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Joy Of Engineering


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Engineering is a broad, fascinating education and career, but sometimes it gets mislabeled as being narrow and limiting. This presentation, adapted from David E. Goldberg's book, The Entrepreneurial Engineer, explores the multifacetted nature of engineering and two historical inversions that mistakenly elevate science and business at the expense of engineering.

Published in: Career, Business
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Joy Of Engineering

  1. 1. The Joy of Engineering David E. Goldberg University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Urbana, Illinois 61801 [email_address]
  2. 2. The Joy of Engineering <ul><li>Some may find use of terms “joy” and “engineering” together unusual. </li></ul><ul><li>But I have a confession. </li></ul><ul><li>I am an unapologetic engineering chauvinist. </li></ul><ul><li>Engineering is a great education & profession: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>License to think about almost anything. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>License to do and change the world. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>License to organize and be organized. </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Roadmap <ul><li>Debunk three myths about engineering. </li></ul><ul><li>Consider many facets of engineering education and the engineering profession. </li></ul><ul><li>Tug-of-war for engineer’s psyche: science & business. </li></ul><ul><li>Examine an economy of modeling. </li></ul><ul><li>Balance four tensions facing the entrepreneurial engineer. </li></ul>
  4. 4. 3 Myths of Engineering <ul><li>Engineering education is narrow. </li></ul><ul><li>Engineering practice is one dimensional. </li></ul><ul><li>Nerds only need apply. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Myth 1: Engineering is Narrow <ul><li>Liberal arts majors view engineering education as narrow. </li></ul><ul><li>Centroid of knowledge has changed. </li></ul><ul><li>Can 21 st century educated person avoid </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Science? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mathematics? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Computers? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Engineering builds on broad base across spectrum of human endeavor. </li></ul>Dilbert (b. 1989)
  6. 6. Analysis of an Engin Degree <ul><li>Illinois curriculum in general engineering: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Humanities & Social Science 25 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Secondary Field (can be non-technical) & Free electives 18 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Math & Science 33 hours </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mechanics & Eng. Science 26 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Major design & analysis 29 Total 133 </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Engineering & Modern Times <ul><li>Balanced degree regardless how sliced. </li></ul><ul><li>How much engineering are “liberal arts” majors exposed to? </li></ul>
  8. 8. Closer to the Truth Without tech in 21 st century, not even qualified to be criminal.
  9. 9. Myth 2: Engineering is 1-D <ul><li>Mental picture old fashioned: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Engineer sitting at drafting board. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Slide rule in hand. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Technical concerns only. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Engineers are broadly competent in technical, people, and business skills today. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Facets of Engineering <ul><li>A creative, challenging profession </li></ul><ul><li>A constructive, real-world profession </li></ul><ul><li>A people profession </li></ul><ul><li>A global profession </li></ul><ul><li>An entrepreneurial profession </li></ul><ul><li>An optimistic profession </li></ul>
  11. 11. Creative & Challenging <ul><li>The scientist merely explores that which exists, while the engineer creates what has never existed before. Theodore von Kármán </li></ul><ul><li>Engineers fundamentally create new products, services, & processes. </li></ul><ul><li>Intellectual challenge of engineering requires novel application of knowledge. </li></ul>Theodore von Kármán (1881-1963)
  12. 12. Real World & Constructive <ul><li>Deals with world as it is. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Time and money real constraints. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Limits of knowledge. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social and political realities, too </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Changes worlds through its artifacts and processes: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Try to leave world a better place. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Recognize unintended consequences of change. </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. People Profession <ul><li>Lone engineers are few. </li></ul><ul><li>Engineers work in teams with other engineers and business people. </li></ul><ul><li>Today, more contact with customers. </li></ul><ul><li>Requires skill with things and with people. </li></ul><ul><li>This course concentrates on these non-technical matters. