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RE: Engineering Education & Professional Practice

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I cannot remain silent on this issue...I was taught many of the things you
list below, Christopher.  I learned dimensional analysis in JC chemistry
(Delta College in Stockton), as well as problem solving technicques and
organization (in physics), communication and innovation (JC engineering
materials).  At Cal Poly, we were required to do actual building designs for
lab projects (ARCE '82) and draw details in our structures classes
addressing things like load path, as well as learn things like specification
writing and architectural detailing etc.  I guess I am fortunate to have had
some excellent professors and having had the opportunity to attend Cal Poly
SLO.  So, they can and in some cases actually do train engineers for at
least some of the real world stuff. 

-----Original Message-----
From: Christopher Wright [mailto:chrisw(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Wednesday, December 12, 2001 8:24 AM
To: ?
Subject: Re: Engineering Education & Professional Practice

>I don't expect to ever find a graduate from a any structural engineering
>program that is trained for the kind of structural engineering that I do:
I don't expect a new graduate to be trained for any real world 
assignment. Students learn the sorts of things they'll need to train 
themselves to be engineers. Students rarely learn anything about 
innovation, people skills, communication, logical validation, organizing 
an approach, budgeting time and effort, distinguishing between an issue, 
a problem and a question, all the things we had to learn from mentors or 
by cleaning up after blunders. Such things just don't happen in schools 
because it's necessary to learn a lot of first principles before you can 
learn how they fit into a real world design project.

This is no criticism of education, it's just a fact that educators have 
one job, engineers have another.  

I enjoyed your experience with mentoring, Nels. It's a good post and 
students on the list should take notice. One of the good things about my 
co-op experience was getting into a mentoring system before I figured I 
knew too much. All I had to do was follow instructions and not be too 
much of a pain in the ass. Then if I had a question someone was always 
willing to help, from a machinist who patiently explained the difference 
between a 1/2 inch pipe thread and a 1/2-13 UNC to the engineers who 
taught me about dimensional analysis and patched up my sketchy 
understanding of thermo.

Christopher Wright P.E.    |"They couldn't hit an elephant from
chrisw(--nospam--at)        | this distance"   (last words of Gen.
___________________________| John Sedgwick, Spotsylvania 1864)

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