Does an “Engineering” student know what “Engineering” is?
Does an “Engineering” student know what “Engineering” is? What do you think? Intuitively, I would answer yes. However, from my experiences, I must answer no.
Of course, not all majors and not all universities are exactly the same. However, I am hoping to make some reasonable conclusions based on my personal experiences as a recent graduate of Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.
I strongly believe that engineering schools teach their students about “science” and almost nothing about how to actually be an engineer… and here are a few of my arguments as to why:
1) The teachers are not trying to teach you engineering.
Engineering has too many unknowns, it requires intuition, and doesn’t come packaged in a set of equations or a textbook. Instead, they teach you how to solve equations, do experiments, and connect missing links between different concepts in order to solve a problem.
2) Your teachers are not engineers.
They are all scientists. Why did your teacher get hired by the University in the first place? Probably because he does some crazy awesome research. This has a lot of implications. First, and foremost, it means that your teacher is probably very specialized in a specific area. Secondly, it probably means the only thing he has known his entire life is the world of Academia. Thirdly, his first priority is his research and then his after-thought is to make sure he doesn’t get in trouble for failing too many students in his class.
3) You are a scientist.
If you think of yourself as an “Engineering student”, you are most likely a science student. Think about it, if your teacher is a scientist and he is teaching you science, that must mean that you are a scientist. So that leaves us with the question:
Does an ‘Engineering’ student know what ‘Engineering’ is?
I don’t think so. I think most students have an idea of what engineering can be but, they don’t actually know what is or how to do it. “Engineering” school does one thing for certain, it gives us the ability to learn difficult concepts. So we will always be able to research something on Wikipedia and understand what it means. However, being an Engineer isn’t necessarily about understanding something you can look up in a reference.
Engineering is about solving problems that are often undefined, without equations or variables.
Thanks for reading this article. If you would like to share your opinion about the ideas I have shared in this article, or if you would like to suggest additional topics for discussion, please feel free to email me at ideb.info [at] gmail.com