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Global & Entrepreneurial <ul><li>Engineering knows no boundaries. </li></ul><ul><li>Engineers share common bond & language. </li></ul><ul><li>Today, more engineers seek opportunity: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Within companies: intrapreneurship. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In new startups: startup entrepreneurship. </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Engineering is Optimistic <ul><li>Fundamental belief: Engineers believe they can solve problems. </li></ul><ul><li>Improve systems and leave them in better shape. </li></ul><ul><li>This is inherently optimistic stance. </li></ul><ul><li>Engineering optimism is tempered by real world. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Myth 3: Nerds Only Need Apply <ul><li>Old stereotypes don’t hold: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>High school car guy , ham, or gizmo </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Dilbert type with pocket protector </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Punching on a calculator </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Engineers today: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Men and women </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Good in science & math </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Different ethnic backgrounds </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Range of interests </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Engineering as traditional bootstrap occupation. </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Tug-of-War for Engineer’s Psyche <ul><li>Engineering is marvelous education and profession. </li></ul><ul><li>Yet, engineers get wedged between science and business. </li></ul><ul><li>Scientists: Engineering is just applied science. </li></ul><ul><li>Businessman: Engineers just technicians to do bidding of capitalists. </li></ul><ul><li>Yes, engineering is balance of science and business, but history is interesting. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Two Historical Inversions <ul><li>Whence science: What were origins of modern science? </li></ul><ul><li>Whence business: What were origins of modern business? </li></ul><ul><li>Science and business evolved from engineering of those times. </li></ul><ul><li>Puts different spin on relationship between science, business, and engineering </li></ul>
  19. 19. Bacon & Science’s Dirty Little Secret <ul><li>NSF story: Engineering is just applied science. </li></ul><ul><li>Couldn’t answer argument well. </li></ul><ul><li>One answer: Vincenti, What Engineer’s Know & How They Know It. </li></ul><ul><li>A history lesson from Francis Bacon’s Great Instauration. </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Bacon considered by many the father of modern science. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Goal: Description for Prescription <ul><li>That the state of knowledge is not prosperous nor greatly advancing; and that a way must be opened for the human understanding entirely different from any hitherto known… in order that the mind may exercise over the nature of things the authority which properly belongs to it. </li></ul>Francis Bacon 1561-1626
  21. 21. The Problem: Stuck on Aristotle <ul><li>More Bacon: </li></ul><ul><li>Observe also, that if sciences of this kind had any life in them, that could never have come to pass which has been the case now for many ages—that they stand almost at at stay… and all the tradition and succession of schools is still a succession of masters and scholars, not of inventors and those who bring to further perfection the things invented . </li></ul>
  22. 22. The Solution: Invent Knowledge <ul><li>Still more Bacon: </li></ul><ul><li>In the mechanical arts we do not find it so: they, on the contrary, as having in them some breath of life, are continually growing and becoming more perfect. As originally invented they are commonly rude, clumsy, and shapeless; afterwards they acquire new powers and more commodious arrangements and constructions;… Philosophy and the intellectual sciences, on the contrary, stand like statues. </li></ul>
  23. 23. Oops! Science from Engineering <ul><li>We’ve got it backwards. </li></ul><ul><li>Father of science, Bacon: Science must learn from mechanical arts. </li></ul><ul><li>Engineering is not just applied science. </li></ul><ul><li>More accurate & equally haughty: Science is just engineering applied to the invention of concepts. </li></ul><ul><li>Over the years, there has been historical inversion. </li></ul><ul><li>Not the first time engineering inspired thought: Greeks inspired by engineers, too. </li></ul>
  24. 24. What About Business? <ul><li>Engineers as technicians at beck and call of financiers, marketers, and lawyers. </li></ul><ul><li>Was it always this way? </li></ul><ul><li>History of commerce is long, but large-scale enterprise is a new invention. </li></ul><ul><li>Prior to 1850s, business was on a smaller scale. </li></ul><ul><li>Who invented modern business? </li></ul>
