and their foundry making cast iron IMO pumps. Got theory up the wazoo. Then my second year was All Lab. It was called "A Ship". They sent us out to sea on regular Merchant Ships with real-life hard working Engineers. Never met one who wasn't willing to impart knowledge to a young 18 year old Cadet. My uniform was a set of coveralls which generally needed washing every day. Years 3 and 4 back at KP, mostly Engineering with just enough Liberal Arts courses to meet the requirements, French, American History, Economics etc. It was a tough row to hoe but the Best Time of my Life. Frankly I have to agree with most people of our age that the millennials just don't have that mindset needed to pursue a tough road and stick to it until finished. I saw this in many of the younger Engineers taking post-grad courses when I was. Their idea of a fair test was a take-home where they would get together as a study group and do the problems. Most of the courses in Engineering in post-grad were highly theoretical and low on practicality. Many of the courses were taught by ta's (post-grad students) and the Prof showed up a couple of times. I don't give Engineering in the USA much hope in the future. The Engineering School approach in Europe probably has a better approach for Tech savvy graduates from what I've read. Frankly the lack of "work ethic" is the USA's biggest problem when it comes to developing good engineers.

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#10
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Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/21/2016 1:25 AM

" Frankly the lack of "work ethic" is the USA's biggest problem when it comes to developing good engineers."

I think this applies to most fields today.

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#13
In reply to #10

Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/22/2016 1:03 AM

"Adversity is the mother of all innovation" like what they said. Americans lack adversity --And, I don't mean it "infidels" don't get m wrong.

What more could americans ask for? They have plenty of food and common necessities, got the technology, living in comfort and in freedom. But, their morals are declining may be because of too much freedom and the falling away with their fundamentals.. "In God We Trust" I really wonder, who is that god now.

Americans should return to Jesus.

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#20
In reply to #13

Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/22/2016 1:52 PM

I think you've hit it spot on. Thank you for that.

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#8

Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/20/2016 11:41 PM

After working with quite a few new engineers, the first thing I expect is an attitude of superiority. They have a degree, the rest of the world is scum.

After 45 years in the electrical trade, both construction and maintenance, before that a few years in Power Engineering, with stints doing crane operation, commercial diving, and welding among other things, I still find that, I am told the I don't know what I am talking about, that I am stupid, and how would I know, I am only a trades. As far as they are concerned, I know squat.

When engineers started using the stamp " The engineer is not responsible for any errors or omissions on the print", things started going downhill fast. Shift the blame to the installer for problems on start up and commissioning.

I occasionally run into an older engineer that comes up and asks what I think, I tell him the way I would do the job, he may come up with an alternate, we figure things out and the job gets done. Both the contractor and the owner save money, but most of the young things, I shake my head.

One must remember the universities are not there to educate you, but to make a profit. Name another profession that you cannot be fired from for doing a poor job.

The biggest reason we have engineers is because the insurance companies want someone with a ticket to sign off on the job. If there is a problem, "It was designed by an engineer" and everyone know they are next to God...

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#15
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Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/22/2016 10:24 AM

There are still some of us "older" engineers that respect tradesmen and actually do ask questions of them. It is difficult to apply theoretical information into reality projects when you don't know things really happen at installation/construction. I am still a firm believer in knowing what has to be done physically, and there is no better way than having an "expert" show you or explain it to you. Call me fortunate or foresighted, but the best compliment I ever got was being called a practical engineer by the tradesmen I worked with.

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#17
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Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/22/2016 11:34 AM

As a cadet, I was assigned to work with the Engine Utility man, an unlicensed crew member on the one ship. Irving signed his pay advance with an "X" since he was illiterate. Couldn't read or write but was one of the best instructors I ever had and a crackerjack mechanic. Rode my ass unmercifully for 2 weeks and threatened to smash my ankle when we were working down in the shaft alley. I picked up a 1 1/2" box wrench and told him to take his best shot because I was going to aim mine for his head. We were best buds after that. It was his way of determining how much you could take and how much backbone you had. A valuable lesson for a young man though I never used that technique in my dealing with people.

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#26
In reply to #8

Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/22/2016 6:35 PM

After working with quite a few new engineers, the first thing I expect is an attitude of superiority. They have a degree, the rest of the world is scum.

I believe it - and I hate it! To behave that way is just plain stupid!

The best working relationship is based on trust. You cannot develop trust when you don't consider or value the people you work with. So, with an attitude of hubris, you're just shooting yourself in the foot, unless you don't really want to get everyone on board to get the job done.

I have always had to ask questions - depend on those who know the machines and procedures better than me (the operators and techs) to be able to get started. I do value them, and I believe they trust me, because I always get cheerful cooperation.

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#9

Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/21/2016 12:56 AM

Engineers are backbones for the development of a country. They play vital role in society to improve the quality of life. I completed Mechanical engineering 34 years ago and worked as design engineer for more than 15 years in Delhi ,India and 19 years in Oman as Building Service engineer and involved in many of iconic projects in both countries. Still I am working. I could apply my skills which was taught at Schools throughout my carrier and still am learning. I encourage engineers to update their skills through CPD. Learning is a continuous process. I have visited Europe few years ago and observed how engineering has helped the society to improve their quality of life. First time I visited USA last year to meet my eldest daughter who is medical doctor there. I stayed there for 3 weeks and traveled many places including Boston, New york, Florida, Memphis, Jackson etc. Role of engineers to develop infrastructures in these places made me to realize role of engineers in society to improve the quality of life. I enjoyed every minute my stay in USA. Last month again I visited USA for one week to meet my children there and it was a wonderful trip. I am very happy that I have chosen Engineering as my profession (I am first person from my family and village who has become Engineer). Younger generation to be motivated towards engineering by updating the curriculum regularly by suitable interaction between academics and industries.

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#11

Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/21/2016 9:10 AM

I have worked in mechanical trades for 50 years in many industries including mining, nuclear, steel, pulp&paper and transportation. Met a lot of fine people including engineers and the quality of of these people varied very widely. I have worked some good domestic folks but the East Europeans really had the ability to think and simplify. After 4 Inter-provincial Trade Certifications then on to Engineering degree I have to say that I have been blessed with a fantastic and not boring work life. Yes I get the overqualified comments but at 71 I pick my work choices just to keep in the go and know.

Like others I realize and appreciate the value of a good engineer be that person in possession of a degree or life experiences. My real amazement comes from those with the initiative to learn on their own and by asking for input from others mostly elders.

My only beef is from those that are certified engineers but have no skills and get into positions of influence such as sometimes government and try to act a part that they are unsuited for.

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#12

Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/21/2016 10:14 AM

I think, for the most part, engineering education is holding its own. I have had the full spectrum of design professionals as colleagues and employees. I have MD and CPA family as well as a plethora of lawyers in my life.

Of all the lot, none emerge from formal education as ill prepared as do architects. For example, of the seven US architectural schools from which architectural colleagues or employees have come to the market place, none offer the first hour in a taught course related to a building code. What is worse, is that the largely irrelevant design education process to which architects are subjected rivals the drudgery and intensity of medical school.

On the positive side of the two non-US architectural schools from which I have had the good fortune of being the recipient of architectural staff, both were conspicuously better prepared to enter the work force that any originating from US programs...and, in both cases, these young architects had degrees in ''architectural engineering'' and not in ''architecture''.

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#14

Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/22/2016 8:46 AM

Howdy all!

I'm a young mechanical engineer with the ink still drying on my degree from NJIT. I was born an raised in New jersey and my parents were born and raised in NYC. Although I generally agree with everyone in this thread don't give up hope just yet! My friends and I from school spend our nights outside under our cars putting into practice real problem solving skills. I personally enjoy rebuilding and restoring old pre/post war Lionel and 3 rail American Flyer trains. At work, I am under engineers with much more experience than myself but I strive to learn from them and prove myself competent in both the number crunching through to actual construction.

You guys aren't wrong about 80% of fresh grads but there's still some hope left!

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#16

Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/22/2016 10:31 AM

The educational program has indeed changed from when both you and I did our higher education. I can't say what is "taught" these days as I am a little busy trying to keep a business going, but I recall some very educational hands on teaching and I suspect that those aren't so common any more. We were even offered chances to get some practical "experience" that weren't even credit courses - the teachers were, yes, tradespeople who actually taught is the practical side. I found those experiences more interesting than the theory in the class room.