  25. 25. Who Invented Business? <ul><li>A. D. Chandler (1977): Of the new forms of transportation the railroads were the most numerous, their activities the most complex, and their influence the most pervasive. They were the pioneers in the management of modern business enterprise . </li></ul>
  26. 26. Who Were These Pioneers? <ul><li>The men who managed these enterprises became the first group of modern business administrators in the United States… The men who face these challenges were a new type of businessman.… The pioneers of modern management…were all trained civil engineers with experience in railroad construction and bridge building before they took over the management of the roads. </li></ul>A. D. Chandler
  27. 27. How Did They Invent Business? <ul><li>Yet even for such officers, engineering training was probably more important than an acquaintance with bureaucratic procedures. There is little evidence that railroad managers copied military procedures. Instead all evidence indicates that their answers came in response to immediate and pressing operational problems requiring the organization of men and machinery. They responded in much the same rational, analytical way as the solved mechanical problems of building a bridge or laying down a railroad. </li></ul>
  28. 28. Business from Engineers, too! <ul><li>Another historical inversion. </li></ul><ul><li>Modern business is an engineering invention. </li></ul><ul><li>Engineering is not just a capitalist tool. </li></ul><ul><li>More accurate: Business is just application of engineering principles to commerce . </li></ul>
  29. 29. Trump meets Newton <ul><li>In both cases, systematic variation and improvement, have yielded scientific knowledge and management principles. </li></ul><ul><li>Mechanical artisans invented things, technological artifacts. </li></ul><ul><li>Engineering inspired scientists invented concepts. </li></ul><ul><li>Businessmen invented conceptual knowledge, too. </li></ul><ul><li>But can we tie science & business together. </li></ul>Donald J. Trump, Sr. (b. 1946)
  30. 30. An Economy of Thought <ul><li>Engineers think in terms of models. </li></ul><ul><li>Have many models with different precision and different costs. </li></ul><ul><li>Can we evaluate model usage rationally? </li></ul><ul><li>The economics of intellection. </li></ul>
  31. 31. Fundamental Modeling Tradeoff <ul><li>Error versus cost of modeling </li></ul>ε , Error C, Cost of Modeling Engineer/Inventor Scientist/Mathematician
  32. 32. Marginal Analysis <ul><li>Optimal thinking, when marginal cost of a thought equals marginal benefit to design. </li></ul><ul><li> C =  B </li></ul><ul><li>If cost higher than advance in design, thinking is uneconomic. </li></ul><ul><li>Maybe fun. </li></ul><ul><li>Maybe scientific, but does not advance technology enough to be worthwhile. </li></ul>
  33. 33. Economy of Thought Essential <ul><li>Terms “engineer” & “scientist” are used loosely. </li></ul><ul><li>Sometimes “engineers” do science & “scientists” do engineering </li></ul><ul><li>But economy of intellection helps understand which is doing what when. </li></ul><ul><li>In real engineering, use thinking process balanced with design goals. </li></ul><ul><li>Engineering thought is distinctive, partially because of this economic difference. </li></ul>
  34. 34. Spectrum of Models
  35. 35. Balance is the Key <ul><li>Business versus science/tech important. </li></ul><ul><li>Four other tensions of the entrepreneurial engineer </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Qualitative versus Quantitative </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Humans versus Technology </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Centralized control versus Emergent </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mature knowledge versus Immature </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Entrepreneurial engineer seeks golden mean, not extreme. </li></ul>
  36. 36. Summary <ul><li>The joy of engineering. </li></ul><ul><li>3 myths: narrow education, 1-D, nerds. </li></ul><ul><li>Engineering as multifacetted: Creative, constructive, and optimistic. </li></ul><ul><li>2 historical inversions: science & business. </li></ul><ul><li>An economy of modeling. </li></ul><ul><li>Entrepreneurial engineers balance 4 tensions. </li></ul>
  37. 37. Bottom Line <ul><li>There is much joy in engineering. </li></ul><ul><li>Engineering has a history of inspiration & invention. </li></ul><ul><li>Engineering education is broad base for new century. </li></ul><ul><li>Engineering balances science economically to develop services that work. </li></ul><ul><li>Developing broad skill set and balanced intellectual approach is key. </li></ul>
  38. 38. For Further Reading <ul><li>Chandler, A. D. (1977). The visible hand: The managerial revolution in American business. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Goldberg, D. E. (2002). The design of innovation: Lessons from and for competent genetic algorithms. Boston, MA: Kluwer Academic. </li></ul><ul><li>Layton, E. T. (1971). Revolt of the engineers. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Vincenti, W. G (1990). What engineers know and how they know it: Analytical studies from aeronautical history. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. </li></ul>