What I would look for today in a newly graduated engineer is what his/her outside of school experience is. That would give me an better idea of how well they could handle new things and adapt.

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#18
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Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/22/2016 11:43 AM

I first started being involved in the Engineering education scene back in the early nineties when I was a National delegate for the Technology Students Association (TSA) that acronym is more commonly associated with a different association altogether now. We did the typical things that would be expected at the High School level, with design and hands-on being well mixed (balsa wood bridges, small rubber band powered airplanes, general competitions of designing and building). I had a great mentor, and was completely absorbed in the curriculum. When I went to college, I found none of the hands-on, and not much enthusiasm either.

Life can be complicated and I dropped out of college after first term to be a ski bum. 20 years later I had an opportunity to go back to college, and I chose a University in England. They did not require any liberal arts electives at all. We had an optional course each term (instead of 2 semesters they have 3 terms) and you could opt for economics or something like that, but most engineering students elected to take other engineering courses (in a different field of engineering - electrical engineers might take a structural course, or thermodynamics).

I saw plenty of examples of millenials choosing to do the least possible amount of work to get by, but I also met some truly inspired individuals who I am sure will make a difference in this world. So, yep, things aren't like they used to be, and that could be a bad thing...but isn't that part (a big part!) of what the engineer's role is in this world? -- to make things different from the way they were? (hopefully for the better!!)

Have faith, try to mentor, remember what it was like to be young enough to know everything (that last bit is sarcasm - I did live in the UK for years)

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#19
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Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/22/2016 12:06 PM

I haven't lost faith in the least. As you say there are still some individuals out there that can still achieve what the "old guard" like me consider to be a good engineer. A very large part of achieving that is mentoring, and I do exactly that where ever possible.

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#21
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Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/22/2016 2:00 PM

Kevin, I was not replying to you per se, just used that button as I was replying at that temporal point in the conversation. I am heartened to hear that you offer your old guard skills as direction for new engineers and mentor the millenials into the old school ways. I hope this can be perpetuated by others on this site, who obviously have plenty of knowledge and know-how to pass on!

Thanks to all for the daily entertainment and information, this forum has become an important part of day-to-day engineering life for me.

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#22
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Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/22/2016 2:26 PM

Not a problem at all. Just getting the information out, especially to those less "experienced" is the important thing in this forum. Here you can try to impart your wisdom and experience to many, not just a few that you may mentor.

I, too, look forward to the daily dose of information and entertainment. Sometimes almost as entertaining as watching "reality shows" on the tube these days, the very few times I am coerced into watching them or just need some comic relief. But then,,,,, that is another whole topic which I am sure would likely go on adfinitem.

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#23
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Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/22/2016 3:01 PM

Or ad nauseam!!

Yep, great resource for noobies and ole hands alike.

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#24
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Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/22/2016 3:14 PM

As my signature implies.

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#25

Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/22/2016 5:31 PM

How many engineering programs offer a co-op plan these days? When I was an undergraduate at the Univ. of TN way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, a whole lot of engineering students paid their way through school on the co-op program. The Tennessee Valley Authority, Oak Ridge National Laboratory + some Oak Ridge-related hangers-on, and ALCOA were big regional employers offering a bunch of co-ops. Plus there were smaller employers with equally good co-ops. It actually didn't occur to me that some people could afford to go to school straight through without either a co-op or ROTC to pay their ways -- that's how many guys (yes, only guys) I knew who were co-ops. Made sense to me that you'd want to get practical experience and a leg up on a job after graduation.

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#27
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Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/22/2016 6:43 PM

Yup. In my second year at WSU, I was offered an internship at Battelle Pacific National Laboratory in the Chemical Process Development section. I got to participate in supercritical fluids and nanomaterials projects. And, I was asked to help write papers!

And yes, before I was through with school, I was offered a position there.

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#28

Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/25/2016 2:20 PM

A lot of people these days graduate from college (not necessarily engineering), go for a masters and then a PHD. What for? They are just trying to start at the top without any knowledge of what it takes to actually work.

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#29
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Re: What Should We Expect From an Engineer?

08/25/2016 2:27 PM

Well, it's only my opinion, but that is exactly what they think they can do.

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